The engine runs, but it could use a little more time in the shop...
Posted 5 months ago By DMolinski - Dave Molinski
Codemasters set out with hopes of delivering a charming and less realistic take on the popular F1 racing franchise that would leave a lasting appeal to those who enjoy kart racing titles. While F1 Race Stars does not offer any innovative gameplay that sets it apart from others in the genre, it does offer an overall simplistic, yet enjoyable, experience that will keep you entertained as you wreak havoc with an assortment of colored bubbles throughout eleven circuits that encompass a global presence.
The visual presentation of F1 Race Stars is defined by an artistic approach that is meant to characterize the racing world in a less serious fashion than most racing simulators. This is clearly made apparent by the variety of comical animations that occur when drivers summon their helmets before each race starts: they reel it in as if it were a fish, use telekinetic powers to place it on their head, whistle as if summoning their pet, and handling it like a yo-yo. Even though the environments lack well defined detail and texture, they still offer a rather delightful presentation throughout most courses. The color palette and cheerful music also helps create an inviting and friendly atmosphere that adds to the overall enjoyment that F1 Race Stars has to offer.
“The competitive nature featured online creates an environment that successfully utilizes creative and strategic approaches against rivals.”
The majority of racing games offer little in terms of a narrative, and the same can be said here. The single-player experience includes a quick race mode, time trials, and a career mode. A glimpse at the assortment of cups to be acquired in career mode produces a sense of excitement due to the amount of races available through the eleven circuits that have you travelling across the globe, which include the United States, Brazil, Britain, Italy, and Australia. Each location offers several unique obstacles that relate to the nation’s history and culture. In Italy you encounter a taste of ancient history as you maneuver around Roman soldiers in a testudo formation as you drive alongside an aqueduct. Brazil has you traveling through the town square during their carnival, weaving around several floats, and Japan has you avoiding colossal sumo wrestlers before embarking upon joining daily commuters on their transit line. However, your route takes you along the top portion of the trains.
The variety of gameplay adds to the overall enjoyment of F1 Race Stars. The most enjoyable game types are refuel, slalom, exhibition, trophy collecting, and elimination. The refuel race utilizes the impact that fuel has on the overall weight of the vehicle. Fuel pickups are situated all over the map, but the more fuel you possess will decrease the overall speed. It is best to maintain as little fuel as possible without running out completely in order to attain a position on the podium. Slalom has each driver passing through colored checkpoints to gain points. Exhibition mode features accomplishing tasks to earn badges, which result in points, and you drive around picking up as many trophies as possible in trophy collecting. Coasting in the lead will grant you first pick at the majestic trophies that are laid out before you, but remain in the middle of the pack and the only trophies available will be those that are dropped by your opponents when attacked. Elimination can be both enjoyable and frustrating. The drivers in last place get the boot at timed intervals until only one racer remains. Once triggered, there is only a certain amount of time to advance from the depths of last position. However, the timer does not reset when a driver in last place passes you, and so the possibility of being eliminated almost instantly is a frequent occurrence. Ensure a solid footing on the pedal at the beginning of each race, or defeat will soon follow.
While the variety in game modes and tracks are a positive feature, the length of races and cups in career mode tend to overstay their welcome. Some of the cups offer a sizeable amount of tracks that have to be completed in one sitting. Several endurance races also exceed six minutes, creating an uneventful journey if you maintain the lead during the entire race. However, these moments can also be used to fully appreciate the artistic design of the environments.
The omission of the ability to drift does impact several tracks in a negative fashion due to numerous tight corners that require you to brake constantly, or else you will find your vehicle’s maneuverability momentarily hampered by driving over grass, or other rough terrain. Several routes presented in each map also have enclosed areas that produce a bumper car experience when racers are closely knit together. The frequency of this cramped racing occurs most during the first lap, but it is also joined with chaotic encounters due to the abundance of power-ups and eleven overly aggressive AI opponents that are determined to ruin any sense of enjoyment. It often seems that you are either alone, leading the pack, or stuck in the middle of it, fighting for superiority while trying to avoid continual detours to the pit stop areas. Slipstreaming, coupled with boosting power-ups or KERS (kinetic energy recovery system) boosts help you reunite with your opponents when falling behind. The same is also said of your racing compatriots. The close proximity of several opponents also welcomes the possibility of receiving a surprise attack that will damage your vehicle, impede your speed, and cause minor amounts of frustration.
One aspect that heavily impacts the overall experience of the game relates to the damage and repair system. Progression is constantly met with a colored bubble from behind, which can’t help but create tension toward other racers. Sustaining damage is a repetitive occurrence that warrants a quick detour to an allocated pit-stop area. The option of causing destruction across each track should not question your moral standards, but rather welcome the opportunity to wreak havoc among your opponents. You can either damage enemy vehicles by slamming into them, which does not always equate a damaging result, or you can pick up one of the power-ups that are conveniently littered throughout each map.
The plentiful amount of power-ups gives each player various means of imposing many levels of threat throughout each race. The similarities of the power-ups to Mario Kart are noticed early on. You have red homing bubbles (red turtle), yellow ricochet bubbles (green turtle) that are shot on a linear path forwards or backwards, and trap bubbles (banana) that can be strategically placed to funnel drives down a certain route. A problem that is easily identifiable in F1 Race Stars deals with the acquisition of power-ups in relation to the racer’s current position. The arsenal differs greatly at the back of the pack, coming across wet weather and safety car power-ups to slow down all drivers, static to disable other drivers’ power-ups, and bottle rocket and teleport that quickly advance players several positions. The teleport power-up causes the most grief as it usually teleports players from a random position to the lead. Maintaining the lead throughout the race can quickly come to a halt when you suddenly notice your placement shift to second position due to an opponent teleporting to the front with a sizable lead.
Gameplay is enhanced and balanced within multiplayer game modes, either in split-screen with friends and family, or online with gamers from around the globe, who tend to vent frustrations in foreign languages, which helps create an immersive international F1 racing experience. Having less AI present in each race creates a more satisfying experience. You also have the option of merging your four players online to test your skills against the community. The competitive nature featured online creates an environment that successfully utilizes creative and strategic approaches against rivals. Satisfaction can easily be had upon striking an enemy with a concealed bubble immediately after driving through a pit stop. The numerous possibilities will keep you occupied as long as there is an online community to steer alongside with.
Even though F1 Race Stars contains some flaws, it still offers an enjoyable kart racing experience that is defined by the artistic design, variety of game modes, and comical undertone of F1 racing that is present throughout. The multitude of single-player content will keep you occupied for a fair amount of time, but the game’s multiplayer, both offline and online, is what creates a worthwhile investment, especially if you do not have Mario Kart on any Nintendo console.
+ Artistic visual presentation
+ Enjoyable multiplayer
+ Several routes available within each track
- Difficult AI
- No drifting
- Unbalanced power-up system
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Release Date : 2012/11/13
System : Xbox 360
Publisher : Codemasters
Developer : Codemasters
Category : Racing
ESRB : E
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