Title: Cars 3: Driven to Win
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Avalanche Software
Official Site: Cars 3 Game
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Where To Buy It: Retail, XBox Games Store, Playstation Store, Nintendo eShop
In movie tie-in games it can sometimes be a stretch to capture the feel of the film in the video game since a character or film plot does not always neatly transfer from one media to the other (I’m looking at you Cliffhanger!). That case can’t be made with Disney and Pixar’s Cars franchise as the first and third films are all about car racing, a genre that has received considerable attention in the video game world. With that in mind, it only seems natural that a video game would be released in conjunction with the Cars 3 film. Enter Cars 3: Driven to Win a racing title that lets gamers control many of the beloved characters from the movies on tracks inspired from the setpieces of the films.
The actual racing in Cars 3: Driven to Win is surprisingly responsive with tight controls for an arcade racer. Drifting and finding the most efficient route in courses is a must in order to compete with the highly capable AI drivers. The racing also requires liberal use of nitro boosts throughout to keep up with the crowd. Nitro can be gained during the race by driving on two wheels, backward or with mid-air spins. Unfortunately, gamers will soon learn that they almost have to continuously race this way as there is always a need for more nitro to stay ahead of what can feel like some rubber-band AI. It can get a little tiring at times in the game not allowing you to just drive for a while without the gimmicky tricks. This detracts from some solid racing mechanics that benefit from courses that have multiple paths, shortcuts and impressive elevation changes that instill some level of strategy to the racing and rewards the serious study of each level’s intricacies.
There are multiple types of races gamers can partake in from a standard first past the finish line race to a battle race (think Mario Kart), to a stunt showcase. The variety is nice as you can try to for podium finishes in each of the five race types on each course. This turns out to be a fair bit of content that needs to be conquered. The stunt showcase has your car going through the standard levels but spins and flips for points are the key to success, not speed. It was encouraging that even though the available stunt options were rather limited that there was still some challenge to always landing and I found this mode to be the most enjoyable in the game. A close second is the battle races with a wonderful amount of armaments that can be picked up and fired at the other racers. Most weapons are in the vein of missiles, bombs and machine guns which seem to not quite fit with the kid-friendly subject matter of the Cars 3 characters. A little more imagination with weapons that would make sense in the Cars 3 world would have been a more organic tie-in to the film and a better fit.
While Cars 3: Driven to Win is a capable driving title I was especially interested to see how well the game captured the flavor of the franchise and the characters. After all, in what other driving games out there are the characters and the cars you drive one in the same. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to infuse some of the creativity, wit, and humor that Pixar had painstakingly crafted into their films and apply that to the racing genre. Unfortunately, for the most part, this was a bit of an overall missed opportunity with the game. The overall narrative of the career mode or Cup Series consists of a lot of on-air commentating by Chick Hicks about how old and rundown Lightning McQueen is. This long running joke falls flat pretty quick and there are few other instances where the true personalities of the cars are on display. There are some canned phrases throughout races but they are far from memorable. They are also further hampered by some “sound-alike” voice actors of varying quality. The actor doing his best Owen Wilson Lighting McQueen impression is passable as times but most of the others are a far cry from the actual actors in the films. I am completely perplexed as to what the actor portraying Cheech Marin’s Ramone was trying to do.
Story and characters aside, I found myself developing my own narrative as I focused my attention on landing ole Lightning into the Hall of Fame. The premise is beautiful in its depth and simplicity. There are 136 tasks that need to be completed to get into the Hall of Fame. These tasks can be completed during Cup Series or other races and range from everything from “Simultaneously strike 2 opponents with bombs” to “Perform any 4 Air Tricks in a single Air Trick Combo and land successfully”. I enjoyed revamping my play style in order to try and achieve these tasks and my satisfaction grew more from advancing my progress towards The Hall then in winning individual races. In a brilliant move, all of the tasks are also not known. You can unbeknownst achieve some in a race as only a couple of challenges will be made visible to be specifically worked on.
Verdict: Cars 3: Driven to Win is a capable arcade racer with a good variety of modes and tracks. Completing stunts and finding shortcuts mid-race can be fun but the charm of the Cars franchise never translated fully to the gaming experience. Instead of relying on well the established characters to differentiate the game from a crowded genre the Hall of Fame list does the heavy lifting to establish some replayability and sense of purpose and progression.
- Game mode variety
- Hall of Fame challenges
- Solid racing
- Doesn't take advantage of concept that the cars are the characters
- Too much reliance on nitro and getting more nitro
- Voice acting