Games based on movies can be a tough sell sometimes. There are a plethora of examples out in the video game industry that prove most movie-based gaming experiences are just a transmedia tool designed to bring you back to the real product the company is trying to push. Think about it, the more you remind your audience that this world exists, the more likely they’re going to come back to it again and again, regardless if the product is crap or not. I can honestly say, without a shred of doubt, that most movie-based games are complete crap.
So, having said all that cynical stuff, color me surprised that Cars 3: Driven to Win, developed by Avalanche Software, is actually quite good. Shockingly good.
Let’s dig right into it.
WBIE was assigned the task of building accurate current generation models of familiar Cars faces, while creating spectacularly fun levels to put those faces on. While they didn’t exactly create a Mario Kart-esque experience from Cars 3, they did manage to do a pretty darn good job in both those categories.
First and foremost, the character models for the cars featured in Cars 3: Driven to Win were outstanding and frightfully accurate to their Pixar counterparts. Outside of some so-so voice-acting, kids will get to experience what it is like playing Lightning McQueen, Mater and a bevy of other cars from all the movies. The models look to be carefully crafted and replicated for the game, even down to Mater’s buck teeth. To boot, the lighting ,shadows and such for the cars is actually quite beautiful to look at when driving. While that is a trademark for most PlayStation 4 games these days, it’s still impressive to see such a ‘throwaway’ title get so much visual love. Heck, even the movement of the actual cars is well-animated, showing some accurate actual track movement that is a cross between cartoony and real. If WBIE was trying to sell the game visually, then mission accomplished.
Of course, what’s a pretty game without some actual game design built into it? Well, Cars 3 actually has that in there too. You get a multitude of races to choose from:
– Single-player: Racing by yourself. Oh-oh-a-OH!
– Stunt Showcase: The stunts in Cars 3, while simple to execute are a bit tough sometimes to maintain. This particular mode gives you some practice for when you run into stunts in Battle Race (that one is further down this list), while at the same time rewarding you for your efforts. This is a fun mode for the adventurous type.
– Playground: This reminded me of Disney Infinity a bit, which tugged at my heart strings. Anyway, it’s a fun mode for kids to do what they want and to drive at their own pace. My kids, especially the youngest of the bunch (3 years old), enjoyed this mode the most out of the list.
– Takedown: Competitive and chaotic are the best words to describe this one. That’s all I got and I wish you good luck. It’s a nasty mode of epic proportions.
– Battle Race: I played this mode the most with my kids. Long races and chances to unlock more cars, levels and achievements. It’s basically a nice mode that mimics the Mario Karts of the world. You race, pick up items to use against your opponents and try to win.
This list is the majority of modes you’ll be using. Those modes are enough when you’re trying to entertain kids. It’s not overwhelming at all, which is impressive considering how easily kids get distracted and bored. WBIE kept on task with this title and made sure that there was just enough interest to keep kids hooked, as well as properly awarded/motivated kids to keep playing. There are quite a few unlockables, which include maps and cars. By the way, as I’m typing this, my third child is begging me to play the game. She doesn’t like racing games often, so I know there’s enough on that list, as well as rewarded to her, to keep her going. The game is very easy going when it comes to motivation and a reward system.
If that wasn’t enough to keep your interest, the game also features a leveling system that makes racing better. Every time you win a race, or place in the top five, you’re rewarded with XP, which unlocks additional attributes in the game. It’s nothing incredibly complicated, I mean we’re not talking about a level tree in Fallout or Dragon Age, but it’s further proof that this is more than a cash-grab when it comes to gameplay design and execution.
Overall, Cars 3: Driven to Win is a surprising treat. It has beautiful visuals mixed in with impressive gameplay design underneath the hood. It’s not going to replace your Mario Karts of the world, but it certainly will keep you entertained, especially if you have young gamers in the household.