The age of movie tie-ins is dead for the most part. Sure, you get odd title here and there, but nothing to the extent of previous console generations, which is probably for the best; they were usually awful. Anyone remember Antz Kart Racing? Superman Returns? Shrek Super Slam? Actually, that last one was pretty fun, but you get the picture.
One such franchise that always seemed to do alright in the movie tie-in department was Cars. If nothing else, the premise practically lent itself to an arcade style driving game, with an emphasis on drifting and boost. At least, it made sense with the first film, when Lightning learnt how to drift. Not going to lie, haven’t seen the other films, but apparently there’s racing simulations and some smarmy jerk named Jackson Storm? I don’t know.
If you haven’t played any of the previous Cars games, it’s basically Mario Kart with the Cars license. Except that the cinematic voice actors like Owen Wilson seemingly took the day off. You can’t help but feel like this is some cheap version of Cars when you can’t get the voice actors to record lines for an extra day at most.
The gameplay itself is solid if a little uninspired. The game is called Driven to Win, but it might as well say Drift to Win, as that’s one of many ways you earn turbo. You can also drive backwards and on two wheels, which can help you earn turbo whilst on the long straights. It does take a couple of races to condition yourself to use those mechanics, but you’ll be standing atop the podium consistently once you do.
The crux of the game takes place after the third film, with Lightning having to prove himself in simulation races so he can have a rematch with Jackson Storm for some reason. Meanwhile, Cars 1 antagonist Chick Hicks is talking mad smack about McQueen being old and past his prime. We can’t say what he is, but it starts with P and rhymes with his name.
In order to “prove yourself”, you must complete a bunch of in game challenges called Skill Checks, which you can earn throughout the game’s 5 race types. These challenges range from hitting a guy with a rocket whilst driving backwards to winning a cup series on the hardest difficulty. At certain milestones, you unlock Master Events which are essentially boss fight versions of different race types.
The five main race types are Race, Battle Race, Stunt Showdown, Takedown and Best Lap, and they offer enough variety to keep you occupied until that final 1v1 showdown with Storm. Takedown is a particular highlight, which sees you using the game’s weaponry to destroy waves of mini-karts.
With 23 characters, 20 tracks, over 100 Skill Checks and split screen multiplayer to boot, there’s plenty of content here to keep the tykes occupied. Let’s be honest, this is for the little ones in the Lightning McQueen pyjamas. Adults will find the game dull after a couple of hours and the lack of online play seems like a huge oversight, but if you’ve got children in need of entertainment, you could do a lot worse than Cars 3: Driven to Win.