“F1 Race Stars” by Codemasters reviewed

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Codemasters have expanded the range of official Formula One games to include F1 Race Stars, a Mario Kart clone with a healthy sense of fun.

It joins mainstream racer F1 2012 and online resource management game F1 Online: The Game (available free of charge and not reviewed) in their roster of Formula One titles.

Taking an existing set of characters and sticking them in go-karts with colourful tracks and power-ups galore is classic spin-off fodder. Sony have recently done the same with their LittleBigPlanet series. And it’s a concept that F1 lends itself to particularly well.

Naturally you have the pick of all 24 F1 drivers, suitably cartoon-ised, with special characteristics particular to each team. There are four fictitious racers as well which, in a wise move, includes three female characters.

But it’s the tracks that are the real stars, each featuring distinctive sections based on the real things and riffs on local characteristics and culture. So the Belgium course features a version of Eau Rouge and frequent rain.

In Japan you bounce along the roof of a Shinkansen then dodge highway traffic. At Yas Marina you disappear off into the Ferrari World theme park then emerge onto a desert track with sandy run-off areas that are far more punishing than their real-world tarmac counterparts.

Comparisons with Mario Kart are inevitable and the similarities are unmistakable. Power-ups such as the bottle rocket and exploding balloons of confetti have near-identical parallels in the Nintendo series.

The characters’ exclamations, the shortcut-riddled tracks and the teeth-gnashing frustration of being blasted out of the lead by a rival are wholly reminiscent of the Mario Kart universe. So much so that I was disappointed not to see a cameo appearance from a moustachioed racer in a red cap, though I’d probably have mistaken him for Nigel Mansell.

F1 Race Stars also has that Mario Kart trait by which the best way to win races is to blast into an early lead to stay out of range of your squabbling rivals. Killjoy that I am, I took shameless pleasure in winning races this way, Sebastian Vettel-style.

But the game has an answer to that as well in the form of the Safety Car power-up, which deploys a cartoon Mercedes SLS AMG to delay the leader’s progress. Even so, it’s still possible to win by over 20 seconds.

The single-player game offers a variety of race styles including ones with refuelling (grab fuel power-ups to keep going but fill up too much and you slow down) and TOCA shootout-style elimination races.

The graphics are colourful but Nintendo-basic – given which, it’s surprising there isn’t a Nintendo Wii version. However this simplicity allows for four players to compete at once via split-screen.

The best way to enjoy F1 Race Stars is in multi-player mode with a group of friends – the single-player championships get repetitive quite quickly.

It’s easy to see how this game might particularly appeal to younger players but there’s tons of fun to be had for grown-ups too. We should also be wary of patronising younger fans with too much of this sort of thing. There are plenty of young players who went to learn more about the sport with a realistic game, and for that F1 2012 is clearly the way to go.

F1 Race Stars is not particularly original, but it is lots of fun and the extension of the Formula One brand to a new universe is definitely welcome. Codemasters haven’t set the bar high with this one, but they’ve cleared it comfortably.

F1 Fanatic rating

Buy F1 Race Stars (Xbox 360, UK) | Buy F1 Race Stars (PS3, UK) | Buy F1 Race Stars (PC DVD, UK)

Buy F1 Race Stars (Xbox 360, USA) | Buy F1 Race Stars (PS3, USA)

F1 Race Stars

Publisher: Codemasters
Published: November 2012
Format: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Price: 34.99 (Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3), 29.99 (PC)

F1 Race Stars trailer

F1 Race Stars images

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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61 comments on ““F1 Race Stars” by Codemasters reviewed”

  1. If I had it, I’d definetly play it. I love Mario-Kart style games (I remember fighting with friends racing Crash Bandicoot a long while back), and this one has F1 theme all over it… right? :D

    It’s a rip off, and a game we’ve all seen thousand times, but it’s very cool that Codemasters are trying to expand the F1 brand. Good for them, can’t believe no one did it before.

    1. To be honest… It looks a little too Mario Kart.
      Might as well save myself £28.50 and play Mario Kart Wii, instead.

      It is a tad stupid why there isn’t a Nintendo version, it’d be half-decent using the Wii-Wheel to drive.

  2. I really enjoyed the demo. Although this game, like you say, will get repetitive single player. Online and Mulltiplayer will certainly be the way to play it.

    One thing though, I didn’t like the generic characters and thought it was a bit stupid. I didn’t see the point of adding these when you can play as your avatar anyway (so if you want to be a girl character, you can.) I like racing against the F1 drivers so when ‘Ruby Power’ wins the race it’s kind of annoying.

    1. @tommyb89 I don’t think you can play with your avatar on any console. I can’t on the PC, for instance.

      1. Yeah, it’s Xbox only. I’m guessing the PC version eschew’s Live like F1 2012 did, as PC Live users can *finally* kludge Avatars by visiting xbox.com.

        1. @optimaximal Yes the PC version is available via Steam, as F1 2012 was.

    2. Completely agree about the fictional characters, totally unnecessary and at worst, a bit patronising to think that girls need female characters to choose – aren’t they fans of the current F1 drivers too?

      I’ve tried the demo a couple of times and its been a big disappointment. Codemasters elected not to use a Mario Kart-style drifting handling model, stating that F1 cars don’t drift. Maybe so, but they don’t fly through the air or shoot bubbles either. The driving just isn’t fun or involving and the some of the power ups (red bubbles, yellow bubbles etc) are totally uninspiring.

      There’s some good ideas in there and I’m sure its slightly more fun in multiplayer, but this is a big missed opportunity by Codemasters overall.

      1. @bookoi

        Codemasters elected not to use a Mario Kart-style drifting handling model, stating that F1 cars don’t drift. Maybe so, but they don’t fly through the air or shoot bubbles either. The driving just isn’t fun or involving

        Fair point but I think there’s more to the F1 Race Stars’ handling than Mario Kart’s.

        The Mario Kart handling is very easy – blast into the corner, hold down the drift button, off you go. F1 Race Stars requires a little more thought – sometimes it’s even worth using the brake to make sure you get the most out of the KERS zone. I preferred that, it made it feel more like I was racing rather than playing a cutesy platform thing.

  3. Seems as if you enjoyed it… so why only 3 stars?

    1. @m77 I can’t really answer that without just repeating everything I’ve written in the review. Particularly the last paragraph.

      1. yep thanks for that.

    2. I know After the reading I hink maybe 4 but reading other reviews from Keith it seems to me he has very high standards in books, movies and of course video games. I will buy the game but not now it’s too expensive.

      1. @camo8723

        it seems to me he has very high standards

        I liked reading that :-)

      2. true. think I am used to games reviews where 3/5 (or equivalent 6/10) tends to hint towards a disappointment!

      3. Tom Haxley (@)
        14th November 2012, 9:50

        @camo8723 @keithcollantine

        It’s good to see the ratings system being used properly (unlike gamer reviewers who are now reverting to 9.1 or 9.5 as they have used 9 too many times now to mean anything)

        When we see Keith give a 4 or 5 star we know it must be something very special ;)

        1. @welshtom I bet publications that produce large numbers of reviews get put under considerable pressure to give high marks.

        2. I know what you mean it’s like when you go to a library or to rent a movie and you read “the critics” on the cover. “The best thing that have happened to human history” “When you read-watch this your life won’t be he same”. It’s good to read balanced critics like this and watch o youtube some game play helps too

    3. I’m sure it would have got a better rating had it included stepped noses on the cars. Leaving them out was just an unacceptable deviation from realism.

  4. Bit sceptical on this one as I wasnt won over by the demo, but I’ll give it a go anyway. I loved Crash Team Racing and Crash Nitro Kart on the PS2, which also relates to this game. As there hasnt been a Crash Bandicoot racing game released on PS3, this plugs a hole.

    One thing I have picked up on is that Kimi Raikkonen is smiling… He might be cartoonized, but I dont think even that and a fridge full of Magnums would make him smile like he is in this game! ;)

    1. They should’ve kept a lot more from each character :P. Kimi with a boring face would be a fans favourite.

      1. Crash Team Racing was one of the best games of all time!

        *fingers crossed they patch the game to add Kimi’s latest radio comments*

        1. I think they are going to do that. DLC everywhere for this game, maybe not for kimi’s radio comments, but they will release new tracks, more customization options, gadgets and powers.

  5. Played the demo on the PS3 and i found it very enjoyable, you don’t get many of titles these days that push the boundaries of stereotypes – i found myself actually laughing out loud at the fact they managed to get away with it – and the fact that whoever they bought the rights from approved it – but good on them. They need to be more relaxed about f1 and allow creativity, and this fits the bill.
    I was debating between F1 Race Stars and Little Big Planet Karting – they appear very similar.
    Unfortunately i bet unless your 10 the single player will get extremely repetitive, so if the online modes are reported to be good and hard (AI seem way too easy to beat) then i will get some enjoyment out of it.

    1. is there any chance we can get an edit feature on our posts – my gramma is terrible – but hey itz da net n e ways

      1. Lewisham Milton
        13th November 2012, 16:08

        I hope your grandma’s not reading this.

  6. Definitely getting this for the PC. Definitely.

  7. Like I said when the news was announced, when I played Mario Kart DS (my favourite game ever) with my friend via wireless we liked to pretend each character was an F1 driver. We had just become F1 fans and that was the funniest racing experience we could have… The single-player mode never tired me though, I still play it sometimes and I can’t find a single negative aspect about it.
    Now, although I like the idea and I think the game has been done really well (I particularly enjoy the realistic helmets and the way the characters are designed) I realize that this game is nearly identical to Mario Kart because there is no other way to do it. Or if there is, there’s no better way to do it. I’m still dubious as to whether it’s worth buying, because the demo I played, with one only course, wasn’t very convincing.
    I’d much prefer to buy it (I have every F1 PC game Codemasters has released – I’m only missing F1 2009) but if I got sick of it soon or if I enjoyed it so much that it took time out of F1 2012 I’d probably not do so.

    1. I have every F1 PC game Codemasters has released – I’m only missing F1 2009

      Do yourself a favor : don’t purchase it ! It’s a disgrace to other codemaster’s titles! (keep the money for games, anyone would be better)

  8. I’m disappointed they didn’t make a blue-shell power-up that is either Maldonaldo or Grosjean’s helmets, whizzing uncontrollably towards your helpless car.

    1. Although to be fair, they have been well behaved in the last few races.

  9. I’ve only played the demo to this game, and whilst it was mildly enjoyable, I do think that they could have and should have done a lot more with it.

    First of all, the handling isn’t the greatest, braking seems to slow the car too much, and I find it absurd that you can’t drift considering that it isn’t based upon reality. Secondly, I think they could have done more with the power-ups/attacks. I love the fact that you can deploy a safety car to slow the leaders and make it rain on other players, but they could have added more F1-style setbacks to hinder others. For example, making some players have punctures, if only for a short while to slow them down…(can’t think of any more right now).

    I also like the fact that you have to pit when your car gets too damaged, it’s a nice little addition. However, I think they missed some opportunities here. Though I haven’t played the full version, and I’m not sure how customizable the game is, this is where they could have out-done themselves. Add in some past drivers, and old (legendary) cars and mix things up. Take a look at ModNation Racers for example, almost fully customizable, and many people have already created F1-style cars on there from the Benetton, to the 90s McLaren and the Brawn GP. For me, although it looks like a half-decent title, if I were to purchase a Karting game, it would be ModNation or LBP Karting.

    Good job to Codies for trying to expand the series, but it seems a little standard, especially compared to the games it is potentially competing against.

  10. Is there a pecking order? Can De La Rosa win or is he always found at the back of the grid?

    1. @Roald It seems to me you have an equal chance of winning in any car and pretty much any driver can win.

    2. i saw a demo in which De La Rosa was winning so it is possible that kind of miracles happens in this game

      1. Not a nice thing to say, at all. PdlL will be crying seeing this.

  11. Mr Ecclestone will definitely use some of the game’s ideas as his “I might do this next season” media attention grabs

  12. I enjoyed the demo and I could see it being a good laugh with some mates but I won’t be buying it unless it see it under a tenner in the sales (which might just happen since I can’t imagine that many people buying this game, F1 will put off a lot of casual gamers and a lot of F1 fans will think it’s too much of a kiddy game).

  13. @keithcollantine I loled at the Mario/Nigel Mansell bit. Well done.

    I played the demo and enjoyed it. However, it seems more like an xbox live arcade game and not a full-price title. If there are some additional features, beyond the single and multi-player, then the price might be worth it. As it stands, it seems like a very small game; a handful of tracks and some cartoon drivers does not constitute a $60 game.

    1. when the game drops to £20 (PS3) I will be most likely get it, but not at launch price

    2. It’s only $40.

  14. Hehe. Game on!

  15. Sounds like Bernies perfect vision of F1

  16. This is a clone of an old game called Tooncar, just situated in F1 ;)

  17. It’s too much money for the game it is. 1200 – 1600msp (£10-£14) would’ve been about right.

  18. Do We have a MAC version?

    1. No there isn’t one.

  19. Bruno’s character of course looks like Ayrton. Vitaly, Vettel and Kova are the ones that I think needed more development in the character

  20. I completely forgot this was being released. I’m not much of a gamer, but even I know that the past two weeks have seen the release of Halo 4 (ugh!), Call of Duty: Black Ops II (double ugh), and tonight will see the release of the next Grand Theft Auto V trailer.

    F1 Race Stars isn’t in direct competition with any of those titles, but Codemasters could have picked a better time to release the game. I was down at my local JB Hi-Fi today, and the floor was dominated by displays for Halo 4, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, and Grand Theft Auto V pre-orders. I didn’t see F1 Race Stars on display, but if I had been looking for it, I probably would have found it buried in the back corner.

    1. In my JB it was just sitting on the bottom shelf, no advertising for it at all. But the new GTA V trailer is pretty awesome, it looks like it should actually be a pretty good game.

      1. @jarred-walmsley – Publishers pay for shelf space. Major releases, or titles that want to make an impact in the market, tend to buy up space at eye level, which is very, very expensive. As F1 Race Stars isn’t a major release, it just gets given whatever shelf space is left over.

  21. Anyone knows if this game works with windows xp ??

    1. I asked Codemasters and they say yes, it will.

  22. Downloaded this, and I agree with previous comments.
    It NEEDs drift! It’s so boring without it!
    The lame extra drivers suck.
    And I will wait till its in the bargain bin till I think of buying this and stick with Mario Kart

  23. I have to question where F1 Race Stars fits into the market. It’s still not for people who just want to be Jenson Button for an hour, it’s far too basic for most F1 fans, and it’s too close to Mario Kart (and Sonic, and ModNation Racers). It looks like appealing to a niche within a niche, and games like that are rarely successful.

    Still, I’m willing to reserve judgement until I’ve played the demo (which I’m in the process of downloading to my PS3). I just wish Codemasters had spent the money fixing the increasingly intolerable faults in the main series.

    1. @lin1876 – I imagine it is for younger audiences, kids who might be interested in Formula 1 (I know I was when I was a kid), but don’t really have the commitment for a game like F1 2012.

  24. It’s nice to see that Codemasters are at least allowed to be creative with the F1 License, that’s encouraging for the future. This game looks like a great laugh and I’ll probably pick it up in the near future over F1 2012. Nothing against F1 2012m I’m sure it’s very good, but I just fancy something new.

  25. Four new tracks are now available for F1 Race Stars:

    New tracks for F1 Race Stars: India, Canada and China (and Europe)

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