Developer: Locomotive Games
Release Date: June 6, 2006
Put your pedal to the metal with the new Disney/Pixar movie-licensed game, Cars. Play as many of your favorite movie characters as you help Lightning McQueen run some unwanted riffraff racers out of Radiator Springs.
Rarely do you see a licensed game based on a film or a cartoon that is worth playing, but Locomotive Games and parent company THQ finally capture key movie elements and put them into a PSP title that is sure to not make this just another racing title on the portable system. Cars features beautifully rendered replicas of characters from the movie and utilizes real voiceovers from actors such as Larry the Cable Guy, George Carlin, Michael Keaton, and Owen Wilson. The game also features a soundtrack, which contains songs that were not in the movie version from well-known artists Los Lobos, Natural Born Hippies, Lynryd Skynryd, and a handful of others.
Gameplay in Cars is strictly limited to racing with game modes such as Story, Grand Prix, Time Trial, Postcard Rally, and multiplayer modes. Extra cars, tracks, and paint jobs can be unlocked by successfully completing certain game modes that are sure to keep you gaming for hours.
Story mode takes place in Radiator Springs, where McQueen and his junkyard pals are puttering around talking to each other, when some unwelcome hotshot racers (DJ, Boost, and Snot Rod) – complete with obscenely huge spoilers, exhausts, and monster-sized subwoofers – race into town. McQueen and his pals let the strangers know their presence is not welcome, but the racers refuse to leave unless someone from Radiator Springs defeats them in a series of one-on-one races.
Before challenging one of the newcomers, McQueen and his pals must compete against each other to see who will be the car to go head-to-head with the riffraff competitor. Character selection in story mode is limited to three cars (McQueen, Sally, and Mater), but a fourth car (Doc Hudson) is unlockable as you progress through the game. Completion of Story mode unlocks all of the Postcard Rally tracks and several cars.
In Postcard Rally, players must race through the Story mode races again while concentrating efforts on collecting three pieces of a postcard that are placed strategically throughout the track. To advance to the next level, players must collect all three pieces of the postcard and obtain first place in the race. Successfully completing tracks in Postcard Rally mode unlocks mirrored versions of tracks, and upon successful completion of the entire mode, you unlock something special (sorry, no game spoilers).
The Grand Prix cups feature a series of four tracks from different areas of the desert. When the player completes each race, he's awarded points based on the rank the player obtained. Higher finishes are rewarded with more points, and at the end of all four races, the player with the most points wins that cup. Winning a Grand Prix cup unlocks the next cup in the series cups and also awards the player with a new car. Note that the mirror cup is only obtainable by successfully completing Postcard Rally and cups one, two, and three in Grand Prix mode. The Grand Prix is fairly simple and can be completed using any of the cars the player has unlocked throughout the game.
Time Trial mode is just the player against the stopwatch. There are three times to beat, and beating each time awards first-, second-, and third-place ribbons. Each track's ribbons unlock new paint jobs for a certain predetermined car. Winning a first-place ribbon is fairly tough here, and some cars are more appropriate for particular tracks. An example of this would be the first track, which is the figure eight. There are no sharp turns or hills featured, so it is easiest to obtain that first-place position by choosing a character with a very high top speed, little handling, and slow acceleration. Time Trial mode is rather boring and tedious, and with the only unlockable content being the extra paint jobs, this is a segment that only obsessive-compulsive gamers will attempt to complete.
multiplayer supports connections through a wireless LAN and wi-fi connections between two or more local PSP systems. Players can race up to three other real-life players in Grand Prix and Postcard game modes. Grand Prix multiplayer is the same as single-player mode, but you can set the number of laps for each race, and all tracks are automatically unlocked for more racing options. In multiplayer Postcard, the player begins the game with a free random postcard which can be wagered against another player's postcard. Whichever player wins the race takes home the opponent's postcard and unlocks a new car. Collect all of the postcards to win a grand prize (no spoilers again, sorry).
When it comes to graphics, Cars does a great job of mimicking the characters from the movie but does not go above and beyond anything that has already been done. Everything is crisp and clear for the most part, taking advantage of the clarity the PSP's high-resolution screen. From time to time, colors did blend too much, making it near impossible to differentiate where the paved road ended and the shoulder began. Most of the poor graphic issues came into play when using the boost effect, and staying on the track became more about memorizing timing instead of actually seeing an object or curve and moving accordingly.
When it comes to Disney movies, you can always expect a pretty decent soundtrack, but by comparison, Cars is lacking in the audio department. The game does feature nine songs that were not in the movie, but it seems that the same few songs tend to play over and over instead of a constant shuffle. Voiceovers were performed by the same actors from the movie but lack depth, as the characters only say one or two things which quickly become nerve-wracking.
Controls are fairly easy to master, and the learning curve is minimal, which allows any gamer to get into this game quickly. Cars doesn't offer the same physics as other racers like Need for Speed, but then again, Cars is not a racing simulator. Instead, the game focuses on things such as adding a jump ability and dash arrows to make things a little more interesting. Jumping is primarily used to avoid falling objects or rough areas in the road that will slow you down. Dash arrows can be used in one of two ways – either drive over them for an instant boost in speed, or jump over the arrow to store the boost effect in your boost meter, which can be accessed by holding the Square button. Boost can also be obtained by drafting behind another player at speeds of over 100 mph. There is also an ability to power-slide to easily handle tight corners, but this seems to be over-powered, as most curves can be taken using the power-slide without slowing down or braking whatsoever.
While Cars is intended for children and fans of the summer blockbuster film, many racing fans may have fun with this title all the same. Single-player modes get rather dull, as they lack anything besides racing against computerized opponents, but multiplayer modes do offer an escape from the boredom.
All in all, Cars is a well-rounded game that mixes crisp graphics, decent-but-repetitive sounds, and a quirky arcade-style racing system similar to that of Mario Kart. This title could easily keep younger, less-experienced gamers busy and satisfied for some time, but it will quickly become a bore for the veteran gamer. It's fun in short spurts of playing time, and it's recommended that you take a trip to the local game rental shop to take Cars for a test drive before any actual purchase is made.
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