F1 Race Stars

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F1 Race Stars review

F1 Race Stars review

Kart for kart's sake?

Cheap cash-in or sweet fan service? Certainly, Codemasters' decision to paste its prized motorsport licence somewhat roughly over the Mario Kart template might look a little calculating - especially when the sport in question is the ruthlessly commercial Formula One. F1 Race Stars is an uncomfortable fit, epitomised by the strangely sinister spectacle of a bobble-headed Michael Schumacher mugging blankly at his rivals on the starting grid - to say nothing of the transformation of Abu Dhabi from a luxury hotel complex in an oil-rich city state into a lush, Arabian Nights fantasy land. (Thank God they didn't do Bahrain.)

Look at F1 Race Stars another way, though, and it's a welcome burst of imagination in the hidebound world of licensed sports games, where implementing bug fixes and reshuffling last year's feature list is what usually counts for innovation. Furthermore, the sensibilities of the sport and the developer have knocked a few interesting kinks into the well-worn mould of the family-friendly cartoon racer. Not with unqualified success, it must be said - but F1 Race Stars still amounts to more than the perfunctory rebranding exercise of last week's LittleBigPlanet Karting.

That won't be your initial impression, because at first, F1 Race Stars comes across like an anodyne clone with a limb lopped off. Tracks borrow a corner or two from their real-life inspirations, but mostly take the form of smooth, broad, colourful rollercoasters punctuated with short cuts, hazards and spectacular jumps. Replace platform-game paradigms like lava land and ice world with inoffensive national stereotypes (beer breweries for Belgium, carnival for Brazil, sumo wrestlers for Japan) and it's all very Mario Kart Wii.

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Real-life Formula One car at Eurogamer Expo

Plus playable F1 Race Stars and F1 2012.

As you may have noticed from the way Martin writes love letters to obscure corners at Spa Francorchamps at every opportunity or the almost sexual way that Oli and I tend to describe the tactility of simulated vehicular interaction with tarmac, we like driving games at Eurogamer. We especially like Formula One.

F1 Race Stars Preview: F1 Meets Mario Kart

You probably wouldn't know it for a sport that's fixated with technology and often obscured by politics, but Formula 1's really all about character. This is a sport that's always attracted larger-than-life personalities, from '50s aristocrats like the Marquis de Portago through the mischievous antics of Nelson Piquet and on to swashbuckling modern superstars such as Fernando Alonso.

With the hyper-stylised F1 Race Stars, Codemasters has allowed itself to make an official game where that character comes first. Here's the sport as you'd envision it after having an animated eight-year-old describe a weekend's action to you: colourful, exaggerated and with a cast of rugged superheroes playing out the action.

If you want an indication of how well Codemasters has worked the licence into a family-oriented affair you only need look at the reaction to the original reveal. F1 fans can be a tough bunch to please, ready to snap an arm at any perceived deviance from authenticity - so to see them embrace a game that owes more to Mario Kart than it does to Geoff Crammond is quite something.

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Codemasters announces F1 Race Stars

Codemasters announces F1 Race Stars

Cute official racer coming this November.

Codemasters has unveiled its family-friendly official F1 racer, and announced that the game's coming to Xbox 360, PS3 and PC this November.

Called F1 Race Stars, the game is being developer by Codemasters' Birmingham studio - the same outfit that develops Codemasters' mainline F1 series.

Since acquiring the F1 license in 2008, Codemasters has produced a series of serious-minded games across various formats. They've gone on to receive critical and commercial success, and the first HD installment F1 2010 went on to win a BAFTA last year.

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