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Who wouldn't want to be a Formula One star? You get to fly around the world and are paid massive amounts of money to drive cars at ludicrously fast speeds. Apart from the danger of imminent death if you make a single mistake it's an appealing lifestyle. If you fancy doing this without the money but with the added bonus of no risk to life and limb, then you might prefer to buy a copy of F1 Race Stars for the PS3 instead.
If you come to F1 Race Stars expecting a standard racing game, then prepare to be disappointed. Forget the realism of other Formula One games, this is a Mario Kart clone where you race around the track, pick up power ups to sabotage other racers (or give you a temporary advantage) and seek to finish first in the race.
Having said it's a clone, F1 Race Stars deserves some credit for adding a few new ideas into the mix. For a start, if you play with the default options, your car will suffer damage from collisions which will impact on your car's performance. This makes it a little more realistic than Mario Kart, where slamming into a brick wall at 100mph results in nothing more than a temporary loss of speed. It also means you have to take a slightly more careful approach to driving and can't just put the hammer down for the full race.
To compensate for damage, pit stops are also available to pick up extra fuel and repair damage. This adds a tactical element. Do you lose precious seconds on your opponents by making a pit stop, but, come out with a fully repaired car; or do try and nurse your car round that final lap, risking all if you crash badly. This is a nice addition which can make for some tricky decisions on later tracks.
Graphically, F1 Race Stars is a lot of fun. The graphics have a bright and cartoony style and have some excellent caricatures of real life F1 drivers. Even the Select a Driver screen is fun, with all drivers have their own crazy animations and catchphrases. Drive as Sebastian Vettel, for example, and he will shout out "Nein" in frustration as he crashes or is overtaken or gleefully yell "Auf Wiedersehen" as he whizzes past an opponent. This gives drivers real character and made me smile.
It's slightly at odds with how we normally view F1 drivers, but it's fun and suits the casual nature of the game. Presentation is perhaps best described as "cheesy", but I mean that as a positive, not a negative.
Track layouts are not what you would call traditional F1 territory either. For a start, there are leaps to be negotiated and speed pads that can give you that little edge on your opponents. Races take place across a whole wide range of terrains from city circuits to countryside and there's a noticeable difference between them all. There are other nice touches, too - the weather can suddenly change and torrential downpours make it difficult to see or cause massive flooding on the track which can make steering tricky.
However, the track layouts and settings also seem a little tired and uninspired. It borrows very heavily from both Mod Nation Racers and Mario Kart. Tracks can also sometimes be a little confusing. There is sometimes so much going on that it can be a little difficult to pick out where the track goes. Of course, with practice, you memorise exactly where the bends are and how fast you can take them which improves matters, but I did find it a little frustrating.
Sound is rather more generic, although perfectly adequate. There is the expected buzz of the engines and roar of the crowd and various other warning noises to tell you that a power up has been deployed. The music is the sort of plinky-plonky music you would expect from this sort of game and, like the track design, felt a little generic.
Controls are pretty much standard fare: L2/R2 buttons to brake/accelerate, the DPad (or left stick) to steer and the X button to deploy a power up. The work well, though and your fingers naturally fall onto the right buttons and the controls are responsive. You can't really ask for much more than that.
There can be times when the game seems very unfair to play. Computer controlled players seem to constantly target you with their pick-ups and the game can be a little unforgiving: a single mistake can see you dropping several places, undoing all the good work that you have done. I also seemed to come off worst in every single collision with other cars. Perhaps I'm just unlucky, but they always seem to bounce off my with barely any impact, whilst I lost all speed and suffered damage that affected my ability to keep up.
Of course, the game really comes alive in multiplayer mode (against another person there with you or online). I've not used the online gameplay, so can't comment on it. However, the fun factor is definitely ramped up when playing against another human. It makes the game naturally more competitive and you are even more determined to win.
If you do enjoy the game then the single player Career Mode has a lot of potential long term gameplay. With three difficulty levels (1,000cc, 2,000cc and 3,000cc), multiple championships, loads of levels to unlock and a whole host of trophies to earn, this is one game that you are not going to finish in a hurry. Unfortunately, although I usually love racing games, I found F1 Race Stars just didn't hook me like normal and I quickly got bored with it.
There are lots of nice touches to F1 Race Stars, but it doesn't quite add up to the sum of its parts. It's a perfectly adequate game - but the key word in that summary is "adequate". You might never get Mario Kart on a Sony machine, but there are plenty of similar games (Sonic & Sony All Stars Racing, Mod Nation Racers) and personally, I'd put both of those games ahead of this one.
I got this game free as part of my PlayStation Plus subscription, so the fact I didn't enjoy it that much doesn't worry me. A new copy costs around £20, and I would have been very disappointed had I paid that. Given that you can now pick up a copy of Mod Nation Racers for a tenner, I'd recommend that instead.
All Stars? No, just three of them.
(c) Copyright SWSt 2013
F1 Race Stars, PS3.
As a Playstation Plus member I often get to enjoy the benefits of this membership in the form of downloading free games each month, and we're not just talking demos or trial games here, these are full games! Sometimes the games are rubbish but other times they are fantastic, this month is fantastic as the free game is F1 Race Stars.
F1 Race Stars was originally released on the PS3 in 2012 and is available to buy both in the shops with the usual game disc, box and instructions or as a download from the Playstation Store through your PS3 console. The only disadvantage of the download version is that you don't get an instruction manual, for me this is fine as I rarely use them but others may prefer to have it.
As I have the download version of the game I had to install this game before I could play, this was a simple process and the speed of your installation will depend on your internet speed. In the past I have had very slow downloads so I decided to leave it downloading while I popped to the shops, I would say I was gone around 20 minutes and the game had just finished downloading when I returned. Once downloaded the game had to install its settings which took around another 5 minutes to complete and then I was ready to play.
Ready? Set? Goooo!
When the game first starts you are shown the usual style title screen and then taken to the main menu. The main menu offers a variety of choices:
Play: This is as it sounds, just jump straight in and race away on a track of your choice with random computer generated players.
Play Online: This mode is similar to play except you will be playing online against other people. When you play online you will be taken into a screen offering a variety of different style races to choose from, once you have chosen your preferences you will have to wait a few moments while the game connects to races taking place and then you will have to wait until that race has finished before you will actually be playing. This whole process can take up to 5 minutes before you actually get to do anything! It is quite frustrating and certainly not my favourite way to play the game. The other disadvantage I have found with the online mode is that the servers only tend to work during the day and during the evening they just don't seem to connect.
Career: Career mode is the main area of the game and also the area which has taken up most of my free time this week! In career mode you will first need to choose your F1 Race Star, you will have a choice of many real racing stars including Jenson Button, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton as well as many others from around the world, I'm not that into F1 racing in real life to know all the names. Each driver has their own special traits and abilities as well as racing style. I chose Jenson Button as my driver for my career. After choosing your driver you will need to select the speed you wish to race at, 1000cc, 2000cc or 3000cc. I chose 3000cc as this is the one you need to race at in order to win a lot of the trophies in the game so I thought I would take a chance on a harder race and hopefully be in a win-win situation. This chance paid off as it turns out the 3000cc racing is not really that tough after all!
Once you have selected your options you are ready to race. You will be taken to another menu screen which is kind of like your garage. In your garage you will have the options of changing your driver, viewing your statistics, changing into team mode if you are playing multiplayer and racing. After selecting to race you are given yet more choices about which championship you wish to take part in. There are 30 championships in total but you will need to play and win various championships in order to unlock them all. This is quite easy though as I have only had the game since Wednesday afternoon and I've already unlocked 20 of the 30 and collected a large percentage of the Playstation network trophies available in the game. The championships are great because not only do they consist of normal races, but also races with a challenge such as mirrored tracks which are like the normal tracks but in reverse, Refuel races where you will have to keep topping your fuel up as well as keeping your position, Pole Position where you need to stay in the top 4 throughout the race to gain points and the first player to a certain number of points wins and another style of race where you need to be the quickest in each section of the race to claim a particular part of the track as yours, in this mode the player with the most pieces of track is the winner.
All of the races in the championships take the basic form of a normal race with the goal or challenge being the only thing which varies. At the start of each race you will see the drivers all lined up and ready to go and you will have the usual 3, 2, 1, Gooo! Countdown. On the word go you need to press the R2 trigger on the Playstation control pad to accelerate into the race. The very first thing I noticed about F1 Race Stars was its similarity to Mario Kart on the Nintendo Wii. This is because you will collect various items on your way around the track which you can then use as weapons against the other racers, there are many things including a Pulse which knocks players off balance and various forms of bubbles which capture players for a couple of seconds in a bubble and then cause damage to their car as the bubbles burst. Other items include speed boosts, speed warping which is good for moving you to a new position in the race and the item I find the strangest, a rain cloud, the rain cloud seems to be an item you don't want to have as it will cause you to slow down and have slower reactions.
All of the tracks in the game are set in different countries around the world including Japan, Great Britain, USA, Germany and Australia to name just a few. There is one track for each country. In total there are 11 countries in the game and each country has one track. This may not sound a lot but when you take into consideration all the different variations of the tracks it isn't so bad. More countries can be downloaded from the Playstation store on your PS3 console but these are at an extra cost so I don't think I will be doing this myself. Most of the tracks in the game consist of only 2 or 3 laps, this will depend on the length of the track, shorter tracks seem to have 3 laps and longer only have 2. I have found that the average race time is around 4 minutes.
Once you have finished each race in the championship you will be awarded points depending on your position and after all of the races in the championship are complete you will be awarded the trophy for that Championship if you are in the top three places overall. If you manage to finish in the top 3 this will also unlock other championships and other play options in the game.
Time Trial: Time Trial is another of the options from the main menu. I find that time trial is a great way to practice the courses without having the distraction of the competitiveness of a race. The time trial also has its own challenges in order to win some Playstation Network Trophies. Personally I found these rather easy, they are simply to receive bronze, silver and gold awards in each time trial in each country. If you can do this then you can gain 3 Network trophies. If you are good at racing it will probably take you only around an hour to complete these. It took me a little longer as I struggled getting the gold in all of them. The bronze and silver were rather easy and even allowed for a few collisions with the wall on the way!
My Stuff: In this area you can view all of your achievements in the game so far. For me this section isn't particularly interesting as I would rather spend my time racing, but it maybe handy for those of you who want to check on your progress and how far you are from unlocking certain things.
Settings: This area is where you can change the settings of the game to suit your preferences, things like controls, sound effects and music can all be changed here.
F1 Race Stars has a multiplayer mode, both in the form of online multiplayer as I mentioned earlier and also offline multiplayer where you can play split screen racing. I have played this a couple of times with my partner and it was great fun but we found with the speed the game moves at that it was often hard to keep track of what was around the corner and we were often cashing into walls and other objects.
The graphics in the game do appear to be nice and smooth. In some of the races the tracks are nice and bright and the themed backgrounds to suit the country they are set in. There are a couple of tracks which are a little too dark and make it hard to see where you are supposed to go, but once you have played the track a few times it is a little easier as you can quickly learn where the track leads.
The racing in the game is nice and fast, especially if you jump straight in at 3000cc. I find that all of the play options are competitive and great fun to play, however I have noticed that in the career mode and occasionally in the Online mode there are quite a few glitchy moments and while the game does continue the glitchy second or two cancels any items which you may have and you will have to wait until you collect another one before you can cause some damage on the track.
Playstation Network Trophies
F1 Race Stars supports the Playstation Network Trophies. There are a total of 49 trophies to collect and some extra ones if you choose to purchase the extra tracks. The trophies are really easy to collect as most of them are gained by playing the game and simply achieving different things which you need to progress in the game anyway. I played this game for most of the day on Thursday and Friday and in this time I managed to collect a massive 32 trophies!
Price & Availability
At the moment this game is free to Playstation Plus members through download and for those who aren't members you can pay to download it. I'm not sure of the price as it was showing up as free for me. The game can also be purchased in disc format and a quick online search tells me it is around the £20 mark. Not a bad price, but membership to Playstation Plus is £49 per year and for this you will get at least one free game each month, so you can guess what I would recommend!
Is it a Winner?
Yes! While I have only had this game a short time I already absolutely love this game and I have completed a decent chunk of the game already. I have worked out that I have already spent easily around 20+ hours playing this game, the joys of having a couple of unexpected days off! I love Mario Kart on the Wii so F1 Race Stars is a very welcome addition to my games collection. The controls are easy to get used to and controlling the cars with the Playstation controllers analogue stick is really simple. If you like Mario Kart on the Wii then you will like F1 Race Stars on the PS3. The game isn't as "kiddie-like" as some may think Mario Kart is but at the same time I find it to be light-hearted fun and very enjoyable.
4 out of 5 stars from me with one being lost for its annoying glitchy moments which make you loose your items and powerups.
Thanks for reading :)