Preview: F1 Race Stars (Xbox 360, PS3)

Get ready, race fans. I’m about to show you something you might not have been expecting this morning? On the grid? Seatbelt securely fastened? Watching the lights? Foot on the pedal? OK, go – here’s F1 Race Stars, and it looks a little something like this:

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We’re surprised it’s taken so long, to be honest. Codemasters know racing, especially simulation racing (they’ve created some great games over the years) but that invaluable, no doubt expensive F1 license was always ripe for a little bit of poetic license.

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Like, oh, I don’t know, big heads. And almost vertical stretches of tarmac that completely defy the laws of gravity. And speed boosts. And loop the loops that would test the constitution of even the hardiest F1 celebrity. Yes, I’m still talking F1, but this is Race Stars, and things are a little bit different.

For long term, die hard motorsport fans, this will be something of a shock, but hopefully a nice one. For people like me, who aren’t really into the details of F1 and just want to sprint around a track with enough visual references to things I’ve seen on the TV of a weekend, it’s a welcome breath of Nintendo-esque fresh air. And you’ve got to love the big heads.

[drop]You see, F1 Race Stars might carry proud the official branding and personalities, but it’s far from your every day Formula One simulation.

It looks bright and bold for starters, and caters for players more used to the likes of Mario Kart than those happy enough to spend hours tweaking their settings notch by notch.

As you’ll see in the teaser video below, the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel have been happy enough to let themselves get transformed somewhat, squeezing into tiny Kart-sized cars with hugely enlarged visages. Cute, huh?

Regardless of what you think of the characterisation of these iconic drivers, it’s the fact that they’re now racing around what look like impossible circuits that will take the bigger leap of faith for some, albeit circuits that are – for the most part – based on reality.

Taking starring roles are old favourites like Silverstone, the new Circuit of Americas, Spa, Japan and the iconic Monaco, all of which are amplified and distorted into courses rather more fun than factual. There’s more, but Codemasters aren’t spilling all the details just yet.

In a way this kind of cross over seems like something of a natural progression – after all, there’s only so much you can do with annual incremental simulation releases. And SEGA’s All Star Racing has shown that there’s a market for a Kart-like racer if it’s done with some flair.

Indeed, whilst those tracks carry globally-recognised names and features, look out for multiple-routes through them, ramps to leap over, shortcuts to outwit your opponents and more. As a taster, expect to be able to whizz right over Monaco’s swimming pool area using the KERS speed boost.

Other pickups announced so far include a Safety Car to slow down other cars, Wet Weather to cause spins and the first-place destroying Rain Cloud. In addition, Racing Line zones will catapult drivers forwards, and slipstreaming is in too.

Codemasters are keeping to traditional aspects of the sport, but ramping up the crazy factor. This is common throughout the game – for example, there’s only one screenshot officially released so far, and it’s the one below. Last time I checked, though, corkscrews weren’t a regular fixture.

In development at Codemasters’ Birmingham studio under the new Codemasters Racing brand, we’re told the game draws on the team’s knowledge of motorsport but happily takes plenty of cues from elsewhere where this sort of racing has been successful – including the ability to enter four player split-screen events and some hopefully slick 12 player online.

[boxout]”We’re really excited to bring the whole cast of Formula One into a fun new world of racing,” said Chris Gray, Senior Producer, who says the game will let fans of all ages jump right in.

“It’s the game we’ve wanted to create for a long time”, Gray continued, suggesting they’ve been thinking about this for a while and this isn’t just a side project.

“We’re now able to bring Codemasters’ long-standing expertise in track design and AI to create a Formula One racing experience quite unlike any other.”

I’m excited, and you should be too. Like I said, the hardcore F1 fans might be staring at this page and wondering what on earth is going on, but everybody else will find the pick up and play gameplay and the recognisable licenses work together rather nicely.

The game is out this November for PS3, PC and Xbox 360.

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35 Comments

  1. I wonder if Codies had a hand in making the McLaren/Santander animation Sky shown during the British GP? If so, it would make a good trailer for this game.

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