PC REVIEW: CARS

Rainbow Studios jumps behind the wheel of Pixar's latest. by Wu Lee

June 20, 2006 - Cars is a videogame that lets you take a little bit of the movie home with you. It's not the greatest movie-inspired videogame but it's certainly better than most. As a racing game it's a few notches above the standard kart racer. The formulaic gameplay isn't apparently obvious due to the endearing characters, interactive storyline and numerous unlockables that are certainly guaranteed to hold a younger gamer's interest for a spell.

Radiator Springs is a car community filled with animated vehicles in the tradition of Herbie the Lovebug, though the movie is entirely computer animated and presented as a kind of high-tech cartoon. If you haven't seen the movie, the game is sure to spoil some of the plot for you so you might want to see the movie first. The Story Mode follows the plot of the movie, but not too closely. The gameplay is rather open-ended giving the player a lot of freedom to explore the town and the environments in addition to accepting various races. By completing various challenges you can advance the story by triggering cutscenes that will lead you into new situations.

Roaming the town of Radiator Springs you will encounter all of the principal characters from the movie, all of which are voiced by the original actors from the movie. Don't expect the cutscenes to look as good as the movie animation, these cutscenes are based on the movie but not taken from it. They've been recreated so as not to contrast too greatly with the in-game graphics. The Xbox version is the better looking of the consoles. No surprise there. But the PS2 manages to hold its own and gives us a good rendition of the movie in looks, sound and spirit. The Cube version is inbetween while the PC looks the best in high res.

Piston Cup races in Radiator Springs are as popular as hockey in Canada. By taking part in these races you will earn points and be in a position to unlock a variety of goodies including new racing tracks, different sections of the town, new racers with customized paint jobs, arcade races that you can re-play in the Arcade mode, a slew of mini-games, art from the movie and some new moves. The controls are very simple and easy to use but they aren't exactly tight and responsive. You have acceleration, braking, drifting and jumping. You can unlock some other moves in the form of boosts. Drifting is a form of powersliding. It's a move that allows your vehicle to continue moving in the same direction while taking a sharp turn, by sliding sideways. This move is typically accomplished by slamming on the brake hard and fast. Unfortunately drifting in this game will stop the instant that you apply the brake. In an effort to simplify the control system the developers have relegated drifting to the press of a single button. It does work but it only works for a limited time. It feels a lot less natural which is a shame since it's a great move that we want to use in a lot more situations.

As far as steering goes, the cars control well but not exceedingly. They can be a little unmanageable and will often leave the track if you don't negotiate your turns properly. The cars don't have a great sense of speed so things never get too intense but it can kind of screw up your momentum. Fortunately there are plenty of distractions in the way of unlockables, mini-games and exploring that will keep players from getting bored with the racing. The town is fun to explore but like so many games it looks bigger than it actually is since there are a lot of invisible barriers that keep you from accessing these areas. In some instances these areas will open up to reveal a new track but you can't unlock the entire town. Even though your car has the ability to jump, and you're certain it can clear a particular obstacle, if it has an invisible boundary you won't be able to jump it. Instead of teasing us, the developer should have made these areas Dead Ends or Detours, at least that way we would know not to even bother attempting to get past them.

There are plenty of obstacles in the game but very few of them are destructible. If you manage to plow into a fence you'll find that it instantly becomes an immovable object. Hey, racing can be fun but nothing compares to being able to smash things into pieces.

If you venture too far off the beaten path you will activate a timer that will give you a warning to get back on course. You can activate this timer by breaking away from the pack like a wild mare into the great unknown or simply by taking a turn too wide and leaving the track unintentionally. If you're out of bounds for too long, which seems like only a few seconds, your car will be placed back on the track by the CPU. Sometimes you'll find yourself ahead of the pack and other times you'll be behind so there's no way to use this feature to your advantage.

The tunes are great and really inspire racing. They will also bring back memories of the movie since the lyrics are context sensitive to some of the scenes. Maybe not all of the lyrics but the repetitious choruses at least. The voiceovers, although well acted, don't really bring the characters to life the way they did in the movie.

If you attempt to unlock everything in this game you can expect it to last about 15 hours or so. The average gamer will probably get five to eight hours out of it before they've seen most of it and start to get bored. I would definitely recommend renting this for a weekend before committing to a purchase.

Features:

  • Based on the PIXAR film of the same name, Cars has you playing as characters from the movie as you help Lightning McQueen capture the coveted Piston Cup Championship.
  • More than 10 playable characters from the film
  • Open world environment with more than 50 races
  • Non-linear gameplay
  • Authentic voice talent from the movie
  • More than 30 Mini-games
  • Arcade Mode lets you re-play any unlocked race, anytime

By Wu Lee
CCC Freelance Writer

Rating out of 5
Cars (PC)
3.9
Graphics
It doesn't look as good as the computer-generated graphics of the movie but it's not bad at all. It's colorful and fluid.
3.5
Control
The controls are easy to use but there isn't much depth when it comes to controlling the cars.
4.0
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The original voiceactors lend their talents to the game. The music and sound effects rock.
3.0
Play Value
There are tons of unlockables but you have to go through a lot of repetitious racing to acquire them.
3.4
Overall Rating - Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
 
System: PS2 (shown), X, PC, GC
Dev: Rainbow
Pub: THQ
Release: June 2006
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Wu Lee

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best