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Cars Race-O-Rama

Platform(s): Nintendo DS, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360
Genre: Racing
Publisher: THQ
Developer: THQ
Release Date: Oct. 12, 2009 (US), Oct. 30, 2009 (EU)

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PS2/Wii/PS3/X360 Preview - 'Cars Race-O-Rama'

by Erik "NekoIncardine" Ottosen on July 7, 2009 @ 9:00 a.m. PDT

In Cars Race-O-Rama, players will join Lightning McQueen and Chick Hicks in Radiator Springs as they prepare their academy of student racers to compete in the Race-O-Rama Exhibition.

"Cars" is now the third most recent Pixar film, followed by "Wall-E" and "Up" — but it's also the first Pixar film to get a game (and then not one, but two sequel games). Apparently, THQ really likes the franchise, for there is now Cars, Cars: Mater-National Championship, and the upcoming Cars: Race-O-Rama, coming this fall to the usual suspects (except PS2, this time). However, what was presented to us during E3 was just interesting enough to potentially produce a good game for kids and fans of the previous games, with a few new mechanics and a few new ideas tossed in for good measure.

The basics of Race-O-Rama are exactly like your typical street racing title, albeit with interestingly "floaty" drift physics. On the Wii version, I noticed that tilting the Remote forward and backward seemed to have a hint of effect, but that might have just been perception on the show floor. Part of this includes the boost system that's now taking a line from the Need for Speed tradition:  Drifting earns you boost, allowing for nonstop usage in some cases. I ended up trying to snake through the course, but drifting has costs that make this very unreliable. Although I found it hard to tell, the THQ developers also promised new artificial intelligence to make the game more interesting.

Race-O-Rama will feature, in effect, 80 courses, although each is a variations from four basic environments. Notably, however, it also changes the cars you race against to suit the environment, including a variant design for Lightning McQueen for each. The variant designs, while still evoking the racer style that defined him in the film, provide a fresh coat of paint that may help some kids justify the game purchase. Actual gameplay was decent-looking, albeit short on visual interest, with a firm emphasis on watching the track and cars. Sound effects still kind of don't impress, at least from what I heard on the show floor.

Cars: Race-O-Rama is basically a cash cow for THQ, and that's probably OK. Games like this make them the money that lets them try things like Drawn to Life, and while I personally won't recommend it, plenty of parents will likely love the idea of a game based on the familiar "Cars" movie, a film that their kids have thoroughly enjoyed.


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