August 08, 2011
It isn’t very often that any criticism can be levelled at Pixar, as the hit-making animators seem to go from strength to strength. Yet this year they seemed to have a rare failure on their hands, as Cars 2 was hardly welcomed with open arms by most critics, though that didn’t stop armies of children (and their eager parents no doubt) lining up to watch in droves. The game is a bit of a mixed bag itself, and ditches most of the aspects of the film in order to focus purely on the racing, plus a bunch of arcade style alternatives.
While the first Cars game was hardly innovative, the mix of racing sections and a bunch of mini-games all tied together within the sandbox style confines of Radiator Springs was a lot of fun. At times it was a touch too easy, even for the young ‘uns, and things got a touch repetitive, but there was certainly plenty of charm nonetheless. The latest title has scrapped the open-world environment and sees everything wrapped up within a series of rather sterile menus. Under the auspices of a CHROME research facility, our heroes new and old, take to a bunch of virtual reality tracks in a bid to stop an evil professor from taking over the world. As you do.
The good news is that the core racing is very fluid indeed. The single-player missions are loosely tied together via a flimsy story, that sees you progress through a varied series of missions to accomplish your goal of ultimate victory. The missions range from basic racing, to battle races (the same but with guns), arena-style melees and survival missions where you have to collect batteries to complete laps. The controls are easy to pick up and each car can cruise around the track with ease, while performing drifts, stunts and jumps to gain access to turbo. You can also select from a wide range of characters with their own strengths and weaknesses, so you aren’t just confined to Lightning et al. You can also collect a bunch of weapons for use in taming your opponents, though some of them are a touch generic (missiles and machine guns – the innovation!)
The tracks take in a wide range of courses too, all with a vast array of short cuts and routes. In fact it is often worth keeping an eye on the A.I as they will regularly hop off the beaten track to gain an advantage. The learning curve is fairly gradual at first, though it has to be said that on later tracks the A.I seems to become a touch unfairly balanced. We are certainly no strangers to racing at X360A but when you are being beaten by over 20 seconds, and still finish third, then perhaps this has been a bit unfairly skewed when you take into account the core audience. You can also raise a few question marks about the collision detection too, as cars can clip obstacles when there was clearly no contact and go sailing into the air with the slightest brush too, it is certainly nothing game breaking but does become noticeable the more you play.
In fact the A.I is often a touch frustrating to be honest, as weapons always seem to target the player's car rather than that of anyone else and they will often seem to boost almost constantly. Even negotiating a lap flawlessly is no guarantee of success either as it seems like your opponents are always right on your tail. Of course this sometimes helps in reverse too – as you never seem to drop too far behind the pack even when you are doing appallingly. Still if the A.I gets to be too much of a hassle you can always get four players involved, whether it be straight races or in some of the team-based Arena or Disruptor modes. It is here where the game really excels, as there is nothing more fun than using rockets on your mates as they are one corner from victory.
The real drawback of this game is the fact that it gets a touch repetitive and dull rather too soon. The tracks are not widely different from each other, and the same few modes make up the entirety of the single-player experience. Without friends then, this game would be over in a flash, as you will breeze through the CHROME missions in a few short hours, though it could be more of a challenge to get a Gold rating on them all. There is always the multiplayer to fall back on but even that suffers from being more of the same and doesn’t have the enduring appeal of something like Mario Kart.
The achievements are also fairly straightforward, though at least some fun has been had with mixing things up. Various tracks have a few interesting achievements attached to them, such as landing on top of a skyscraper or leaping over an aeroplane, and other than getting Gold on all of the Hunter missions there is not much here to offer much of a challenge. All in all this is a pretty painless and fun 1k for anyone.
As a racing game for kids this is ideal, with easy to pick up and play controls and a variety of fun modes. However, with the removal of the sandbox style areas there is not much depth on offer here and just playing the same missions or multiplayer modes over and over again will rapidly lose its appeal. As a movie tie-in this game is certainly fun while it lasts but do not expect it to hold your attention, or that of your kids if you deign to give them a go, for long. Cars 2 is more Ka-chow than Ka-ching, but not by much.
Some decent voice work and upbeat music, but nothing amazingly sterling if truth be told.
Vivid characters and varied locales make for an interesting game, though there are some rough edges here and there especially when it comes to collision detection.
Fun while it lasts, though there could do with being a few more modes and with the A.I being a bit more forgiving for younger players (and possibly people that suck, like us).
A good use of the license and certainly the best Cars game in terms of racing, but with everything confined to a menu it just doesn’t seem as engaging or open as its predecessors at times.
A fun list but one that will not take you too long to rush through if you set your mind to it, if anything it could have done with toughening up a touch.
A fun, if short, game and one that will certainly be fun for kids but may be a touch too shallow and simplistic for anyone else. With a few more tacks and modes Cars 2: The Video Game would have been great. Give it a go by all means, but don’t expect to be playing it a few days later.