30 Years of Video Games: F1Race Stars (2012)

Today is the final in our 30 year countdown of games, which unfortunately also for me, means I am soon to exit my 20’s and move head-first into my 30’s.  I’d like to thank you all for reading and I hope it’s been as fun for you as it has for me. 

F1 Race Stars

Sometimes I wish the internet was full of free-willed individuals.  Thinking for one’s self is a wondrous thing; developing one’s individual tastes, becoming an individual who is able to express one’s self.  Child psychologists believe that children become aware of themselves as an individual entity early in life, somewhere between 18 and 24 months.  While many of us retain that trait, sadly video game enthusiasts who live their lives through the internet, do not.  This regression is unfortunate as it leads to millions of clones wandering the information superhighway, spouting off the gospel of their internet video gaming churches.  The prophets call themselves ‘the reviewers’, brainwashing their minions with their own thoughts, beliefs and ideas, removing from them the ability to think for themselves, leading to a dangerous hibernaculum of group thinkers.

Of course some of us just call it ignorance.  I’d be fine with ignorance if it weren’t so widespread, and those people who chose its path would keep their mouths shut. It upsets me that the performance of a game is so dependent on the voices of the few purporting to be the voice of the many.

Codemasters’ F1 Race Stars fell victim to this unfortunate phenomenon.

On its surface F1 Race Stars is a kart racer like so many others that hit the market each year.  And every time a kart racer hits the reviewers decry the genre, supposedly searching for the next big innovation.  “The genre hasn’t changed since Mario 64” they yell.  “It’s not worth your money, stick with Mario Kart” they instruct their minions.  Yet when one comes along that changes this up they ignore it and search for other problems.  I’m certainly not claiming the F1 Race Stars is perfect, in fact far from it.  But what it did do was change the genre up in a way that no other game has.  Earlier this year I reviewed both Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing and its excellent sequel Transformed which were great games that stuck rigidly to the formula forged by Nintendo 20 years ago. F1 Race Stars was a genuine attempt at creating something new and the development team deserve credit for that.

The excellent thing about F1 Race Stars is that it feels like what Formula One would be if it were a kart racer.  Formula One is at its foundation a technical sport and it is admirable that this game takes aspects of the sport and tailors them to fit into an accessible racer.  All the racers are here, along with interesting and technical tracks based on the locales (not the tracks) of the 2012 F1 Racing season.  But most intriguingly so is the KERS system.  KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) is technology that allows F1 cars to store energy from braking for faster acceleration during at designated parts of the track.  While its not that complicated each track has designated KERS areas that the player can use to gain a brief turbo boost, manually ‘boosting’ by letting go and holding down the accelerator.  It’s not automatic and there are three levels of boost that can be attained, but this is one example of the game trying to draw on and infuse its kart racer with real life Formula 1 rules and regulations.

Probably most pronounced a difference from other kart racers is that there is no drifting.  None at all.  Instead, like real racing, the closer you stick to the racing line the better you’ll perform.  That means entering a corner slowly and accelerating out of the apex at speed.  While that all sounds pretty straightforward, the impact it has on the game as a kart racer is pronounced.  Overtaking is no longer a matter of boosting out of a corner around a slow opponent, instead like Formula 1, it becomes a battle of wits and skills as the same logic that applies in the sport transfers across to F1 Race Stars.  We’re not looking at the level of simulation seen in Codemasters’ F1 series proper, but it is a unique take on the kart racing genre that successfully captures the essence of Formula 1 and permeates it through a more accessible and light-hearted racing experience.

There are things the game could’ve done better, there usually are.  But it’s important to acknowledge where a developer innovates.  F1 Race Stars isn’t perfect and its not even best in show; but it is a genuine attempt at something new.  It may not be the best kart racer available but it’s different enough to sit, if not on top of, right next to the Mario Karts and Sonic All Stars.  F1 Race Stars represents more than just a decent racer, it represents effort and ambition.  Even with the flaws Codemasters should be proud of what they’ve achieved, even when the group thinking internet tries to bring them down.


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