November 12, 2011
If you aren't already familiar with the premise of either of the Cars movies, attempting to follow the game is nearly impossible. The opening titles offer a slight introduction to who the villain (Professor Zundapp) and the other Cars are, but nothing more. The only times you actually feel as though you're following a story is during the attack modes where you have to fight "lemon" cars who are followers of Professor Z. But aside from that there's no real connection between the cars. The main cars from the film seem like they're supposed to be buddies, but during races they seem to throw that out the window and instead focus on completely annihilating everyone in their way; not necessarily a good message for the kids.
Not that a story is necessary for this kind of game, but it would have been nice to see some semblance of story brought over, or at least something that was more cohesive with the actual plot of the movie.
Although Cars 2 lacks in the story department, the gameplay is actually pretty good. Driving is very simplistic are you have one button to go and one button to brake. There's also the option to jump, a very useful ability in this game. It allows you to leap over obstacles and collect pickups.
Pickups are very useful in this game. They can give you different weapons as well as turbo boosts There's a decent assortment, but as with most kart racing games, they're all randomized so you'll never know what you're going to get. Most of the weapons are effective, like the rocket blaster, but there are a few that feel quite cumbersome - the machine gun instantly springs to mind. Despite this, Cars 2 is very good at giving you the type of weapon you need for what place you're in. For example if you're in first place, obviously the rocket launcher won't do you any good, so you'll have more of a chance getting an oil spill gun which you can shoot behind you causing anyone up your tail to slip uncontrollably.
The biggest issue with Cars 2 is the camera and unfortunately this issue is too big to miss. As the PSP has only one analogue stick, there's no way of directing the camera, so instead the camera follows your car the best it can. It's an issue because sometimes it can cause you to miss things and run into oncoming obstacles. Once you run into an obstacle, your car instantly explodes and no matter how far ahead of the competition you are, you will fall back 2 or 3 places. Thankfully with the turbo pick ups, it's very easy to reach first place once more, however, this problem would not exist if the camera was controllable. The only way to avoid this issue is to memorize the track. There's also a hidden suitcase collectible in each level which may cost you a couple of places if you don't plan your route right.
After completing each track, you will receive spy points which will allow you to open new levels in C.H.R.O.M.E and new cars. When you are first starting out, you have the main cast of Cars to choose from, so you'll see Lightning McQueen, Finn, Mater, and so on. Each car is measured by control, power, and speed, which actually makes it pretty easy to choose which car to race with. Having said that, Lightning McQueen is very balanced with all levels at about 80 percent. A lot of the others have either one level super high then another super low. Knowing a bit about the characters may force you to choose your favorites, however, if you are coming into the game knowing nothing about the other characters, it's very hard to want to use any car other than McQueen.
There are a few different modes to choose from when you are first starting out. C.H.R.O.M.E stands as a campaign mode allowing you to unlock stuff and go through the "story", whereas Free Play mode allows you to choose whatever track you want to play as well as any type of race. Regular race mode involves simply racing the other cars around a track, but there are other modes that help break up the gameplay. Battle Races are much like regular races except with weapons and in Attack Mode you simply have to take down all of the enemy cars using the weapons you pick up. These all make Cars 2 less boring than traditional racing games that consist only of racing.
The soundtrack changes according to which location you're in which offers a bit of variety but overall it's unmemorable. For a Disney game though, the graphics aren't nearly as bad as they could've been and the race racks offer a lot of variety, such as shortcuts. As Cars 2 is filled with different characters, it's only fair that they each have their own memorable lines and Cars 2 has done very well in terms of voice acting and script writing.
Cars 2 is not a traditional racing game just as much as it's not a traditional movie video game. With that being said, there are quite a few hiccups that keep it from earning acclaim, such as the lack of camera control and lack of online multiplayer. There isn't much of a story with this title although with that being said, most racing games lack stories in any case. For those familiar with the series, they may find solace playing this title as it's not bad by many means, however, this is not one for the general public.
Cars 2: The Video Game was reviewed on the Sony PSP. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.