Movie licensed games are now standard issue now when a big blockbuster comes out. These games often lead to mediocre and sometimes poor titles. Publishers seems to favour synergy in the hope of giving the movie full promotion rather than sitting down and taking the time out making a really solid title.
Last year Toy Story 3 somewhat broke that mould, with developer Avalanche making decent use of the Toy Story name by producing a game that they can be proud of. Now Avalanche is back again with Cars 2 and I’m pleased to say this game while not perfect provides a really solid racer and a real fun game to play.
The game doesn’t follow the narrative of the film what so ever. What Cars 2 delivers is a game related to the story of the film but which isn’t weighed down by it. Instead you’re taken behind the scenes to be trained as a C.H.R.O.M.E. agent (Command Headquarters for Recon Operations & Motorized Espionage) and put through many simulations at the beginning to help get a grasp of the game.
Cars 2 is essentially a kart racer at heart and borrows many traits from Mario Kart and ModNation Racers. The main gameplay consists of racing round a circuit picking up weapons and firing them with the ultimate aim of crossing the finishing line first. Pickups consist of machine guns, rockets and remote control bombs to name a few and can be used by a press of a button. Unfortunately the game doesn’t allow stacking of weapons so you have to use what you’ve got to pick up a new weapon. Boost also plays a part in the racing and has a much similar set-up to Split-Second where the boost allocation is located just under the car’s rear bumper. Boost is activated by a push of one of the face buttons and can be replenished by drifting, breaking through objects and performing tricks mid-air. Drifting is the most effective way of gaining boost, but this technique also offers an element of strategy. When drifting around corners an illuminated blue arrow appears on the track and when drifting on that line the speed that you brought into the corner is maintained. This goes a long way to offering a bit of skill to the gameplay.
Despite the gameplay offering solid action, it does have its flaws. Often when you’re playing catch-up to first place the game doesn’t do a good job of telling you where the other cars are on the track. This leads to the second flaw of Cars 2. The game doesn’t feature any map at all so progress round the circuit is only determined when you see the start/finish line, which is a strange omission for a racing game.
Variety is also offered in Cars 2 in the form of different modes. Rather than just consist of racing the developer has put in other modes which make use of different game mechanics. The varying game modes have you defeating waves of enemies using weapon pick-ups to collecting shield batteries, helping you maintain the strength of your shield while on the run from an enemy. All modes are very fun to play and offer much replay value and while there are no online modes to speak of, instead developer Avalanche has put a four player local co-op into the game so you can play with friends in your living room.
Races in Cars 2 are split up into levels from one to six. There is a wealth of unlockables to get in Cars 2. As you progress through the game you’re collecting points that go toward ranking up which In turn unlock more races, cars to race and modes. Unlockable cars range from different characters from the film or alternate paint jobs for the main characters.
The visuals in Cars 2 are a bit hit and miss. While the cars themselves are done very well and have great animations and detail, the race tracks and surrounding environments didn’t get the same graphical attention. While the tracks are fun to race on and are very creative and mix things up, poor textures and colours bring a bit of disappointment, especially since the rest of the game is very well presented. On the bright side the voice work is pretty solid, with the cast from the film reprising their role as their car characters. Owen Wilson does a good job as Lightning McQueen and Michael Caine does an adequate job of voicing Finn McMissile.
Cars 2 is a very solid and robust game that offers great fun in the form of a Mario Kart style racer. It offers variety in different modes and tracks from around the world and the fact that there is no narrative in this title only makes for a better experience all round. Although the game is fun to play solo, the best chunk of the fun is played with friends. Cars 2 is a very fun game to play for all ages, which makes a change for a movie tie-in.
Rating: Good Review policy