F1 Race Stars Review
As a certain popular television programme loves to remind us at this time of the year, if you want to make it big, you’ve got to have the x-factor.
You’ve got to have that certain je ne sais quoi that makes you stand out, that makes hairs on the backs of necks stand up, that induces a giddiness and excitement unlike anything else. F1 Race Stars gets a lot right but, sadly, it’s missing that x-factor.
The gimmicky concept is the biggest success. Stuffing the F1 licence into a karting-shaped hole seems like an awkward fit, and yet by transforming F1 drivers into cute, chibi-esque alternate versions, it injects them with the one thing they otherwise lack: personality. This extends to the tracks, which have leaps over chasms, desert tornadoes, loop-the-loops and high, gravity-defying corners.
There’s a subtle F1 theme at work in the gameplay systems too. Blue sections of the track allow you to charge up your KERS if you let go of the accelerator before putting your foot down again. It’s nothing more than an appropriate name for an unusual turbo boost, but thematically it works. The more successful power-ups also take cues from the sport. One example is the safety car, which limits the speed of the top driver and prevents him from overtaking.
The bullet power-up makes an appearance if you’re trailing behind and gives you a quick way to cut through the pack, but is actually quite boring.
What F1 Race Stars lacks is any gameplay hook beyond its cute concept. There’s no real depth to cornering – not like the beautifully nuanced powersliding seen in Mario Kart or even Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing – and thus, the only meaningful battles for position outside of weapons is done via slipstreaming. It’s too situational to feel anything other than opportunistic, however, and so, when there’s no action from nearby cars, F1 Race Stars quickly begins to feel dull.
This leaves weapons having to pick up the slack, and this is where F1 Race Stars really struggles. While the function of each offensive power-up is recognisable – homing rockets, bouncing rockets, mines – they don’t have the impact they should. The bland implementation is part of the problem. Homing rockets, for example, aren’t rockets but rather red bubbles. The bouncing rockets aren’t rockets but yellow bubbles. Mines? Blue bubbles.
Perhaps the thought of a cartoon rocket slamming into the back of Lewis Hamilton’s head terrified the FIA and red bubbles were considered the friendlier version, but it’s a problem that extends
to what happens when the weapons connect. Instead of any major impact, cars are picked up by that bubble before being dropped back on the track.
It’s tame and doesn’t make battles the events they should be. It’s too sedate, too limp. It’s a shame that while F1 Race Stars has successfully aped most of the key ingredients needed to make a successful multiplayer game – vibrant personality, fun tracks, strong multiplayer – it’s missing that x-factor to make it stand apart. Competent, then, but ultimately not a contender.