The previous Cars games were surprisingly fun and well put together. Let's see if the latest entry in the game series (that happens to complement a brand new Cars movie) lives up to its predecessors.
If you've ever played a kart racer then you'll know what to expect from Cars 3. This latest game in the series lets you pick from one of 23 vehicles modeled after the unique and colourful characters from the movie then jump into one of the 21 included tracks to race to the finish line. The selection of 23 cars is nothing to sneeze at with each one looking and sounding very different from the next. Although there are no stats displayed onscreen, it's clear that choosing the cutesy little forklift Guido as opposed to the bulky school bus Miss Fritter changes the physics as you race. It's not a dramatic change like in a Motorstorm game (for example) but it's enough to make you carefully choose which vehicle you want to use depending on the type of race that you're playing.
The tracks have quite a good level of variety in them, too. I particularly enjoyed the European "London's Buckingham Sprint" and "Italy's Grand Tour". Although the artwork in general contains only the amount of depth akin to a typical Pixar movie, there's plenty of detail to look at in your surroundings as it all whizzes by. The difficulty in the track layouts ramps up as you unlock more with the first few being quite simple and the final ones requiring a lot of tricks and drifting to emerge victorious.
There isn't much of a story represented in Cars 3: Driven to Win which may be disappointing to fans of the movie. You essentially pick from one of six types of races in a menu and are then placed right onto the track. That's not to say there isn't a ton of entertaining moments between characters and within the menus themselves. There are plenty of skits to make you chuckle but nothing really ties the experience together like a comprehensive story would.
Not all vehicles, tracks and race types are unlocked at the start. To unlock anything, you have to beat "skill checks". There are 136 in total and as you accomplish each skill check, you'll unlock more of the game. Examples of skill checks include remaining in backwards driving mode for an entire lap, beating 3 separate battle races and towing then exploding a red barrel. It's quite a mixture of challenges and serves as a guide to help you complete the game. I usually prefer linear menus in racing games that unlock levels as I beat previous ones but this grid of skill checks to accomplish was actually quite a nice change of pace. I could choose which one I wanted to master next and even avoid ones that I wasn't interested in altogether if I so wished.
Skills and tricks play a large role in Cars 3: Driven to Win just as they did in the previous games. In order to gain boost, you must drive on 2 wheels, drift, drive backwards, air drift, complete tricks and much more. Using skills isn't optional as you'll find it very difficult to beat any of the later races without spending most of your time trying to keep a chain of tricks together to maintain a high boost meter. In fact, I actually had to put down the difficulty to Easy once I got to some of the harder challenges. This speaks a lot to Avalanche Software's ability to create a game that rivals other major kart racers out there (even Mario Kart). I have sunk many hours into Cars 3 because of its addictive ability to keep me wanting to unlock more and aim to do my best on all the races.
The six types of races include: a regular old race mode, battle race (use weapons to take out opponents), stunt showcase (won by the car that scores the most trick points), takedown (won by taking out waves of enemy cars with battle items), best lap challenge (a simple time trial mode) and finally, master-level events (special events against specific opponent cars). Out of these modes, I enjoyed takedown the most by far. I haven't seen this done before in a kart racer and it makes for a ton of fun. You basically drive around a track picking up items and using them against hordes of vehicles that keep popping up in waves. The master-level events are tricky and require a lot of experience before you have a chance of completing them.
The other modes are quite standard in racers except the items in the battle races feature some pretty neat additions. The bombs are thrown far and look like nunchucks being thrown into the track while taking down any cars in its vicinity with ease. The spike strip automatically causes other vehicles to blow out their tires and go spinning. It's nice to see the developers putting some thought into items that you wouldn't find standard in other kart racers.
Other than the basic events, you can also try out a cup series mode where you'll race 3 tracks in a row and compete for first place. With 16 to choose from, it will keep you entertained for quite some time. You will also eventually unlock the option to create your own series which allows you to choose the tracks that you want and the mode for each. If you're a fan of the Cars franchise, I can see having fun making themes around cup series but other than that, the predefined cups that you're given and the individual events provide more than enough enjoyment even without making your own series.
If you feel like a relaxing Sunday drive, you can jump into the Thomasville Playground where you're free to try out tricks and goof around at leisure. It's a pretty cool-looking space that could be described as a theme park for cars with markers to collect that can only be accessed by pulling off certain tricks as well as some special events to take part in.
When it comes to multiplayer, if you have a buddy (or three) willing to play Cars 3 with you then you can dive into the Sponsored Team Play mode. This mode isn't any different from the single player content, allowing you to pick a specific event or play a cup series. Anything you unlock in single player is available in multiplayer with split-screen play.
Unfortunately, there is no online multiplayer. It sure would have been fun to play such an amusing kart racer online and the lack of this mode is one big thing that makes it hard to compare Cars 3 against the full package that other AAA kart racers provide.
If you're looking for a new kart racer to add to your collection, you can't go wrong with Cars 3: Driven to Win. Its cute and colourful style is charming and it has a great selection of content to keep you busy for hours.
- + Silly, charming, and colourful presentation
- + The 23 cars, 21 tracks and 6 types of races will keep you busy for a while
- + A good level of addictive challenge
- - No online multiplayer
- - Lack of story means there's very little tying the game to the movie