It isn't the perfect vehicle, but it isn't a lemon either.
The first set of video game adaptations of the Disney Pixar movie Cars were surprisingly entertaining, using full advantage the film license effectively while creating a solid gameplay experience that was above the typical licensed game material. Five years after the premiere of the first film, a sequel is out and a video game adaptation of it is in our midst. Despite featuring a new development team in the form of Avalanche Software (the creators of last year’s Toy Story 3), Cars 2: The Video Game manages to be just as fun as the feature film that inspired it. And yes, that is a compliment.
Just like in the movie, the lovable tow truck Mater has been confused for an American spy and is now under the command of CHROME agents Finn McMissile and Holley Shiftwell. While Lightning McQueen is participating in a world grand prix, Mater and crew have to fight against the evil Professor Z and his crew of lemon cars, out to seek revenge on other car models for mocking their inferiority. It’s an abridged version of the movie’s plot, which works well for those that haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to be spoiled on some of its details.
Previous Cars games took its design inspiration from sandbox games such as the Grand Theft Auto series, putting players in the middle of Radiator Springs as they competed in various racing missions. For Cars 2: The Video Game, however, Avalanche Software looked at Nintendo’s Mario Kart series and even Sony’s Twisted Metal series, creating a racer with heavy emphasis on battles.
Solo mode contains a series of missions, each structured differently. There are the standard races that take place around the world, battle races that make use of weapons such as missiles and machine guns, and hunter and battle races where you hunt down enemy cars and destroy them in order to gain points. Some of the latter are done in arenas, a la Battle Mode in Mario Kart. Lastly, there is a survival mode. While racing, Professor Z haunts you with his weapon, but you are protected by a shield. The shield, however, needs battery power to work, so the player needs to pick up as many batteries as possible.
The various racing modes may not be truly groundbreaking in their execution, but it’s their familiarity that makes Cars 2: The Video Game a really fun title for fans of the franchise. The biggest problem, however, is that the modes tend to get repetitive when completing them one after the other in single-player mode. This becomes a nuisance as all of the game’s content, from the race tracks to the additional characters, are unlocked as you play this mode. Even the tracks get re-used over and over again. Regardless of the fact, the modes and tracks by themselves are very fun to play.
One of Cars 2’s biggest strengths is sheer content. Not only are there many characters to choose from, players can connect their game to the World of Cars online and unlock bonus content.
In terms of controls, Cars 2 does a good job, save for a few annoyances attributed to some design choices. Making your car jump requires the player to flick the Wii Remote and Nunchuk up. The motion controls are spotty, often requiring a lot of movement just to get a response. Luckily, the gameplay doesn’t demand a lot of motion controls, so it is easily forgiven.
Cars 2’s visual fidelity doesn’t quite match that of the feature film, but it does manage to look good. The characters themselves look and animate just like their film counterparts.
The tracks themselves, though, while large and inspired by the locations seen in the feature film, lack the visual spark the characters have. There are graphical glitches, such as slowdown during hectic races and textures that take a while to fully load.
Cars 2: The Video Game also features the star power of the animated movie, with many of the original voice actors returning to voice their characters for the movie, such as Larry the Cable Guy as Mater, Michael Caine as Finn McMissile and many others such as John Turturro, Joe Mantegna, and Tony Shalhoub. Unfortunately, many characters tend to repeat their lines ad nauseum, so the appeal of having an all-star cast loses its luster.
To sum it all up, Cars 2: The Video Game isn’t an amazing adaptation, but Avalanche Software made it all work, creating a video game that fans of the movie and the Cars franchise as a whole can enjoy. What the title manages to achieve is enough to forgive some of its shortcomings.