Codemasters have been releasing their F1 games since 2009 but just a few months after the terrible serious F1 2012 game was released, we’ve been given something a little more tongue-in-cheek, F1 Race Stars.

This game sees Codemasters get creative with their license to create what is essentially Mario Kart with an F1 twist.

The game features all 24 current drivers and 12 teams from the FIA World Championship, with a few fictional characters. Now I know this game is for kids and not to moan, but I don’t like the fictional characters, I want to race against the F1 drivers not Ruby Power and Rihanna. A nice treat though is that Xbox 360 users can use their gaming avatars, so you can see how good you look in a pair of overalls.

Each character has stereotypical voices. Jenson Button is a posh Brit, Kamui Kobayashi sounds like a Street Fighter character and run into Paul Di Resta on track and he’ll shout “Ay, ya hit me ya Bastard. Gimme back my haggis,” ok not quite but you get the idea. One the funniest though is Fernando Alonso who says “I am Alonsooo” Super Mario style.

All the karts are pretty much equal, so you’ve got every chance of winning for HRT than you have driving for Red Bull Racing. The one thing that does separate these teams however is their special abilities; some teams give you an extra boost while others are better at slipstreaming.

So as you’ve probably guessed, power-ups play an important role in the races, just like any other karting game. You won’t see any shells or bananas in F1 Race Stars though, power-ups include bubbles and boosts but others are a fun take on real-life F1 scenarios. The Nelson Piquet Jnr power-up deploys the Safety Car deliberately, while DRS increases your speed.

Unlike traditional karting games, drifting doesn’t make an appearance. Codemasters chose not to include it saying that F1 cars don’t drift but you could argue they don’t shoot bubbles either. For gamers that are used to the Mario Kart method of drifting, the game does take a little getting used to but after a while the decision really starts to make sense. Corner boosting is done with another real-world F1 system, KERS, where charging the battery round a corner will lead to a boost out of it.

Something else that’s a little different to other karting games is damage. F1 cars are pretty delicate machines and this has been added into the game, so damage does apply. If you find yourself constantly on the end of power-ups, your car will be damaged and you’ll need to make a pit stop. Each track does have multiple pit lanes though, so you won’t have to limp back to the start-finish straight to get fixed.

The racing features a range of difficulties, and while more experienced gamers will find themselves leading comfortably from the front, on 1000cc mode, 3000cc is particularly tricky and you’ll be lucky to make it into the top three never mind win. On this setting, things start to get a lot tougher and you begin having to brake for corners regularly, especially on twisty tracks like Monaco.

Eleven tracks are available in the game and the designs are quite frankly Adrian Newey-levels of genius. The start-finish straights may look familiar but this is where the similarities end as you’ll wonder off track onto loop-the-loops and other wacky routes. The attention to detail is something F1 fans will certainly appreciate, Italy sees you veer off the traditional Monza onto the old banked circuit while Abu Dhabi pays a visit onto the Formula Rosso rollercoaster in Ferrari World before a trip into the Yas Marina Hotel. The tracks have plenty of alternate routes too and even short cuts, including a nice one where you can drive over the Monaco swimming pool, just like Jesus would if he was an F1 driver. The problem with such a small number of tracks though is that career mode gets very repetitive very quickly.

We all know that these types of games aren’t designed for you play while sat in a dark room on your own. Multiplayer is where this game really comes alive and Codemasters know this, so much so that the whole game can be played four player split-screen. Career, single races, even online racing boasts split-screen mode, something that is all too rare.

Online races consist of 12 players, you can choose to race individually or in a team race if there are people you can trust to bring home the points. There are also a number of different game modes to choose from, Pole Position mode (or as we like to call it, Sebastian Vettel mode) is all about winning from the front, the more you stay at the front the more points you get. You can also go back to pre-2010 F1 in a ‘refuel race’ where you have to pick up fuel along the way.

Like most modern games it looks like DLC is going to make an appearance, so if you want to burn your money on giving your character different coloured socks or a novelty Christmas horn, you can. It looks like new tracks will be available soon too, so you’ll have to fork out some more cash to race on them. Call me old-fashioned but I used to enjoy buying a game that wasn’t 75% completed and I enjoyed being able to play the whole thing without having to fork out more and more of my money but I guess that’s how the games industry is these days, thanks to people pirating games.

So while the Codemaster’s F1 series sucks and F1 Online was a massive fail, F1 Race Stars certainly isn’t and will be a brilliant party game for F1 fans to enjoy with their mates for a long time to come.