Movie-tie in games used to be extremely frequent. Over the years, players have been treated to superb titles like 2004’s Spider-Man 2 or 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but in recent years, the movies that could’ve had tie-in games have instead had special events or DLC added in celebration of the film. So imagine my surprise to find out Cars 3 was getting a separate console tie-in game. Even if its existence itself is a surprise, the bigger surprise is that Cars 3: Driven to Win has enough gas in the tank to be enjoyable.
Cars 3: Driven to Win: Xbox One [Reviewed], PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive
Release Date: 14 July 2017
Individual Price: £49.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
In Cars 3: Driven to Win, Lightning McQueen is in a simulator at a show hosted by his former racing rival Chick Hicks. Hicks challenges McQueen to a race between himself, Cruz Ramirez, and newcomer Jackson Storm. Aside from quick cutscenes to introduce 4 landmark events, that is all the story on offer. On the bright side, that means the movie is left unspoiled, but the story is not in the game’s interest, instead, it is all about getting to the tracks.
Once you are on the tracks the gameplay throws a lot at you right away, but after a few races feel simple. Aside from accelerating and braking; drifting, driving on two wheels, performing stunts in mid-air and driving in reverse are your primary actions in the game. The drifting, stunts and specialized driving will also fill a turbo meter that can be used in multiple boosts or in one prolonged boost that allows you to run over other competitors. Combined, these mechanics place Cars 3: Driven to Win squarely into the arcade spectrum of racers.
Throughout your racing career, there are 21 tracks to unlock and play in 5 different modes, plus one more open area where players can drive around however they please. Some of the tracks on offer are recycled from Cars 2, and a few of the new tracks look like duplicates, but with repositioned finish lines. Even so, there’s plenty of racing to be had, as the modes are more varied than the tracks. You can choose to do a normal race, a battle race (which makes Cars 3 feel like a Mario Kart clone), a Stunt Showcase which sees cars performing aerial tricks, Takedown which encourages wanton destruction against dummy cars, and Best Lap Challenge, which encourages players to shave more seconds off their best laps. Lastly, there is a playground player’s can visit with no preset goals to complete. If they want, players can drive around without any cares. There are challenges to complete here as well though. It’s also a great stress-free practice area but sheds a light on how difficult a more open game would’ve been.
There’s also no shortage of characters you can choose to race as, with 23 characters represented. A couple of them are re-skinned characters (Mater the Greater and Fabulous Lightning McQueen), but they all have a personality and voice acting provided by most of the cast from the film. At the end of each event, characters will offer commentary based on the events of the race. Even so, there aren’t a lot of voice clips for each situation and they repeat long before all the modes have been exhausted. Most curiously is that there are no stats given to the player about how each character may perform. No notion of how they accelerate, handle corners, nothing of the sort. However, despite this, some characters do feel as though they play differently. Guido, a small forklift, can corner much more easily than Ms Fritter, a demolition-loving school bus. But for some of the other cars, it will be less noticeable what the differences are.
Environments are nicely detailed, with textures giving a nice sense of what it is you are passing by, but Cars 3: Driven to Win is not reference material. The characters themselves are given more care and are well animated. With this releasing on newer consoles as well as their older siblings, the graphics on display overall would’ve been normal only a few years ago at the launch of the Xbox One and PS4. Now they are merely serviceable.
Sound effects crackle and explode with little regard for subtly, which is intensely highlighted during the Takedown challenges. The music of Cars 3: Driven to Win bears no resemblance to the orchestral soundtrack of the film created by Randy Newman. Instead, upbeat but unmemorable tunes are blasted. These tunes also fit the tones of the tracks themselves with those in the country featuring banjo, while one in Italy features a Mediterranean inspired flair. The music works and suits the game, but will be forgotten the moment the game is off.
Cars 3: Driven to Win does feature multiplayer for each of the tracks and game modes, including a strictly multiplayer mode where players choose sponsors from the movie to race for and compete against AI or against each other. However, multiplayer here is only a local affair, since the game offers no online multiplayer. The lack of online multiplayer is a surprise given the ubiquity online multiplayer has but isn’t a deal breaker.
Cars 3: Driven to Win isn’t designed with adults in mind, but is still enjoyable regardless of age. It doesn’t aspire to be a great game, and yet doesn’t approach the depths of ne’er-do-well titles. If ever there was a title deserving of the term “average”, this is it. Most notable is that like many titles aimed at a younger audience, it does a fantastic job of introducing new gamers to fundamental concepts in other racers. In that regard, Cars 3: Driven to Win is a fantastic crash course in how most other racers operate without having to worry about how to optimize cars.