Review By: Jared Black
|# Of Players:||1-2|
|Accessories:||HDTV 1080i, Dolby 5.1|
It took awhile, but finally the game based on the movie Cars has arrived on Xbox 360. Featuring enhanced graphics and exclusive content it’s certainly better than what came before it, but the $20 higher MSRP over last-gen versions and late arrival make it a tough sell.
As with most other versions of the game, Cars’ Story Mode takes place in the open-ended world of Radiator Springs. Taking place after the events in the movie, Story Mode is basically a series of individual events strung together with cut-scenes between them. Players can explore the town and Ornament Valley to their heart’s content, collecting Bolt icons for bonus points and visiting various hot spots to trigger events. The world is surprisingly large for a children’s game (although nowhere near the size of a proper sandbox title like Gun), full of various cliffs, side roads, and other landmarks to make exploration interesting for younger children.
Events are divided up into three different types: Road Races, Piston Cup Races, and Mini-Games. Road Races make up the bulk of the game, as players will compete in over 20 different ones while advancing the game’s plotline in the process. Piston Cup Races are basically NASCAR-lite, with all other mechanics removed allowing the player to focus on simply going as quickly as possible around each speedway. Finally, Mini-Games feature a nice variety of entertaining games based on events in the movie, such as Tractor Tipping with Mater (blow Mater’s horn at tractors while avoiding Frank and other obstacles) and chasing down speeders as Sheriff.
As you’d imagine from a kid’s game, the actual race mechanics are fairly simple. While vehicles can leap, use boosts, and perform power slides, the first two are rarely needed to win any given race. That’s because the A.I. rubber bands to an absurd degree, making it nearly impossible to lose until close to the end of the Story Mode. Should you happen to fall behind, the other drivers will virtually stop and wait for you to catch up. And once you get ahead, they generally keep things fairly close until they all mysteriously fall back quickly on the last lap. The effect is somewhat reversed during the Piston Cup Races however, as the rubber band A.I. actually serves to keep each race closer than it should be. On the whole though, this has the net effect of making the game a little too easy, even for the audience it’s aimed at.
As far as extras are concerned, collecting bonus points (both from icons scattered around Radiator Springs and points earned for doing well in a race) opens up a surprisingly large amount of unlockable items. These include new vehicles, concept art, alternate paint jobs, and even scenes from the movie. Two players can also race against each other in the versus mode split-screen, which is a little lacking given that most racing games support up to four split-screen and some form of online play. There’s also an Arcade mode, where anything unlocked in Story Mode (as well as other bonus games) can be played at any time.
Graphically, Cars looks nice with well-animated characters, an interesting game world, and plenty of vibrant colors despite the desert setting. It may be a bit too vivid for crabby old adults, but children will no doubt enjoy the game’s look as they did the movie’s. Unfortunately there are a number of minor glitches, such as the car getting stuck on various objects and unintentionally driving on two wheels after not quite flipping over on a steep hill or large boulder. There’s also a lot of scenery pop-up at a pretty close distance, which is especially distracting during the race sequences.
Given that this game is based on a Pixar movie, naturally both the soundtrack and voice acting are very nice. The soundtrack features a number of classic driving and pop tunes, including “Rock This Town” by the Stray Cats, “Free Ride” by The Edgar Winter Group, and features several other well-known artists such as Los Lobos, Lynryd Skynyrd, etc. The voice actors are also an accomplished bunch, including George Carlin, Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Pixar veteran John Ratzenberger, Paul Newman, and the rest of a rather large cast that’s just as eclectic as that mix. Fortunately they didn’t treat this product lightly, almost universally pulling off their characters with the same spirit and gusto as the film itself. Unfortunately however, the Piston Cup Races are marred by a repetitive announcer that doesn’t even get all of the calls right (ex: saying I had lost a spot when there wasn’t anyone even around me) as he’s repeating the same few sentences over and over again.
If you have a young one that’s still a Cars fan, and you haven’t picked up another version of the game for him or her yet (with the possible exception of the ultra-simple PC version), then this makes a decent purchase when looked at on its own. However, unless your only console is an Xbox 360, you’ll most likely find that one of the numerous last-gen versions is a much better value.
Posted: 2006-12-02 08:26:44 PST