New Star GP preview – A V12 roar-infused F1 racer riding the racing line between arcade and sim
9 mins read

New Star GP preview – A V12 roar-infused F1 racer riding the racing line between arcade and sim

“We tried to make something that we were going to enjoy,” New Star Games Design Director John Dennis says of New Star GP – the F1-style racing game from the studio behind the likes of Retro Bowl and New Star Manager that’s finally set to emerge from Early Access via a full release on March 7.

He goes on to outline that the studio’s original vision for its racer arced a little more towards the arcadey end of the great arcade-sim spectrum all modern racing games seem to sit somewhere on.

While New Star GP was always planned to have some more sim-style aspects to it, such as tyre wear, a lot of the extra features that have a similar effect on the experience to that one have been added to the game based on feedback from players who’ve been jumping into the early access and beta versions of it since August last year. For example, an entire new difficulty setting, Pro Mode, has been dropped in alongside the default difficulty setting the game started off with, in order to offer some extra realism and challenge for those who fancy it.

The central concept has stayed the same, though. If you take on the game’s career mode, you’ll be a racing your way up through five different decades of F1, from the 1980s to the 2020s, taking on grids of legally-distinct parody F1 drivers in legally-distinct parody F1 cars that are inspired by racing reality, but are also quite customisable. You’ll be racing on tracks like Northampton, a unique twist – both name and layout-wise – on Silverstone, while trading overtakes with the likes of Michael Schildhauer and Ayrton Serafino (no points for guessing who those two are inspired by).

Even though each GP itself is only about six or so laps long, with individual laps at about a minute, you’ll have to plan out your strategy – something the devs say adds plenty of variety to the experience – and nail a pit stop or two in order to end up spraying champagne once the chequered flag’s flown. Add in factors like having to plan for the possibility of rain showers or more abrasive track surfaces depending on where you’re at in the world, and it doesn’t look like a case of just slamming the accelerator pedal directly to the metal and bouncing off of walls and/or rivals until you skid across the line in a car that should by all rights be a metal (or carbon fibre) pancake.

That said, watching Dennis and New Star community manager Mark Baldwin race around circuits inspired by the likes for Spa and Monaco as part of this hands-off preview, deploying boost at opportune moments and narrowly avoiding clashes with AI drivers, New Star GP does look to have maintained the sense of carefree, anarchic fun that a lot of us are traditionally looking for in arcade racers. There are no stewards or penalties to stop you from ramming someone off the road or cutting corners, but damaging your car’s various parts will make it harder to drive, so it’s probably not prudent to go full Wreckfest or Burnout on someone’s bottom.

Some cars racing in New Star GP.
Nyowwwwwwwwwwwwmmmmmmmmm. | Image credit: VG247/New Star Games

That’s especially true given that, across the ten race weekends that make up a single season in the game’s single player career mode, you’ll be racing against the same folks every GP and they all have different relationships with you depending on how you’re treated them. According to the developers, different personalities have been given to each driver, affecting things like how quick to anger they are and how much faster they’ll race – or try to take you out – if you slam into them or talk trash in interviews.

Given the mixed experiences I’ve had with similar mechanics in games like Grid Legends, I’ll believe it has the desired effect once I’ve played the full game myself, but I am at least an unabashed fan of another Race Driver: Grid-style feature that’s in New Star GP – flashbacks/rewinds that give you a chance you sneakily pull your car out of the barrier you’ve just planted it in a few times a race. Getting back on track, you’ll be upgrading your car’s parts and unlocking perks to turn it, you and your team into a more formidable racing partnership as the season progresses.

However, in the name of balancing, the devs say your competitors will be upgrading too, with their performance getting a more substantial boost if you, say, won the last race by ten seconds. They heavily stress that this system ensures there’s no need for any in-race AI rubberbanding, something that generally gets a thumbs down from both players and developers, so good on New Star if it’s actually managed to avoid it. Even if, as Dennis and Baldwin admitted, the game’s short race lengths do help minimise the threat of boredom potentially setting in if you’re winning by ten miles.

Some pit crew perks in New Star GP
Box, box, box. | Image credit: VG247/New Star Games

I’m intrigued by how I’ll feel about the smaller warm-up style events you can compete in ahead of each GP once I get my hands on the full game. They’re things like time trials, eliminators, and one-on-one races – the kinds of things that you’ll likely have encountered in a lot of other racing games – and while they seem like they could well just be optional activities to earn a bit more cash for parts, I’m hoping they don’t stray to the other end of the equation and feel like mandatory drags if you don’t want to upgrade at a snail’s pace.

If you don’t fancy racing solo against grids filled with the royalty-free versions of F1 stars from today or the past, New Star GP’s also got a multiplayer mode called Championship, that, you guessed it, lets you race against up to three of your mates in old-school split-screen fashion. Originally, this was just across 17 pre-made racing championships, but this is another area of the game that’s changed due to early access feedback ahead of the full release.

New Star has added in the ability to create your own custom championships, allowing you to scale everything from which era of car you’re racing, to the layouts of the tracks you’re visiting, and even whether you want to be driving around for up to 99 laps. The latter’s probably not a good idea given fuel and tyres don’t scale, so you’ll still have to pit every two or three laps – the devs aren’t quite sure how long that’d make the race, but they’re definitely sure somebody will try it and find out.

Cars racing in the wet in New Star GP.
Just do it. | Image credit: VG247/New Star Games

I’d quite like to see that person, whoever they might end up being, go all-in, make that race be around one of the tracks like Brussels or Vienna where the devs say the chance of rain is “around about 30%” – in line with the real life locations they’re based on – and set the weather to random. Really embrace the madness.

Overall, I came out of the preview keen to see what the full release version of New Star GP will be like, now it’s been through the early access gauntlet. It’s heading into a genre that I’d argue is as unforgiving and hard-to-crack as any out there right now, especially with so many folks now clamouring for uber-realism of the kind that your iRacings and your Assetto Corsas really excel in.

Still, I think if it’s learned those EA lessons well, it has a chance to be a strong niche hit, even if cracking a mainstream still dominated by your Forzas and your Gran Turismos might be a bit far-fetched unless its fun elements are enough to attract crowds like games such as Wreckfest and BeamNG.Drive have. It’s not an impossible dream, especially for something with the unique-ish mission statement of being, as Dennis puts it: “everything you’d expect to see in a [modern] motorsport game, but sort of dressed in arcadey clothes”.

Though, it’ll be a tough trophy to add to the cabinet sitting behind your fire-breathing 80s V12 monster.

New Star GP will be released on March 7 for Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam.

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