Dating back decades, Hollywood and the video game industry have worked together on a multitude of projects. Some have been good and worth playing but a lot of the licensed projects/film companions have failed to achieve success due to short development times, low budgets and poor quality assurance testing. It’s a shame considering how many good properties have wilted shortly after blooming in the digital confines of our consoles and monitors. That problem is about to change if Avalanche Software get their collective way.
After delivering an incredibly impressive product with last summer’s Toy Story 3 video game adaptation, the Utah-based development team were once again tasked with bringing a popular Disney/Pixar collaboration to the interactive medium. That project ended up becoming Cars 2: The Video Game, the aptly named companion to this summer’s blockbuster animated feature. The goal was to give fans a take home piece of playable entertainment, which was true to its source material while being fun and polished. I can let you know now that they did a fine job, as I expected they would.
Cars 2: The Video Game doesn’t exactly follow the plot of the film verbatim. Instead, it puts players into a digital simulation where they’re tasked with completing simulated events in the name of secret agent training. These C.H.R.O.M.E. training events take the form of several different types of challenges, including traditional races, Mario Kart inspired battle races and some other variations. You’ve got an action mode where every destroyed vehicle adds time to your limit, a shield-based survival mode and a score-based hunter mode. There’s nothing new or overly unique here, but the team did a good job of adding a decent amount of variety into the experience with the different types of races they created. The important thing is that they’re all pretty fun.
At its core, the game mimics a kart racer’s design and mechanics. There’s a varied assortment of weaponry at your disposal, including the necessary rockets, minigun turrets and oil slicks. The nice thing is that those aren’t the only ones available, as Avalanche thought outside of the box, including some more creative forms of satellite and laser-based destruction. Most game types ask you to skillfully utilize these weapons of mass annoyance to your advantage as you either compete to be number one or attempt to earn metal-based trophies. They play a huge part in the game as you’d expect, though the standard races omit any form of weaponized attacks, forcing you to focus on strategic driving, proper use of shortcuts and the odd cheap sideswipe to knock an opponent out of the way.
Boosting and drifting are just as important here as they are in most other kart racers. Both fall into the trick category, adding to an interesting assortment of aerial flips and unique ways to drive your way through this game’s tracks including backwards and on the car’s side. It’s important to use strategy (including those aforementioned tricks to gain boost with), in order to beat some of the tough competition that presents itself during the last tier of challenges – a difficulty that may be too hard for some kids to pass. Though, you’re not forced to get first or even third in every race to progress, so the only thing that will be limited by this inability to place highly is an achievement or trophy. Most events are quite accessible though, being that it is a family friendly title.
Within the list of simulated events, there’s several hours of fun gameplay for all ages. Although this is a game that is targeted towards kids, it doesn’t skimp away from quality and or hardcore appeal. In fact, it’s just about as robust as most other kart racers on the market. Unfortunately though, there is a noticeable lack of one thing: online multiplayer. Split-screen couch multiplayer is available for up to four players through the game’s free-play mode, which includes additional arena battle and capture the flag style modes that are only available when you’re playing with a friend. The ability to hop online to play with others would have certainly added more longevity, replay value and interest to this outing.
Its included track designs and the selection of them are both quite varied, with a few different speedways and/or arenas for each of the film’s locations. Fans will enjoy racing across the globe in different locations such as coastal Italy and high-tech Tokyo. All of the areas are built as one large track, though separate versions are created using different routes, opening up some areas and unlocking others. Within each one, you can expect to find an assortment of breakable items, tons of weapon pick-ups and some over-the-top shortcuts. There is also a hidden package to be found in each environment, with the collectible and track variation total hitting an impressive twenty.
Cars 2: The Video Game is honestly one of the best film-based licensed games I’ve ever played. It’s right up there with Toy Story 3: The Video Game which I loved. However, though I preferred the latter a bit more than the former, they’re both in an elite class when it comes to licensed games. The only major knock against this release, other than its lack of online content, is the fact that it feels safe. Sure, it’s fun, colourful and does a great service to its source material. However, it doesn’t move forward from past attempts at this genre, choosing to provide a quality and polished experience with mechanics and game types that we’ve become accustomed to.
As soon as the disc starts to spin, you feel like you’re in the world of Cars 2. The visual and auditory presentation is spot on, delivering a comparable experience to its big screen parent. All of the loved characters are there providing excellent voice acting to complement their assorted decals, skill ratings (speed versus strength is what it all comes down to) and personalities. The starting roster is packed and it keeps expanding with your progress, eventually ballooning to a point where it feels like every vehicle who even had a cameo in one of the movies has become playable.
To say that both of the films are colourful would be a major understatement. They’re some of the more visually stimulating animated films around and this game is no slouch either. It’s really pretty to look at and basically looks just like its inspiration, with a similar quality and fidelity to boot. There’s a lot of action on-screen at all times and the engine does a good job of handling it without any issues, other than the odd time where a car will get hung up on an environmental object. A lot of the time, this is due to explosions or just a one-off glitch because the quality assurance testers certainly did a good job nailing down any issues this game may have previously had.
To conclude, I’m happy to report that Cars 2: The Video Game is a quality racing game which has a lot of appeal. It’s worth checking out for those who love the film and all of its colourful characters, even if they happen to be the type of ‘hardcore’ gamers who normally avoid movie-based products. Avalanche Software did a good job once again, of creating an interesting and polished experience to whet our digital appetites, though it’s a bit safe, is somewhat short and doesn’t exactly push the envelope. Don’t skip this one because it’s based on a family film, because there’s a lot of quality here which is sure to both surprise and impress you.
Cars 2: The Video Game was released on June 21st, 2011.