F1 Race Stars Review
F1 Race Stars brings the serious world of F1 racing into the comical fantasy world of kart racing. Now let's just say that you're not a big fan of F1 racing, at least to the point where you can't tell your big-headed toon version of Fernando Alonso from your big-headed toon version of Mark Weber, and that you feel that there just aren't enough kart racing games in your collection. Should you be looking to buy F1 Race Stars? Probably not. I can't see this game as being any more than a niche novelty for the hardcore F1 fan.
First there's the racing itself. Sure, you're on fantasy tracks driving cars barely twice as big as their drivers, but that doesn't mean that you can go drifting and power sliding your way through the tracks' numerous bends and turns. The game implements an arcade version of real car physics, so unless you control your speed through turns and choose the right line you're going to find yourself flying off of the track. This isn't so much a knock against the game as it is a warning to the consumer. F1 and sim racing game fans will be able to adjust to this quickly, but the twelve and under crowd that probably constitutes the majority of kart racing game players could easily find this to be frustrating.
The game also makes a nod to sim racing by adding pit stops to the game, although pit lanes would probably be a more accurate description. Your car can take damage as you race around the track and are hit by opponents' power-up weapons. At the highest damage level your car will have its top speed reduced until you find a pit lane to drive through. The pit lanes don't take you too far out of your way, so it's probably a good idea to take one when you see one even if you've taken only a little bit of damage so far. Otherwise you could find yourself stuck with a slow car painfully inching its way around the track desperately seeking a pit lane.
When you start to get into arcade kart racing territory, the game's focus becomes blurred. It wants you to employ sim-like driving skills as you negotiate the track, but then the power-ups will constantly penalize those with the video driving skills to pull out ahead of the pack. However, kart racing fans will probably find the power-ups to be rather pedestrian and not all that interesting. There are several that trap an opposing racer in a bubble for a few seconds, and these seem to be the type most commonly picked-up. The couple of power-ups that are a little more creative, such as one which creates a pace car that forces the leader to slow down and another that generates a rainstorm but equips you with extra grip tires, aren't enough on their own to carry this rather bland collection of power-ups.
There are a few alternate game modes that keep things from getting boring as quickly as they would otherwise. For example, there's an elimination mode which periodically drops the last place driver and a refuel mode in which you must drive over gas power-ups to keep your tank filled and your car running. Like the main mode, run a few races in these modes and you've basically seen all they have to offer.
Multiplayer may extend the life of the game for you if you have some friends interested in playing split-screen races with you. Up to four players are supported in this mode, and you can all jump into the same online race, which support up to twelve players total. I had a real hit and miss experience trying to find other players online in the game's matchmaking lobbies, and to be honest the experience wasn't all that different than it was racing against the AI. Perhaps that's why it was so hard to find anyone. Or maybe most players are in Europe and they're all playing while I'm thinking about what to have for lunch. Whatever the reason, if you're looking to play the game more online than off then you could be in for some long waits.
All in all, F1 Race Stars isn't really a bad game per se, it's just that it's a bit on the bland side and it doesn't do anything that's better, different, or more interesting than some of the better kart racers out there. If you have a kart racer or two already do you really need this one? Probably not. If you're looking for your first kart racer, is it your best choice? No. If you're a big F1 fan will it fill your need to play all things F1? Well in that case, probably yes.
Final Rating: 64%. An average game that won't hold your attention for too long in a genre in which there are plenty of better options available.