When it comes to F1 racing you either love it or hate it. Personally I think it’s great but many people accuse the sport of not being very exciting and that it’s the same people and teams who always win (Ed – Sounds like football to me!). How about if they threw in some jumps and loop the loops? Well thanks to F1 Race Stars that has all become possible.

Codemasters have turned the racing world on it’s head

Codemasters have turned the racing world on it’s head (quite literally) with F1 Race Stars, some of the biggest names in F1 have been turned into pint size racers with huge heads, and their machines are now racing carts. There are 11 tracks based on some of the most iconic tracks in the F1 calendar including Silverstone, Monaco and Abu Dhabi. You’ll quickly recognise the tracks thanks to stereotypical features of each country as well as the all important corners familiar to F1 fans.

Then the fun begins, in Abu Dhabi for example there is a great section which sees you racing alongside the fastest rollercoaster in the world from the Ferrari theme park, you’ll find yourself subject to a shark attack in Australia and racing on top of Bullet trains in Japantoo. All of the tracks feel varied and don’t last too long which is good if you are playing with children.

All of your favourite racing stars and teams are there for you to enjoy too, Red Bull, Mclaren, Ferrari are all there with Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso all present. They have all be recreated in to bobble head style characters with little Mario style voices based on their accents with clever helmets that can jump on to their heads for them. The art style is brilliant; it’s bursting with colour and is full of character.

Although the game is worlds apart from a proper F1 race you still need to learn the tracks and get used to the way the game plays. There are sections of blue track around the circuit which will give you a chance to build up some KERS to give you a boost around the track, as you hit the section you’ll need to pump on the accelerator three times to get the most out of the system. You also need to pay attention when cornering, much like in F1 hitting the apex will help you on your way to victory, the only downside to this is that you have to use your brake which for me interrupted the fun a little.

The art style is brilliant; it’s bursting with colour and is full of character

There are some great power ups for you to use too, most of them involve shooting bubbles that will trap your opponent to allow you to pass, there is also a set of balloons you can release that obstruct your opponents view while driving, but the most useful ones include the Safety car, which slows down the whole pack or the ability to change the weather conditions so that everyone has to drive through the pouring rain in slicks while you bomb through on wets. All of these power ups cause some great chaos during the races but they also cause damage to your car, which means having to pit in to get repaired.

All of these game changing mechanics mean that whether you are at the back of the pack or flying out at the front a few power ups could see things change in an instant. It can be frustrating at times especially when you are winning you are constantly getting spammed by bubbles but at least it creates a level playing field.

There are plenty of game modes for you to play with, if you just fancy having a quick race you can but you can also play through career mode which is full of cups for you to compete for, you can race at 1000, 2000 or 3000cc, each with opponents a little more difficult to race against. As well as your standard racing you’ll get to experience other race modes that include races such as Elimination which sees you racing to survive. Getting stuck at the back of the pack means you could be eliminated from the race, but in a nice twist you can still use your power ups to disrupt the other racers. Pole Position mode is all about keeping up with the leading pack, the closer you are to the front, the more points you can score. Sector Snatch is all about being the fastest to claim sectors, there is also a race where you need to collect fuel cans to keep your car topped up. This is another clever race as the amount of fuel you have impacts on how heavy your car is, impacting on your speed.

The game came to life when playing with friends, this is a great racing game that you can have great fun with when friends and family are round at Christmas

Of course games like this are always more fun with friends and with career mode you can race split-screen with up to four players, you can also head online with four players too. Codies have given you plenty of options to play about with including power up balance, damage implementation and race modifiers that do things like reverse the lead driver’s controls. It’s things like this that will keep people coming back to the game. The game also links up with Codemasters Racenet system which will allow you to take part in community events as well as giving you the ability to see how good everyone else is.

This game is by no means perfect, the racing can feel pretty pedestrian at times and races were hard to win when going up against an AI constantly battering you with power ups but the game came to life when playing with friends, this is a great racing game that you can have great fun with when friends and family are round at Christmas. It would be nice to have access to the full F1 calendar but that could be a DLC opportunity. Hardcore F1 fans should enjoy this as much as casual racers will, it’s also a great introduction to racing games for the little ones too. Let’s just hope Bernie Ecclestone introduces a few jumps into next season’s races…