XBox 360 Review: CARS 2: The Video Game

How does the latest Disney/Pixar license fair against big boys such as Mario Kart and Modnation Racers? Well come on in and find out.

Generally speaking games based on films are pretty bad. They are often rushed out to coincide with a films release which results in an under baked, flat title. However, occasionally (very occasionally) a title will come along that stands up not only as a good license game but a good game in its own right. Cars 2: The Video Game is one of these rare beasts. After their success with the Toy Story 3 license Avalanche has once again taken care to preserve Disney/Pixar's brand. The plot of the film is thankfully all but left in the cinemas and the title instead focuses on solid gameplay and excellent visuals. Cars 2 is essentially a kart racer featuring many of the staples of the genre. You get an array of weapons and boosts as you would expect but what is unexpected is the choice of gameplay on offer. Most Kart racers follow the Mario formula with combat based racing however, Cars 2 offers much more beyond this. There are standard races which focus on drifting, jumping and stunts to build up the boost meter. Building boost is key to every game mode as it allows the player to chose their moment for a tactical increase in speed. This is most important in standard races as you have fewer options to slow down the competition. Luckily building up boost is frequently available. Drifting, driving backwards, skiing, jumping obstacles and aerial stunts all fill up your boost bar. The risk reward mechanic adds a lot of depth to the Kart formula and really goes a long way to making Cars 2 feel like a fresh experience. Then there are the classic battle races. Everything from the standard races applies but now you have mini guns, rocket launchers and even satellite lasers. The weapons add an unpredictable change of pace compared to the standard races. Getting caught with a weapon is always punishing, often costing you two or more positions. There aren't many defensive options which may frustrate some players but as they say, the best defence is a strong offence! The two racing formats are really the meat of the experience however there is also Survival Mode where you have to collect batteries to keep your shield active for a full 3 laps, Attack Mode where the goal is to destroy other racers to gain time bonuses and Hunter Mode where you destroy CPU racers in an arena for high scores. These three modes are great for breaking up the monotony racing and all feature a different playing style to master. There are also some multiplayer only modes including a catch the flag game called Disruptor and the free for all death match Arena Mode. All modes feature drop in multiplayer and you can have up to four players locally on split screen. This is where Cars 2 shines, playing solo is still fun but playing with friends is awesome fun. There is no pleasure quite like side swiping your girlfriend into the sea and her getting you back with a satellite laser. It is always completely manic and sometimes verges on epic as cars are blown into the sky. Cars 2 has the potential to be your new favourite racer. Kids and Pixar avids will love the use of the licence and everyone else will just love the crazy action. Even if you aren't a fan of the films you should give Cars 2 a test drive as it will surprise you. Cars 2 is released on the Xbox 360 from tomorrow.
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A video editor by trade and a lover of movies, games and manga.