Its no surprise that a sequel would be inevitable following the blockbuster success of Disney’s and Pixar’s 2006 animated film Cars. And just like its successor, Cars 2 has also received the video game tie-in treatment. I had the opportunity to get some hands-on with Cars 2: The Video Game and came away impressed as it combines the charm of Pixar’s lovable characters with the best of what of a modern day cart racer should offer. Read on for a full hands-on preview.
During a recent Disney Interactive press meet-up I had the chance of chatting it up with John Warner from Avalanche Studios, the developers for Cars 2. John provided us with a basic rundown about the plot and how it’s loosely based on the events that follow the upcoming film. Here’s the brief and spoiler free break down. There’s a World Tour Circuit and everyone’s favorite southern tow-truck, Mater (Larry The Cable Guy) is mistaken as a member of a secret spy agency during a stop in Tokyo, Japan. In traditional animated film fashion both hijinks and humor ensue. It’s a sub plot in the film and the game uses it by having the Cars taking part in one giant secret agent training simulator. Also it makes for a convenient way to turn the other cheek as all of the characters bombard one another with cartoon weapons.
“We wanted to make a game where a parent who grew up on games like Mario Kart can enjoy this with their little ones and not feel like they’re playing something that’s watered down” John said as I battled it out with Chris Plante from The Daily. And that was pretty much the same way I felt during my play through. I have played tons of cart racers and it didn’t feel like you had to re-learn anything to enjoy it which certainly isn’t a bad thing, nor did I feel like I was playing something that I couldn’t enjoy because I’m not under the age of 10.
I played as Fillmore the “burnt out” Volkswagen bus from the original film and raced split-screen against Chris who played as Luigi, the smaller Italian import who’s also making his return in Cars 2. One thing that John immediately pointed out to me was that smaller cars like Luigi have a quicker pick-up but a slower top speed, where bigger racers like Fillmore will be pretty much the reverse.
At the beginning of each race you get to rev up your engine, this is done by some good old-fashioned button mashing on the right trigger. The more you fill it up before the green light the better jump start you have. Your four main actions are mapped to the face buttons, and they are turbo, drift, jump, and gadgets.
The first three are pretty self-explanatory so I’ll just fill you in on the last one. Gadgets are items that are picked up as you race along that will provide you with means of either taking down opponents or powering yourself up to take the lead. They include a machine gun, missiles, EMP, and even the Cars 2 version of Mario Kart’s 1st place hunting blue shell — which comes to us in the form of a devastating satellite beam. I say devastating because I unfortunately fell victim to the beam’s wrath during my last lap of the race. What’s great about these gadgets is that they really help balance the playing field, especially for those who find themselves in the back of the pack.
There’s also a progression and unlocking system that comes to us in the form of “spy points”. Points are earned through pretty much everything you do in the game, with a higher number of points awarded for winning races or events. The points are then used to unlock more cars, skins, locations, and tracks.
In the game you will find a total of 25 cars but you’ll only start off with the returning cast of characters from the first film along with a handful of newer ones from the sequel. As far as locations are concerned you can expect to see the four locales from the upcoming film which include Tokyo, London, Italy, and of course Mater’s home town of Radiator Springs.
One thing that this game is full of is variety and it comes in through in the many modes you can choose to play. Even though it’s a racing title you’re not just spending your time chasing a checkered flag. You can also battle it out though the various competitive modes. All in all there are 7 modes available and they are: Arena (think destruction derby with power ups), Race, Battle Race (what I played), Attack, Survivor, Hunter (everyone has to chase down one car), and Disruptor (a 2v2 capture the flag).
You can also create a Squad series which is the Cars 2 equivalent of a playlist. You can choose from all the different modes, customize the rules, create a series and then battle it out with your friends. Whoever has the most points after all of the events wins. Think of it like a NASCAR Cup series except with less sponsors and more cute Disney/Pixar Cars.
Speaking of playing with friends the game supports up to 4-player split-screen. On the PS3 all four players can actually duke it out in 3D, which is a first for split screen gameplay on Sony’s console. There won’t be any online multiplayer here and for obvious reasons when you take into consideration the game’s target audience and the fact the places like Xbox Live or PSN aren’t exactly the safest or family friendly places to hang out. However, there will be leaderboards and upon booting up the game for the first time players will be able to log-in to their World of Cars account which will provide for cross platform unlocks and goodies, which is also pretty cool.
In closing I have to say that even though my time with Cars 2 was short I definitely enjoyed what I played. I’m sure that some may write it off as a licensed cash grab but I see a game with a solid foundation that’s full of fun and really caters to its target audience. There’s nothing like a good cart racer and I’m looking forward to this one when it when it hits shelves on June 21st, just in time for the movie. Ka – Chow!