Martin, Aston Martin
Gamers who are old enough to have been through the golden age will remember a time when Disney games were considered to be equal to any other triple-A console experience. While those days haven’t returned, things definitely looking up for Disney Interactive due, in part, to their recent release of Cars 2: The Video Game.
Picking up where the movie leaves off, players can choose to play as Lighting McQueen or Mater, as well as a few of the other characters as they train at CHROME (Command Headquarters for Recon Operations and Motorized Espionage) to become world-class spies.
The only really important thing you’ll need to know about the Cars 2 movie tie-in is this: Cars 2 is just Mario Kart with an optional wheels package. This isn’t a knock by any means; it’s a huge compliment. Basically, instead of becoming overly ambitious and shooting for the moon, developer Avalanche Software saw exactly what they needed to do and executed it as well as they could.
The open world setting from the first Cars game is gone, and in its place is a series of themed challenges. Building off the concept that Lighting and crew are training to become international spies, the game makes clever use of some basic RPG-based principles. As you progress through the opening levels and learn the basic maneuvers, you’ll earn experience points which, in turn will unlock things like additional characters and tracks.
The characters are split into three main groups: light, medium, and heavy. This plays out on the track the way you’d expect. Heavy cars are a bit slower in the bends, but are able to maintain their momentum when bumped by smaller vehicles or light attacks. Light cars are much more nimble but can’t take too much damage. Medium cars, as their category name suggests, are right in the middle.
What I found most remarkable about each of the different vehicles was the careful animation that brought each of them to life. It must have helped that Avalanche Studios collaborated with Pixar Animation, because each of the characters feels perfectly suited to the universe. It also helps that a few of the film’s actors (Larry the Cable Guy, John Turturro, and others) lent their voices to the game. It’s apparent that a lot of work went into making sure that each of the characters was accurately represented. On the track, the cars’ animations are just as lively. For all the stigma that’s usually associated with movie tie-ins, there were very few graphical glitches or audio hiccups that made the overall product look or feel rushed.
The menus are all slick and fairly easy to navigate, and they sport a sort of holographic quality about them, which is fitting given the ‘secret agent’ setting. It’s entertaining just to watch the characters drive around in the C.H.R.O.M.E. base interacting with the each other and the menu itself.
When you’re ready to hop behind the wheel, you won’t find many problems. Anyone familiar with Mario Kart’s control scheme shouldn’t have a problem here, though it should be noted that there are a few necessary differences. In the default setting, R2/RT is used to accelerate and L2/LT is used to brake and reverse. The X (or “cross” if you prefer)/A button is used to jump. This move is good for accessing many of the many shortcuts that are littered throughout the brightly colored tracks. The triangle/Y button is used to activate any power-ups you have picked up, and the circle/B button can be used to initiate a drift. It’s a fairly simple setup.
In addition to the staples of arcade racing, special moves can be performed—either on the ground or in the air—by tilting the right analog stick in one of four directions. Players can drive backwards while on the ground or *ahem* do a barrel roll while in the air. Each of these moves fills up a special turbo meter which can be activated by pressing square/X.
Players will encounter up to six different game modes during the main career: Race, Battle Race, Hunter, Attack, Survival, and Squad. Additionally there are two multiplayer-only modes: Battle Arena and Disruptor. Race mode offers exactly what you’d expect, while Battle Race mode offers that sort of staple arcade racer experience: get around the track as fast as possible while punishing your opponents. Hunter mode is a co-op mode that allows up to four players to combine forces to hunt down waves of “lemons” in special battle arenas. Attack mode takes place on the regular race tracks and players are tasked with eliminating bad guys before time expires. Survival has player collecting batteries to buy time for their shields. Battle Arena should be self-explanatory, while Disrupter plays out like capture the flag. Finally, Squad Series has players go through a series of missions, and the player with the highest score at the end wins.
None of these events are terribly innovative, but they should keep the younger players that comprise the game’s target audience occupied long enough. Longtime fans of arcade racing may find the gameplay types begin to feel like a grind after a while, though. Multiplayer modes should ease that feeling a tiny bit, extending the playable life beyond the completion of the career.
All things considered, Cars 2: The Video Game caught me off guard. I hadn’t expected it to be as good as it was, but after that initial shock wore off I found myself wanting just a little bit more. Still, for those younger players the developer no doubt had in mind, what’s here will certainly provide a lot of entertainment, while more experienced players might want to rent this one to find out if a purchase is ultimately worthwhile.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
As expected, all of the Cars characters are nicely modeled and animated. The textures and lighting are clean and simple. 4.2 Control
The controls are almost perfect. Driving backwards can be a little disorienting, but this doesn’t detract from the otherwise great setup. 4.1 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is appropriate for the most part and the actors’ voice overs are spot on. 3.0 Play Value
This is sort of a mixed bag. Younger players will find lots to do here while more experienced players might find the career to be a bit tedious later on. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|