F1 Race Stars is not an average kart racing clone of a particular Nintendo franchise we are all thinking of when we hear the word “Kart” – it has its own interesting gameplay mechanics, artistic graphics and items which mesh well with the Formula 1 feel but, with a lack of addictiveness and a few strange weapon choices, this game falls short of the mark.
First off, F1 Race Stars is not the same as other games in the same genre because it takes Formula 1 and turns it into a different beast with deceleration/acceleration mechanics, pit stops and the use of safety cars. Instead of drifting, F1 Race Stars encourages players to decelerate around corners to gain an extra boost when the track is covered by a blue area. Not being able to drift requires more skill from the player than other titles of its kind and makes it feel fresh. What also makes F1 Race Stars stand out is that your vehicle can break down with each stumble and assault from other players. This causes slow down and requires racers to be fixed in pit stops and go in a longer route. This rewards the drivers who are more skilled rather than the ones who are making mistakes on the track. What also makes this game stands out in the crowd are safety cars which players unleash towards the 1st place driver – safety cars slow down the race and help other racers catch up. Codemasters were intelligent when they came up with this solution because the safety car’s ability helps the drivers falling behind but not completely wipe out the first place player. Other items include a boost of speed, teleporting and wet weather which slows down everyone else except for you. The items which do not fit the description of F1 Racing, however, are the bubbles which ensnare you for a few seconds, pulse around the player and seek towards the next player ahead of you. These do not fit in with the F1 brand at all and feels lazily placed in there to copy Nintendo’s mechanics instead of using their own.
In addition to having some lazy item choices being thrown in the mix, F1 Race Stars does not make you want to come back for more with only 11 tracks in all and online being non-existent. There are no unlockables to make you go through the campaign of the game and with no storyline to complement the overall experience, F1 Race Stars lacks addictiveness. It also holds a weak online offering as either no one is playing the game online or the capabilities of it happening are slim to none by a weak structured online server system. Throughout the first week of its release, I was only able to connect to one game and then it dropped 15 seconds in when I finally found a race.
What keeps me coming back to F1 Race Stars, however, are the tracks. Every single level within this imaginative game is wondrous to behold with it’s outstanding cartoon styled graphics and creativity within the level design. F1 Race Stars, much like Formula 1 Racing, holds a tour of many of the world’s locations. Within the 11 race tracks available, you will explore levels inspired by the cultures of various countries such as Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany. You will be riding on the high speed trains of Japan, the castles of Germany and the football posts of the United States of America. Codemasters made this game a marvel to look at and definitely puts many other kart racers to shame in terms of its track design and graphical splendor.
On the other hand, the audio work of the game lets down the amazing graphical style of F1 Race Stars. The voice acting from the characters is repetitive and annoying with music that sounds bland. Navigating through the menus is annoying to hear with the same high pitched sound being made that indicates that you’ve moved up or down.
Overall, F1 Race Stars is a game with a lot of merits such as its wondrous graphical design and interesting ways to reinvent the kart racing genre with F1 Racing mechanics but there is a lack of addictiveness and a lack of online functionality which makes F1 Race Stars forgettable, yet not an average kart racing clone.