by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
F1 arcade style
While there hasn’t been a great public outcry for a karting game based on the world of Formula One racing, Codemasters decided to develop one. Carrying forward the full F1 license from its yearly game geared towards simulation, this is a game which will be fun for all the family, but probably a bit more fun for families who follow the sport.
To most, this will look like a standard arcade kart racing game, but fans of Formula One will notice a few nods to the real world. First of all, all the drivers are here, along with all the teams. Stylised representations of each of the sport’s stars are on show, albeit with disproportionate heads, as well as mini F1 cars with the correct liveries. It is as if you are looking through the eyes of a very young racing fan, and it’s pretty cute and endearing. Speaking with one of the developers at Gamescom, it became clear that they wanted the drivers to seem heroic, and liked to add a certain amount of whimsy to the usually serious sport. The question “What would Pixar do?” is a direct quote from the developer when describing the art style.
Codemasters has gone to great lengths to ensure that the game stands out from the kart racer crowd while leaving it with a few roots in reality. After playing it behind closed doors in Cologne, I can confirm that it certainly feels a bit different to the average game. They may be mini, but the cars you are racing are still F1 cars, and that means you won’t be powersliding around corners in this game. Instead, in the tighter bends, you will be charging up your KERS, which fans of F1 will recognise as the Kinetic Energy Recovery System from the real sport which provides a short speed boost on each lap. This requires a bit of finesse, but if done right you get a boost out of corners to simulate the real world drivers slowing down for each corner and then accelerating through the exit.
As well as the drivers and cars, the tracks themselves are stylised versions of real world event locations. For instance I played the German track, which starts and ends within the confines of the track, but in between I drove along an autobahn, and at one point through a Bavarian castle. The laps take around two minutes to complete, so are good for a short burst of fun. As usual, there are pit areas which can be driven through to repair any damage to your car. This takes a bit of extra time, but taking damage also decreases your maximum speed, so a decision has to be made about when to enter the pit lane.
It wouldn’t be a kart racer without power ups and weapons, and F1 Race Stars does not disappoint. But once again, these power ups are F1 themed, like the DRS, which makes you invincible and travel slightly faster for a short amount of time. F1 fans will know that this is a reference to the Drag Reduction System employed on real F1 cars which opens a flap on the rear wing enabling the car to travel faster for a time.
Codemasters claim to have a unique multiplayer system. Players can take part in four player local split screen action, and up to twelve player online modes. However the added functionality comes in the form of split screen online modes, where any combinations of up to four local players can compete against other drivers online.
F1 Race Stars is all about family fun and is definitely accessibly enough to allow for that. Perhaps dads will enjoy playing this game with their kids if they think the Nintendo equivalents are too childish. Or maybe it’s for people who want something a little different from their karting games. Either way it will be released later this year.