At first glance Codemasters latest racer F1 Race Stars seems a peculiar game as it mixes all the tight corners, overtaking and DRS zones of real life Formula 1 with the cuteness and weapon laden racing of Mario Kart. Unfortunately this is something which doesn’t really mix and instead this game ends up outstaying it’s welcome a little too soon.

The game sees you taking control of any of the current 24 drivers from the Formula One World Championship as well as a couple of new racers made specifically for the game, all of whom have been brilliantly given a cartoon makeover and end up being very funny caricatures of their real life counterparts complete with accents and phrases you would expect someone from that country to say.

F1 Race stars will see you racing around 12 tracks in the game, all of which take inspiration from real life tracks and thanks in large to the scenery, you should have no problem working out what country you’re supposed to be racing in, Monaco for example has huge mountainous regions and tight twisty street regions that you’ll be racing through, Abu Dhabi will see you racing around a roller coaster at Ferrari World and Silverstone which will see you racing through British farm land and air shows. All this comes complete with funky, playful music which only adds to the fun factor of the racing. However the tracks do become rather forgettable after a while. There seems to be very few alternate routes through the tracks so they don’t take long to learn and once you’ve learnt them they just become rather boring and repetitive.

Scattered around the tracks though you’ll find boost zones which give you an instant turbo boost – identified by their red colour – allowing you to close the gap to your opponent in front or pull away from your opponent behind you (which is a lot more likely but more on that later.) You’ll also come across KERS zones – identified by their light blue colour – which are usually on tight corners and hairpins, as you go through them you can mash the right trigger to charge the battery and give yourself a turbo boost as you leave the corner.

Of course as you would expect from any kart racing game, there is also power ups that you can collect as you race around the tracks and these power ups range from the simple missile type projectiles which bounce their way around the track (just be careful not to run into your own missile as that’s a little embarrassing) to homing missiles and capture bubbles. Among the best of the power ups though is probably the rain clouds and the safety car. The rain clouds produce, well…rain…lots of rain and only gives you a set of wet weather tyres whilst everyone else struggles for grip on dry weather tyres giving you the opportunity to catch up. The other great power up for you to collect is the safety car which races out to the front of the pack and slows everyone down, again giving you the opportunity to catch up.

Unfortunately is all too easy to get out in front against the AI and stay there for the entire race despite the fact that the AI are overly aggressive at the beginning of the race and will think nothing of constantly ramming into you to force you onto the grass to slow you down or pushing you off the track completely. So usually the first half lap is spent trying to get out in front (although you can usually do this on the opening straight if you get a good start) and the racing then starts to get a little stale due to the fact that the bulk of the power ups are designed for close range combat so if you can get out in front you can avoid nearly all of the crazy combat which means that the whole idea of the game has somehow been missed.

However, if the AI is too aggressive and you’re not enjoying the offline single player career mode you can of course try the multiplayer which is really what this game was made for. Multiplayer consists of the same race modes as the offline racing but gives you the option of playing with random strangers over Xbox Live or with 3 of your friends with 4 player split-screen and this is where the game really comes into it’s own. The racing gets close and frantic (especially if you’re playing with friends) as you try to win the race whilst avoiding all of the hazards your opponents throw at you. However as the tracks are exactly the same as the offline races, it still becomes a little stale after a while but at least the races are closer and you can push and shove your friends around and have a laugh and that’s what this game is about.

Although F1 Race Stars is lacking in some of the finer details of a Codemasters racing game especially with overly aggressive AI racers, it’s a game which doesn’t take itself too seriously which is quite refreshing in this age of overly serious games. As a result F1 Race Stars is just old fashioned, unadulterated good fun! And something which you will likely be playing for a long time! (although probably only the multiplayer)

Review Score : [starreview tpl=16] Title : F1 Race Stars
Format : Xbox 360
Developer : Codemasters
Publisher : Codemasters
Release Date : November 16th 2012

[starreviewmulti id=1 tpl=20]

Codemasters provided with a review copy.