I was pretty excited to wrap my hands around the controller for my first run at Codemasterâ€™s latest F1 racing title, even if itâ€™s only an early build. Racing, you see, is my thing. This time around, itâ€™s not true to life, graphically intensive, simulation racing like F1 2012, but a crazy high octane arcade action racing game. Welcome to the brand-new F1 Race Stars!
I am excited because this is the first time that F1 - a sport I'm an admitted rabid fanboy of - appears to be coming into the living room for the whole family to enjoy. It's a shift away from niche titles which appeal primarily to the hardcore, and a giant leap into the hands of young and old. Nigh on everyone can find something to love about Mario Kart, and itâ€™s clear that Codemasters hope to bring exactly that type of approachability to the sport of F1.
After a few laps, itâ€™s evident that this is, however, no Mario Kart. Yes, itâ€™s a karting title, and yes, it includes power-ups, weapons, and crazy tracks. But with the merge of reality and fantasy, with tracks that are recognisable in many ways, but then an enormous exaggeration on the other hand, F1 Race Stars looks to be so much more - and itâ€™s definitely got my blood pumping.
Immediately noticeable are the incredibly animated and caricatured drivers - recognisable versions of their real life counterparts thanks primarily to their exaggerated features and bobblehead-like proportions. Fernando Alonsoâ€™s smooth hair, Michael Schumacherâ€™s chin; itâ€™s all here and itâ€™s hilarious, and yet beautiful at the same time. It feels as though F1 Race Stars has really captured F1â€™s bigger than life characters.
There are a few noteworthy elements which I feel are really set to push F1 Race Stars into a league of its own. First, your cars take damage, meaning that if you want to take advantage of the KERS zones (KERS is a time of speed boost that exists in real life Formula 1) you will need to pit to repair - a really nice addition that adds an element of strategy. This is particularly important in the game as power sliding, a common inclusion in similar games, is not present here.
Another interesting inclusion is that weather is a factor; you'll need to think about it lest your kart goes flying all over the track. There are also some truly F1-focused special abilities (such as the Safety Car which brings the whole pack back together and more or less restarts the race - a great way to equalise the field) while real-world tactics like slipstreaming will give you an advantage here.
Despite only a short play session with only a single track on display - it looks as though F1 Race Stars is differentiating itself in all the right ways from other karting titles, and has the potential to revolutionise F1 as a family affair. Bring on November, when we can cast our eye over the finished product!
The Good: A winning karting formula that differentiates itself
The Bad: Hopefully the official license isnâ€™t limiting...
The Ugly: Michael Schumacherâ€™s chin