Toy Story 3 (PS3)
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Cars 2 offers an excellent compromise for those that like their racing a little bit more motor-headed than Mario Kart, but still provides power-ups and entertainment.
It often feels as though there are two extremes in racing games. At one end there are authentic car-based driving games, which offer realistic handling and the authentic roar of a multi-valved engine. At the other end sits kart racers, which typically offer big heads, colourful cars, a cheerful horn and probably the option to whack nearby opponents with a mallet. Generally speaking there are few titles which offer a middle ground.
Cars 2 surprised me greatly when I had the chance to play it. At first glance it appeared to be simply a Cars 2 licensed Karting game. The production values are extremely high, with vehicle models and animation sourced from a great working relationship between Pixar and the game development studio, Avalanche, using many of the films assets.
There is a wealth of modes on offer, including a great two-player co-op challenge in which small radio-controlled cars invade the track and must be dispatched using a variety of weapon pickups and an arena-style vehicle battle. Regular races, too, feature a variety of weapons and power-ups to boost the player along the way.
Cars 2 isn't Gran Turismo, but it offers a racing fix comparable to Burnout
However, as well as these customary kart-racer features, I discovered that Cars 2 features a pure racing mode. With no weapon power-ups, all attention is suddenly focused on the vehicle and road handling, which I would call an incredibly brave move for a "kiddy" racer.
Taking a moment to think about Mario Kart (just picking a Kart racer at random, honest!) it strikes me that as great an experience as that is, it's fundamentally not that fun a driving game when all of the weapons and boosters are taken away. There is little in the handling of the vehicles on the track which offers much reward for pure racing.
The movie Cars demonstrated an incredible love for motor racing by its creators and I would say that the game of Cars 2 has the same ideal. The handling of the vehicles around the track is much more akin to a pure racing game than many of its kart-racing stale-mates. Okay, Cars 2 isn't exactly Gran Turismo, but I would go so far as to say that it offers a racing fix comparable to Ridge Racer or Burnout.
The two player split-screen racing is effective and the AI (non-player) vehicles also offer a considerable challenge. Like a more serious racing experience, the slightest break in concentration can lead to a drop from first place to 5th very quickly suddenly.
With no weapon power-ups, all attention is suddenly focused on the vehicle and road handling, which I would call an incredibly brave move for a "kiddy" racer.
Developed by the same team as the excellent Toy Story 3 (PS3) game, Cars 2 offers an excellent complement to the world of the film and deserves to be a huge hits with fans of the film and racing game addicts. The game is also due to feature some sort of online connectivity with an online browser-based community, called World of Cars Online, which promises to expand the experience of the game.
Cars 2 is due for release on the PS2, PS3, 360 and Wii on the 21st June (US) and 22nd July (UK) to coincide with the release of the film in each territory.
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