Game Rant’s Jeff Schille reviews Cars 2: The Video Game
Following last year’s successful collaboration on the markedly good Toy Story 3: The Video Game, Avalanche Software and Disney Pixar have teamed up once again to deliver a game based on the studio’s latest big screen adventure.
Cars 2: The Video Game raced to retail last week just ahead of the film, but does it deserve a spot in your Summer gaming line-up, or does this one need a little more time in the garage?
Abandoning the open-world design that marked the earliest Cars game as surprisingly sophisticated for a licensed title pitched at children, Cars 2: The Video Game is a straightforward, linear affair, but it is also the most polished and playable Disney Pixar game to date.
Plugging the Cars characters and locations into a kart racer seems almost too obvious an idea, yet the execution in Cars 2: The Video Game is so strong – as to make taking the property in any other direction pointless. Cars 2 is a blast, easily among the best kart racers available and not just for younger players.
At every turn, developer Avalanche Software has made smart, player-focused decisions designed to keep the experience accessible and engaging. For instance, upon unlocking a new Clearance Level, of which there are six in the game, all the courses and characters that make up that level are immediately available to the player in all of the game’s many modes — no need to beat them first. Similarly, at the end of each race, players are prompted to go right to the next event, with no menu navigation in between.
Rewards are frequent, thanks to the near constant accrual of Spy Points (the game’s currency), and there is an extensive, achievement-like system of Badges and Crests to unlock, many with rewards such as new cars or new skins for existing vehicles.
Cars 2 features the full compliment of kart racing mechanics: weapons, drifting, boosting, jumping, and stunts. While each maneuver is simple enough to execute, often requiring little more than a button press or swipe of the right analog stick, using them all together can require a fair bit of mental and manual dexterity, keeping things interesting for more experienced gamers. At the same time, drifting can be handled automatically for younger or inexperienced players, simplifying matters.
Environments run the gamut of locations from the new film (Italy, Japan, England, oil rigs at sea), along with some nice recreations of Radiator Springs. Each environment features several course variations, all packed with shortcuts and alternate routes. Shortcuts often require some platforming and can be tricky to nail, but as a result they can be hugely satisfying to navigate. Arena levels for some all-out, Twisted Metal-style vehicular combat round out the experience.
Vehicular combat stages would be useless without multiple players. Fortunately, Cars 2: The Video Game absolutely shines in multiplayer, as we first reported in our hands-on impressions of the game from E3 2011. Every single bit of Cars 2, including its C.H.R.O.M.E. Missions campaign mode, is playable in four player split screen — and regardless of the number of players, the game runs fast and smooth throughout.
Now the bad news. Cars 2 does not support any online multiplayer – at all. This is the major knock against the title, and it’s truly a shame, as Cars 2’s extensive and varied multiplayer modes — Race, Battle Race, Hunter, Attack, Survival, Arena, Disruptor — will keep players coming back again and again, and online competition would have added even more life to the experience.
Visually, Cars 2 easily captures the look of the film. Avalanche really nails the details, as with the animation of the cars lurching off the starting line, and the glossy mirrored neon on the rainy streets of Tokyo. While it is apparent in some level geometry and texture work that frame rate received priority over graphical detail (as it should), Cars 2 is nonetheless a very attractive game that will more than satisfy fans of the film. Even the voice work, performed by a mix of original actors and sound-alikes, is solid.
It has already been a good Summer for family-friendly video game adaptations of Disney films, thanks to the excellent LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean. Cars 2 keeps that streak alive, and demonstrates that publisher Disney Interactive is serious about establishing a high baseline of quality for its tent-pole releases.
Cars 2: The Video Game is that rare movie-based effort that transcends its license and succeeds entirely as a game. Kart racing fans with no love for the Cars universe should still find plenty to like about Cars 2. Fans of Cars, on the other hand, should go absolutely nuts.
With it’s true-to-the-film presentation and meaty multiplayer options, Cars 2: The Video Game delivers. Accessible for a wide audience while still satisfying for experienced players, the game sets a new high watermark for games based on Disney properties and comes highly recommended, particularly for families who game together.
Cars 2: The Video Game is available now for the Xbox 360, PS3, PSP, Wii, DS, PC, and Mac. Game Rant reviewed the Xbox 360 version of the game.
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