Cars as a franchise may be getting a little staid now, with many reviews suggesting the latest movie instalment is nothing to write home about. That’s not to say it doesn’t have a loyal following; a whole range of people still love it. So, it’s a pleasant surprise (for me and them) that the newest Cars game is a worthwhile entry into this established franchise.
Cars 3: Driven to Win is a kart racer. The trouble with Kart racers is that no matter how good they are they’re always going to be compared to Mario Kart which is a real shame. That said, while Cars 3 borrow elements from your typical kart racer, it has enough content to distinguish itself as a game in its own right.
You can play as a decent selection of cars; whichever one you like the most I guess as there doesn’t seem to be any discernible difference in speed, handling etc between them. The best thing about driving as the Cars and not some random vehicle is the personality that comes through with each one. They’ve all got their own one-liners, individual voices and attitudes which really brings the game to life. The commentator, Chick Hicks, changes his commentary based on which car you play as too, making each race feel like an event.
I say race, but the most fun that can be had in Cars 3 isn’t in the races themselves. There are a dizzying number of game modes to choose from. This makes the game feel a little overwhelming at first, but significantly increases the replayability of it which can only be a good thing. You’ve got your standard race, battle race (like a standard game if Mario Kart in which you can sabotage your opponents), stunt showcase (in which you must build the most points by doing stunts) and takedown (in which you’re challenged with destroying as many cars as possible).
They’re all fun but a couple really shine; takedown and the stunt showcase are a delight to play. They’re full of explosions, action and a healthy dose of bewilderment as you occasionally end up wondering what the fudge is going on beyond all the flashes and explosions.
The gameplay remains similar over these game modes though. You generate ‘boost’ by perform tricks, stunts or picking up little petrol cans. ‘Boost’ helps you to win races, take faster runs at jumps and knock other cars of the track.
Strangely, with the young target audience I would imagine this game is aimed at, it is surprisingly tough. On medium difficulty, I frequently found myself getting pipped to the finish line by another car at the last minute, and occasionally coming in last place after a particularly poor race. I enjoyed the challenge but I’m not sure children would be able to play on anything higher than easy difficulty. That said, as I found out when reviewing Crash Bandicoot, there’s a strong chance I’m getting worse at video games as I get older.
The sandbox mode is advertised to players as the place to go to practice but I get the feeling that’s not really what it’s for. In the sandbox, your little car becomes Tony Hawk on a skateboard and you can do all kinds of sexy little tricks. Some of these suspend the laws of the universe (think grinding along railings with a car) but it’s tremendously fun nonetheless.
I had a few niggles with my time in the game. Occasionally the visual quality would drop and my Xbox One would seem to struggle with it. I don’t get that issue often enough for me to think it could be my Xbox so I must attribute it to the game itself. Another issue I had was with some of the tracks. Some of them go off-road at times and with no road stowing the correct direction (or barriers) it can prove difficult to know exactly where you’re meant to go. It was just as easy to find a hidden shortcut as crash the car completely.
Altogether this is a stellar game. Okay, it’s not going to win any awards any time soon but it so fun to play – and we may have forgotten but that’s why we all learned to love games in the first place.