F1 Race Stars
There are very few occasions where Romain Grosjean can cause an accident and celebrate taking Hamilton out of the race without facing criticism from his fellow drivers. It would appear that to ease the Frenchman’s worries, Codemasters have kindly created a game where he can do so to his heart’s desire. However much like Grosjean’s season, what starts promisingly can end ultimately in disappointment and finger pointing.
F1 Race Stars is a classic racing game that pretty much copies its entire formula from Mario Kart, from beginning to end. A karting experience akin to the Nintendo stalwart I hear you cry? On the Xbox and Playstation? Without annoyingly fake Italian accents? Well given the lack of them in Formula 1 this season, most of this is accurate. By transferring the every driver, team and a selection of hammed up circuits from the 2012 fixture list it does at least try and use the franchise as a selling point, but arguably the most interesting feature is the ability to use your own avatar in game, something I haven’t seen since Doritos Crash Course, along with a variety of ‘quirky’ animations.
A series of different trophies set over 11 different courses, the game mixes it up by offering Elimination, Trophy Chase (collecting points over the course of the lap), Refuel Racket (refuel before you run out, but get higher speeds at lower fuel levels) as well as standard racing to keep things fresh. No Kart Racing game would be complete without the usual array of power-ups of course, most just a turtle shell away from being very familiar, with the standard heat seeking power-ups, droppable, explosions and speed boosts to disrupt your enemies and get you to the front of the race. Each team you driver for has a different power up on top of the standard ones as well.
The cars handle a lot like Formula 1 cars, which is to say that at high speeds they don’t go around corners very easily and don’t go sideways to allow for tighter turns when a less unrealistic and more fun approach would be superior. Some of the tightest corners are not just difficult, but nigh on impossible even at the lowest speeds, except for the computer players ofcourse. The balance issues don’t stop there though as every time you are hit, your car takes damage and you run slower than normal. In order to repair you need to enter a small detour in the pits which delays you still further. With an incredibly aggressive computer opponent, even at the easiest level, it can be a familiar experience and a frustrating one.
What Mario Kart and other racers did well was to give a small advantage to those at the back of the grid in catching up by plying them with better power-ups to get them back into the race, but F1 Race Stars goes too far by constantly bringing racers back to the front and never allowing you to let your racing ability do the talking. That is unless you are lucky enough to find a key to open a shortcut, which will often give the computer player who grab is a lead of such huge proportions that the race will be over. And don’t think you will be allowed to get it yourself as fate will conspire again and again to stop you.
What should be a fast and fun aside from the increasingly impressive Formula 1 series instead disappoints and frustrates. A comic book style game like this has to balance the racing style with the fun and frolics and unfortunately fails to find it. It’s not that it is a terrible game, just that with more attention to detail, it could have been much more. F1 Race Stars is also coming to the Wii U March 2013. It will need an overhaul and some serious thought before then if it is going to compete on Mario Kart’s home turf.