Racers also have their own specialities, such as the Red Bull team's added slipstream acceleration or Ferrari's ability to use a backwards seeking attack. These are fine touches that won't make a huge difference initially, but that you'll come to appreciate as you get to know the game and start to make greater use of strategy. And, more to the point, when you're playing against another human online or with splitscreen.
Of course, F1 Race Stars
didn't invent the inclusion of strategy in kart racers. While newcomers can quite happily enjoy steaming around your average kart track firing off koopa shells, seeker bubbles or generic missiles willy-nilly, seasoned players will be used to leaving booby-traps at key points or timing their use of boost for optimum effect.
What F1 Race Stars
does is tease those elements to the foreground. You're not all of a sudden playing Forza
, but the game certainly demands a bit more application of the old grey matter. I'd call it 'a thinking man's kart game' if it didn't make me sound like a wanker.
The visual design is all very solid stuff. The way all the drivers are presented as bestest bestest pals (just like real life) gets a little grating, but otherwise it's solid stuff, nods to Mario Kart
It is not, alas, without its faults. You may well find that you don't want to have to engage your brain when you turn on a kart racer, for one. Sometimes those more strategic elements work against the game, too. We're all used to being periodically hammered without any warning in kart games, but when the game demands a lot of thought and concentration it feels doubly-unfair to be spontaneously beaten to a pulp by every other racer on the track.
The main problem, however, is that there just isn't enough variation to keep you interested. There are 11 tracks to drive - compare that with the 32 tracks in Mario Kart Wii
. They're all well designed, but 11's still not very many. Different sorts of events (dominate a section, stay in first place to get points, etc etc) do an admirable job of changing up the way you use the tracks and thus how they play, but 11 is still
not very many. And yes, there's a certain amount of enjoyment that comes in any kart race of getting to know the track and being able to make optimal use of it, but 11 is still not very many
The menu system also feels like it has about three too many screens and they're in a counter intuitive order, to boot. No less than twice did I finish an event, get spun around in circles by all the screens you have to scroll through and then find myself right back in the event I just won. Do you know what happens the moment you start an event you already completed? All trace of your previous result on that event is wiped from your game save.
Another, more minor annoyance, is the fact that a second player has
to sign in with a profile to play – there's no 'guest' option.
If the idea of a smarter karting game appeals to you and/or you're an F1 nut, you'll get a few good hours out of F1 Race Stars
. It's a well-designed game, if one that will be a little counter-intuitive to some karting fans. Don't expect it to take you much further than 'a few good hours', though.
+ Interesting use of F1 license and sensibilities.
+ Strong strategic elements.
+ Good track design.
- Not enough tracks.
- Frustrating menu system.
- No drift.
SPOnG Score: 7/10