Codemasters have quite a staple of racing titles under their belt. As makers of the simulation racers to coincide with each Formula 1 season since 2009 and the father of the DiRT franchise, which has both simulation and arcade variants, I’ve seen the Codemasters brand become a mark for quality in the racing genre. Their recent foray into the arcade racing genre with DiRT: Showdown went down rather well at the newbreview bunkerlow, with us awarding it a lofty 4/5.
And so F1 Race Stars enters the fold in style. Whilst, unlike F1 2012, this is not a direct tie-in to the Formula 1 season (after all Codemasters have taken the decision to release it just as the season ends), the game still gives you the chance to race around as your favourite F1 racers. This kart racer draws a lot from previous entries into the genre and whilst it delivers in a number of areas, the overall package just isn’t quite there.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like here; the character design, with bobblehead caricatures of the 2012 F1 racer line-up, serves as a brilliant metaphor for the giant egos involved in the sport (although no doubt this was almost entirely unintentional). The camaraderie between the racers shown at the beginning of each race, with the camera panning from the back of the grid to the front as each racer nods and winks to the next is another nice touch.
But delightful presentation and charming characters a good kart racer does not make, and F1 Race Stars is not without its foibles. These unfortunately mostly come during the act of racing and greatly diminish from any enjoyment of the game. Probably the biggest problem of all is the far-too-prevalent rubber banding; the system whereby racers behind you speed up to create a constant challenge. This presents frequent irritations when the slightest mistake will see you fall from 1st to last in the blink of an eye.
Powerups take the form of bubbles, which vary in colour to denote each type of missile or mine. The use of colour variation is simple, however it lacks the artistic flair of Mario Kart’s (to which F1 Race Stars will most readily be compared to) coloured shells. A device a little more nefarious such as actual missiles would have perhaps made the aesthetics in this area a little less bland. There’s also a problem with variation; there just aren’t enough different types of weapon to keep the race interesting.
There are a good number of career tournaments to take on as well as full local and online multiplayer. However the number of tracks is a little lacking, and you’ll find a nagging sense of déjà vu by the fifth or sixth tournament.
Review Round Up
Pros:- Cute as a button
Cons:- Frustrating rubber banding
Lack of variation in track offering
Not enough power-ups
Overall:- 2.5/5 A competent racer that could have been something special if it weren’t for those pesky flaws.