F1 Race Stars is a Formula One racing game with a difference. Codemasters, using the same official licence that give us the popular annual F1 console and PC outings, have created a Mario Kart-style cartoon version of the prestigious racing championship.
The game features eleven of the international tracks re-imagined, as if through the eyes of Dr. Seuss, to include jumps, loops and even underwater sections of track.
As well as the tracks, the game also features the complete roster of teams and drivers, suitably caricatured of course, from the 2012 Formula One Championship season.
Players can choose from any one of the real-life F1 drivers. The game also includes two fictional teams, the all-girl Tech Nova-Star and the boy/girl pairing of Satsu-Acer.
There's also an option to put your Xbox Live avatar in the driver's seat. Each team has their own special ability on the track, adding a bit of variety to the races.
As you would expect in a game like this realism is out the window. The serious race physics of Codemasters’ F1 2012 big brother have been stripped out and replaced with arcade-style pedal to the metal kart racing gameplay.
I did, however, find the karts a little too twitchy for my liking, although I have just come off Need for Speed Most Wanted. I just couldn't get them to slide around the corners, resulting in me bumping of the walls at speed or over braking and losing my position.
After a bit of persistence things improved, but still the karts just didn't feel right to me.
The karts come in three flavours 1000cc, 2000cc and 3000cc; each one increasing the game’s pace and difficulty. This makes the game suitable for every level, proving a bit of fun for little kids and a challenge for the big ones.
No kart racing game would be complete without power-ups littering the track and F1 Race Stars is no exception. Players can pick up all manner of items to slow down or damage their opponents, such as bubbles, rockets and even a safety car.
There are also boosts and teleports as well, but look out for balloons which pop and obscure the track view if they are driven over.
Special sections of track on each of the corners can be used to charge up the kart's KERS system in a similar, but stylised way that the kinetic energy recovery system does in the real-life F1 cars.
Pit stops are cleverly built into the game. As cars get damaged, due to collisions or being on the receiving end of one too many bottle rockets, they will need to pit in. Moe more you get damaged the more you need to visit the pits and the more time that you lose.
If you chose to carry on without getting fixed up you may get lucky, but you risk losing performance which could cost you the race.
The game is played via a series of championship events that feature playlists of tracks based on geographic location. As each set is completed and a podium place achieved the next set is unlocked.
Tracks can also be played as one-off races. Multiplayer is catered for via houseparty-friendly four player split-screen mode. Racing can also be taken online via an impressive 12 player multiplayer mode.
Player stats are uploaded to Codemasters’ Racenet service allowing player to view their performance online using a special code. Racenet, which is still in beta, is a central hub that features all of Codemasters’ current crop of racing games.
As you'd imagine, Codemasters have polished the game to a shine. The graphics look great and suitably cutesy. The tracks have so much detail that you are likely to only notice most of it when watching someone else play. Visually the game is faultless.
I loved the driver animations on the grid, as they each gesture towards one another like they are all one big happy family.
Codemasters should be applauded for such an interesting and creative use of their official F1 licence. But strip the game of that licence, removing the novelty of seeing cartoon versions of the drivers and cars, and you have no more than a pretty average arcade kart racer. Competent, but average.
Apart from the implementation of the KERS system, F1 Race Stars brings little new to the table and, as fun as it is to play, there are better Kart games out there.
I'd recommend F1 Race Stars to die-hard kart racers and Formula One fans with young kids in a heartbeat, everyone else may find the game more of an acquired taste.
Lasting appeal: 6.5