|System: Wii, X360, PS3, PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Incinerator Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: THQ||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 12, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The entire racing experience is decidedly "arcadey," with drifting, boosting, and even the ability to jump tossed into the mix. As one might expect, drifting is easier to execute on asphalt than it is on dirt roads and sandy beaches, but the mechanic works fairly well regardless of what type of terrain you're racing on.
There are three levels of difficulty, and even in Beginner, the A.I. during story mode offers a decent challenge. There are no rubber-band antics, thankfully, but players will have to run a clean race in order to place first in events. In addition to the main races that progress the story, you can take on optional challenges along the way. These mini-games are mostly variants of other races or stunt challenges that, though little more than a novel distraction, add a bit of value to the overall package.
When you're not making your way through the story, you can take a break in the Arcade mode. Basically, everything you've unlocked in the story mode will be available for you to play here with a friend or family member. The Rust Bucket Derby, Circuit, and Monster Truck Races are all tracks and racing types you've already played through in the story mode, and it's the same for the mini-games and other challenges in Arcade. There are missions that require you to drive to a certain locale before time runs out, oftentimes performing a photo-op at the end of the mission. Lastly, is Guido Kart, which, with the exception of a handful of unimpressive, passively activated power-ups, isn't all that different from the game's normal racing.
In spite of the fact that Race-O-Rama offers a hefty selection of gameplay options and content, it suffers from poor optimization; it's an overriding factor that crops up at almost every turn in the game. For one, the load screens are long and there are plenty to wade through. Choose a track - load screen. Choose a car to play as - load screen. Once a race is completed you get the picture. Load times can be anywhere from 30 seconds to a full minute in length.
Unfortunately, the visuals are another major issue with Race-O-Rama, as they drag down the gameplay experience significantly. The amount of pop-in when driving through areas of the world is atrocious, and there's no end to the shimmer. Though the car models and overworld areas all have a generally attractive aesthetic, matching the license fairly well, jagged textures and an overall lack of detail diminish what character the game has to offer. More importantly, however, the framerate drags; it's usually constant, but constantly chugging. I wouldn't go so far as to say it ruins the gameplay, but in a racing game, a slow framerate definitely hurts.
If you've played one Cars game, the music, dialogue, and sound effects here will all surely ring familiar in your ears. The same twangy themes fill up the background during races or when perusing the menus, and though you'll likely recognize the voices of many of the game's actors, they're all canned performances, repeated far too many times throughout the duration of the story.
Again, we have to ask: Why? Is there really that much demand for more Cars-related video games? If so, fans could do worse than Race-O-Rama. The vehicles handle well, and there's definitely plenty of single-player content for the money. That being said, the game is poorly optimized and brings absolutely nothing new to the racing genre. The open-world structure of the story mode is a neat concept, though the world itself isn't very interesting. Wii owners might find novelty in the motion controls, but they'll just as likely be wondering where the online multiplayer is.
CCC Freelance Writer