Review

F1 Race Stars Review (Xbox360)

Formula One racing is boring, right? It's just a bunch of overpaid adrenaline junkies driving around a dull track with little drama, isn't it? Doubters of the sport would have you believe so. These are the kind of people who dismiss Codemasters' serious F1 games due to their lack of understanding. F1 Race Stars throws a spanner into such problems. This title exchanges its technical manual for a party popper. Forget the intricacies overtaking at Monte Carlo or plotting a revenge strategy at Silverstone - racing is far more fun when you can bounce off the walls like an overexcited child.

Accessibility is absolutely key here. Codemasters want players of all skills and ages to feel comfortable as soon as they pick this up. You won't need to plod your way through tutorials and test drives. Nor will you be heavily punished for making a mistake. As Chumbawamba so delicately put it; if you get knocked down, you'll get up again. Oh Danny boy.

Tracks are littered with landmarks. Abu Dhabi is a real highlight as you drive through the Ferrari theme park

At this point I should probably point out drink-driving is not okay. F1 Race Stars is rather intoxicating in itself, providing players with a sense of relief at this busy time in the gaming calendar. Sick of shooting up noobs on Black Ops 2? This excitable racer allows perfect respite.

Basic karting rules apply here. Codemasters certainly aren't backwards in outlining their inspiration. This title looks up to Mario Kart, wears his pyjamas to bed and snuggles into a Nintendo-themed pillow. That's by no means a bad thing. The likes of ModNation Racers has suffered due to a general blandness. F1 Race Stars combats this instantly, throwing a lick of paint around as if Bob Ross beat the devil out of it.

Tracks are crammed full of ever-changing colours and momentum shifts. The rain may suddenly start to pour in Belgium, producing puddles that aim to halt your progress. A huge drop into the jaws of a Great White shark could change things up in Australia. The British track quickly shifts from rolling countryside to industrial chaos, echoing Danny Boyle's Olympic opening ceremony by underlining what the country is known for.

While the tracks themselves aren't particularly inspiring, the scenery is beautifully created. Too many long straights mean there is very little skill needed to win most races. Codemasters decided against installing a drift system, meaning there isn't any opportunity for talented drivers to slide their way up the rankings when things get tight. This ensures every type of player can remain competitive until the chequered flag - but it does stunt the game's scope somewhat.

See those blue arrows? That's your KERS boost. Drive over it!

The basic career mode opts to mix things up quickly. You'll compete in various tournaments that are judged on an accumulative points system. Remain in the top three for all races and you're guaranteed a place on the podium. Simple races are interspersed with different challenges. This could be an elimination event or something more exciting. Players will quickly experience objectives where they need to constantly collect fuel in order to keep racing. Strategy starts to come in when you're told more fuel equals slower speeds. Do you bulk up and focus on the track or slim down and wheeze your way to the finish? It's interesting to see an array of tactics play out over each course.

Individual races can also be played, but it's obvious this game isn't meant to be experienced alone. Everything - from the career to online multiplayer - can be accessed with four-player split-screen. It's unbelievable what a difference company makes. Moments of fun quickly induce huge squeals or laughter, as all players battle back and forth on equal footing. You'll hunt down your power-ups, fire a few red balls, drop a handful of balloons and watch the chaos unfold. Most boosts aren't particularly exciting, but they do balance the title out well. Blue Shells aren't going to ruin your progress, although there is a torpedo design that is ripped straight from Mario Kart. You can almost hear the chirpy plumber as this blasts you round the track.

Each driver is replicated in caricature style. Fernando Alonso is carved towards a handsome ruggedness, Mark Webber's chin is finely chiselled, and Lewis Hamilton looks like the world's blandest man. Every individual has a set of catchphrases that are based on national stereotypes. It's interesting how Alonso takes on the role of an Italian icon even though he resides from the Spanish city of Oviedo. If Nintendo had produced their Mii design on HD hardware, I'd expect them to look a lot like the characters we see here.

Don't forget to pit!

Again, this isn't really to the game's detriment. It's hard to dislike a title that tries to initiate a good time from the moment you fire it up. Racing fans will enjoy the connection to real world F1—from safety cars that slow down the entire pack to boost-providing KERS—while others will never notice the attempt to make such a connection. With that said, even the least clued in racers will need to pit when their car takes a small amount of damage.

F1 Race Stars isn't going to set you back a great deal of cash. The game retails at £29.99 on release, meaning this is a worthwhile investment as we head into the Christmas holiday. Codemasters has produced a remarkably upbeat karting title that puts the feel-good into a license that is often bogged down by its own intricacy. Throw in a few friends and an evening of online multiplayer, you might just have yourself a starting grid worth gearing up for.

Top Gaming Moment: Experiencing the game with friends. Splitscreen provides the real entertainment.

Platform Played: Xbox 360

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