Review By: Jared Black
|# Of Players:||1-2|
After the first Cars brand became the #2 best-selling video game franchise of 2006, a follow-up to the game was a no-brainer. While Cars Mater-National doesn't add much to the franchise from a gameplay perspective, it's another solid title that should appeal to fans of the film.
Cars Mater-National is still based heavily on the original movie of course, although it takes place timeline-wise after the events in the movie. Mater is holding the First Annual Mater-National Race Festival in the newly revamped Radiator Springs, which attracts a variety of new international racers looking to compete against the famous Lightning McQueen. In addition to the new international racers, this format also allowed developer Rainbow Studios to add in new tracks and mini-games.
Gameplay-wise Cars Mater-National is still basically the same game as its predecessor, so none of these new additions make the game feel different than the original game. Boost refills automatically over time, and using it frequently is key to victory, as is powersliding around corners and tilting around extreme corners on two wheels (with impossible physics that you should be able to believe regardless if you can buy that you're controlling a living being anyway). As far as the SIXAXIS is concerned, motion can be used to both steer (tilt left and right) and jump (raise the controller), although as usual with PS3 titles you'll get more precise handling with the standard analog stick.
Exploring Radiator Springs still works the same way as in the first game, as you'll control Lightning McQueen and explore the town and surrounding areas of Ornament Valley and Tailfin Pass to find different events scattered around the world. There's a nice variety of events to compete in, including Road races, Monster Truck races, Relay races, Rustbucket races (racing as Mater against other rustbuckets with various obstacles on the track), Fuel Frenzy, and mini-games such as a DDR-ish dance sequence with Ramone. You'll see them all, as the structure of the Story mode forces the player to jump between different events frequently to advance. The Story mode also features frequent cutscenes with Lightning, Mater, etc. to delight the youngsters.
In the Relay races, the player controls several characters in sequence, “handing off” to the next one by running into him or her. Missing a team member is crucial and can cost a considerable amount of time, because is a tag is missed the next team member will start out at 0 mph. In Fuel Frenzy, fuel runs down quickly, while the player must pick up fuel tanks scattered throughout each race and make it until the end. The tanks are numbered 1 through 3, and refuel the appropriate amount of gas, so it's important that the player strategically pick these up and save gas for later. Finally, Lightning can compete in the Stadium Races organized by Mater by collecting Bolt Banners earned in races and mini-games (earning extra Boost in the first two Stadium Races), with the ultimate goal to make it to the final showdown with Giovanni.
Bonus points can be earned in several different ways, such as collecting Bolts around the overworld areas of Radiator Springs, Ornament Valley and Tailfin Pass, performing large jumps and powersliding during races, collecting paint jobs and new wheels, and setting new records. These points can be used to unlock a lot of content, including new paint jobs and characters, new International characters, and concept art.
Cars Mater-National feels like more of an expansion pack than a true sequel, but it will of course (and already has) sell another bajillion copies for THQ. That being said, fans of the movie that haven't had enough of Lightning McQueen and friends yet will get some mileage out of this return to Radiator Springs.
Posted: 2008-12-05 12:39:57 PST