Game Review: F1 Race Stars [PS3/Xbox 360/PC]
Modnation Racers, Mario Kart, Crash Team Racing; these are just a few kart racing games that are very well made and have an individual design that separates them from each other. Modnation Racers has its diverse online and community options, Mario Kart has excellent controls and memorable tracks, Crash Team Racing has brilliant weapons and superb track designs….. and F1 Race Stars has F1 karts.
The idea of turning F1 into a kart racing games with cartoonish visuals is a fantastic idea, unfortunately it doesn’t do anything to make it stand out from the genre, and everything that it does mimic from other games in the genre it does on a much poorer level. Let’s start with the positives though, visually the game looks great, all the drivers and their karts have a nice blend between realism and cartoon style, and the tracks themselves look gorgeous, they’re simple in look but are vibrant and are pleasing to the eye. While the difference in style between F1 Race Stars and F1 2012 is significant, it’s still very disappointing to be left with eleven tracks as opposed to twenty in the realistic title, as the featured tracks are meant to be based on their real life counterparts.
The game looks great, and seemingly good track design, but then you play the game and it all falls apart. The biggest change that you will notice about the kart racing formula is the lack of a drift mechanic. This isn’t necessarily a bad idea as change is always welcome in the predictable formula, however the mechanic is replaced with the basic idea of braking. The problem with this is that it slows the pace of the races down, which should not be the case in kart racing games. When not braking around sharp corners you are simply holding down the acceleration button to go round the rest of the track. This simplicity is good for young players, but for everyone else this is mind numbing, as no skills or tricks are required to get ahead of the competition.
With every kart racing game, there are weapons that either make or break the game, in this case it breaks the game for two reasons. Firstly the weapons are overpowered, you have your attack weapons, which are based around different styles of bubbles; homing bubbles, defensive bubbles and manual aiming bubbles. They sound innocent enough, the trouble is when you’re caught inside one of these, you are trapped for at least three seconds, and in conjunction with speed boosts that will generally take you to the front of race, leads on to my second problem which is the infuriatingly good AI. I know that AI is supposed to give you a challenge, but when you combine AI that makes no mistakes with the overpowered weapons, it’s a recipe for unbalanced and frustrating gameplay. You could be winning the race when all of a sudden you get hit by a bubble, trapped for three seconds, then overtaken and someone in last place uses a bottle speed boost power up and is somehow now in front of you too.
The effect of being trapped for three seconds is bad enough, but when your car takes damage and slows you down quite dramatically, causing for a drive through the pit stop lane, is that much more frustrating considering this happens frequently. When you add all these components together, you are left with a game that feels very slow paced, which quite frankly does not fit in the context of F1, no matter what style of game F1 is placed into, it should always feel fast and exhilarating.
The career mode is where you will spend the majority of your time, as the online is nothing to get excited about. The career mode is made up of several championships, each one getting harder and harder, there are thirty championships in all to complete so there is no question that there is enough content for players who want it, but seeing as there are only eleven tracks, do you really want to do all thirty?
Apart from the quirky and gorgeous presentation, there isn’t much else to like about F1 Race Stars, which is a real shame considering the potential that it had on paper. If this is to see a sequel, the game needs to be more balanced and fun to play.