This summer Pixar Animation Studio's and Disney released their hit animated movie 'Cars'. Featuring the voices of Hollywood stars including Owen Wilson and Paul Newman, the film follows the story of a hotshot stock car named Lightning McQueen. While travelling along Route 66 on his way to the next round of the Piston cup, he comes crashing, quite literally, into the small town of Radiator Springs. Now trapped in this tight knit community until he can repair the damage, Lightning must make new friends and lose his selfishness and bad attitude.
Keeping the game in line with the big screen action, Car's features many key moments from the movie that tie the two together. To ensure Car's is accessible to all ages, there are two types of story mode.
There is a shortened form which will benefit young children and guarantee that minors will still enjoy the title; and the full story mode for those who prefer a greater challenge.
Set in a large free roaming environment, Car's the game will enable any fan of the movie to explore the town of Radiator Springs and the surrounding area in further detail.
All of the races take part on roads you can explore in free roam, which gives players the chance to check out the asphalt and dirt trails which racers will compete on later. There are over 30 tracks taking in all locations throughout the game.
While racing I found the course map and track layout a little hard to follow. Glancing at the map you can see where the track is supposed to go, but visibly the route is not always as clear. Some roads overlap each other, and you can easily get lost and get told you are 'off track'.
After a couple of seconds you will get magically transported back to the circuit, but this too is a little flawed. Two or three times I have gone off track, been reset, and found myself way in front of where I began. Once this meant I won the race when I had been in 4th place just seconds before, as the computer placed me over the finish line when it reset.
Early races work as a tutorial that teaches the commands and how the game plays. When I first started playing I thought that the boost button was broken; until a short way into the game I met a colourful VW camper van named Fillmore.
Straight from the days of flower power and Vietnam, Fillmore will teach you all about the benefits of boost juice. Similar to NOS, boost juice will temporarily give some extra speed where needs be. Even later on in the game there are still chances to learn new tricks.
Initially I found that Lightning handles in varying degrees of both stickiness and looseness. On tarmac the car will grip to the road like glue and this seems a little too much like being on rails. On the other hand, once on the dirt roads of Radiator Springs, the controls become slipperier than wet tarpaulin.
Although after some time I got used to this, it is probably down to playing PGR3 that I found the controls a little unrealistic. Then again, it's a game with talking cars
Personally I found the races a little too easy. Bizarrely the first couple of laps can be tricky, especially if you make some mistakes which the computer will try and force you to do. But as soon as you enter the final lap, the opposition lose pace and in a few seconds you can be 10 to 20 seconds ahead of the chasing pack. I'm sure this will keep young players happy as it is quite difficult to lose this way, but adults may find this a little annoying.
Tractor Tipping Rocks!
Although the story centres on Lightning and his pursuit to claim the Piston Cup, there will be times when you get to play as other characters from the film in various races and mini games.
There are over 10 playable characters from the movie, each with their own unique characteristics. Plenty of favourites have made it into the game, including Mater the red neck tow truck, and Sally, a beautiful Porsche who has caught McQueen's eyes. Along with the film favourites, there are also some new characters made just for the game.
I have previously touched on the mini games but not given much detail on the matter. Offering some variation on the road races when playing as Lightning, the mini games also tie in with key moments from the film.
One of my favourites is 'Tractor Tipping', which is a lot like Cow Tipping but less harmful to our bovine friends! Playing as Mater, you must sneak around the farm whilst overcoming obstacles in order to startle the sleeping tractors.
This must be accomplished while avoiding both the spotlights and a bullish combine harvester named Frank, oh, and not forgetting before the time eventually runs out.
Winning races and completing challenges and mini games in story mode will earn you trophy points. Earning trophy points is important as a certain number are required in order to unlock the next round of the Piston Cup - which to win is the overall goal of the game.
The number of trophy points earned depends on what position you finish in, or how quickly you complete a challenge. There are 250 trophy points up for grabs in the full story, and about half of this in the shortened version.
During the course of the game you will also earn bonus points. However it may not be clear straight away what these points can be spent on. After looking through the menu's I found that Car's features a wealth of extra features taken from the film including concept art, film clips, and deleted scenes that didn't make the final cut. You can spend the hard earned points on these, but they will also unlock more characters that can be used in the arcade modes.
Graphically Car's could well have been ported straight from the Xbox. In fairness it probably was. However just because it isn't the forefront in next generation graphics, I doubt the age range the game is aimed at would care. The textures are basic and objects in the distance are prone to pop up. But the characters look accurate and so kids will still be happy when playing as their film favourites and re-enacting parts of the movie.
A nice addition to the game is the sound. All of the actors from the film have leant their voices to the game. Every character has their own phrases, and these will be said depending on what is happening at the time. Once again Mater has to be my favourite character, some of his phrases and sayings are very funny and some of the cut scenes between races had me in stitches.
After playing the story mode for a few hours, I didn't find the game as tedious as I first imagined. Although the game is most likely to be favoured more by children and fans of the film, it still offered enjoyment to this die hard racing nut.
Ok so it doesn't have the same polished graphics of PGR3 or the fast paced action of Need for Speed; but what it does offer is some light-hearted fun for children and big kids alike. What this game has taught me is that I really want to see the film, so I'm off to rent it.