The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Cars is generally seen as one of Pixar’s weakest efforts, but that hasn’t stopped tykes from enjoying it with a fandom approaching evangelical levels. It’s also a merchandiser’s dream, as demonstrated by the aisles of cars, playsets, and clothing available in stores. As a parent of a couple of young boys, I know the appeal all too well. I’ve also seen the quality of Cars-based games slowly decline over the years. If you, too, have felt as if the license is running on an empty tank, take heart: Cars 2: The Game was developed by a new studio and has restored that wonderful new-car smell to the franchise.
Rather than try to emulate the spy-caper events of the sequel, Avalanche has wisely chosen to use it as a springboard for the game. Cars 2: The Video Game provides the series’ characters with a variety of C.H.R.O.M.E. training missions for the characters as they build up their spy resumes. It’s the slimmest of possible storylines, but it beats being constrained by a screenplay that doesn’t support hours of gameplay.
As you’d expect, the on-track action is appropriately fast-paced. After all, Lightning McQueen didn’t garner his reputation by snoozing at his wheel. The game also gives minor players like Luigi and Guido a chance to show off their skills on the track as well. It’s a training exercise after all, so what does it matter if a forklift leads a pack of professional race cars?
The game follows a pretty standard progression format, where you earn spy points for placing well in the events. From there, you unlock more challenges and tiers of increasing difficulty. I was glad to see that the events included more than simple races. I enjoyed the survivor mode in particular. There, you have to pick up batteries scattered across a track to maintain a constantly depleting shield. When it’s gone, Professor Z’s raygun zaps you and it’s game over. Some other high points include a hunter mode, where you battle drones in an arena, and attack mode, where you earn time by blasting rival cars into scrap.
You’ll recognize many of the game’s weapons from other kart racers, which is basically what Cars 2 is. You’ve got missiles, oil slicks, and a superweapon that shrinks enemies. There’s also a little radio-controlled car that may as well turn into a red turtle shell and call it a day. I’m not complaining too loudly about the arsenal, though; there’s a reason why certain attack types have persevered in the genre. The same goes for the game’s boost mechanic, in which players earn nitro by snaking along the track or picking up cans of fuel.
The game’s levels take you through a variety of iconic areas, but they ultimately lack the wow factor that more fanciful takes that other games in the genre offer. At the end of the day, however, Cars 2: The Video Game is a satisfying racing game with a reserve tank of charm. And if multiplayer is your thing, the entire game can be played via a four-way split screen. Chances are, if you have younger gamers in your household, you’ll have a few eager challengers in no time flat.
Email the author Jeff Cork, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.