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Review: Cars 2 (PS3, 360)

Where's Mario?

Look down – at the score.  Now look back up.  Confused?  Don’t be: Cars 2 is – as you might expect from the developers behind Toy Story 3 – rather good.  In fact, if you like Mario Kart and other simple, arcade racers of the ilk, Cars 2 is actually right up your street because it plugs right into what makes Nintendo’s classic so good and adds its own individuality on top.  And on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, where the nearest competition is something like Blur, you’re hardly spoiled for choice.

But any discussion of a lack of alternatives only takes away credit from Cars 2, which Avalanche have crafted into something that sits alongside the film (complete with C.H.R.O.M.E. training section) but doesn’t try to replicate it, instead offering up a series of race types over a handful of courses (with various layouts) with all the key players present and correct.  Lightning McQueen, loveable Mater and the numerous spies and enemies that make up the movie’s plot but are here relegated (wisely) to bit parts and voice-overs.

There's lots of cars to collect, fans of the movies will absolutely love the work that Avalanche have done here.
It is, for all intents and purposes, a Mario Kart clone.  And a really good one.

The game’s built around a series of increasingly difficult ‘clearance levels’ (keeping with the thinly spread ‘spy’ theme present in the film) which are unlocked as you progress through each level depending on your success.  Come first, take out a set number of enemies or beat a rival and you’ll earn more spy points, thus bumping up the RPG-like level bar and therefore opening up more races.  It keeps things organised (and relatively non-linear) and ensures there’s always a target to aim at.

The game starts with a training session, though, which needs to be cleared first.  This set of introductory courses show you how to drive, build up your energy bar (which is used for turbos) and do tricks like spinning in the air (for more energy) and side bashes (for taking out nearby racers) and doesn’t take too long to beat.  It’s a good idea for first time players, certainly, although some of the messages aren’t communicated clearly (like telling you to ‘exit’ which does not mean press the ‘exit’ button) and the loading’s a bit of a drag.

Once in the game, though, and you’re doing tricks off jumps and boosting past Corvette look-a-likes whilst drifting underneath aeroplanes, it all makes sense.  There’s a multitude of race modes, including a few with weapons and one that’s purely an arena-based battle rather than a race, and they’re mixed around liberally so as to try to avoid repetition.  The actual racing isn’t particularly quick but it’s definitely smooth and although the weaponry isn’t ever detailed it doesn’t take long to figure out what does what.  Our favourites include the triple missile launchers and the gatling guns.

Visually it’s actually quite a suprise.  Once you’re past the wonky shadows (that always seem to miss a wheel making it look like cars are floating) and some odd texture load-in (usually whatever the camera’s pointing at, pre-race) the tracks are suitably varied, nicely detailed and brightly coloured.  There’s some flashy effects like lovely motion blur and the game generally runs at sixty frames per second, which really gives it that arcade look and feel, and some of the courses are occasionally beautiful, even in multiplayer.

It’s odd, then, that there’s no online play at all.  We’re all for split screen multiplayer (and wouldn’t ever trade that for anything) but in 2011 gamers will want the ability to play online against friends.  Cars 2 doesn’t offer this, for whatever reason, which might limit the replayability for some.

Without that longevity, you’re left with a healthy pile of races in the campaign mode (which can be playing in single player or with three mates) and a nice ‘free play’ mode where you can pick and choose your event and other variables, but little else.  Sure, there’s lots to collect and stacks of cars to amass, but unless you’ve got mates that live nearby you won’t be getting the most out of the game by any stretch.  Like the Nintendo favourite this clearly apes, local multiplayer is as much a requirement as it’s ever been.  But with it, you’re in for a blast.


  • Superb arcade handling
  • Frequently great graphics
  • Bags of character
  • Wicked in multiplayer
  • The 3D visuals are great on PS3


  • Slightly dull courses
  • Weapons can have that annoying factor
  • No online
  • 3D mode switches itself on every time you load

There’s much to like about Cars 2.  It’s simple enough to be just about ‘pick up and play’ and the characters, whilst all nicely done and voiced, never really get in the way of the action.  The course design is perhaps a little bit too traditional and reserved given the somewhat over the top racing and weaponry, but it’s all nicely rooted in the Cars universe so Pixar fans will lap up the fan service.  We’d love to see Avalanche let loose on their own IP again but until then, this is a talented studio seemingly capable of anything.

Score: 7/10

Shots of the game in motion are particularly difficult to source.  We’ll try to get a video done.

Read more:
  1. Dan Lee
    Common like the rest of us.
    Since: Jun 2010

    Played the demo of this in GameStation. Was pleasantly surprised.

    Comment posted on 25/07/2011 at 21:03.
  2. Foxhound
    Is a smart cookie.
    Since: Dec 2009

    Reminds me to invest in toy story 3 for ps3, need that game. Great read, good score.

    Comment posted on 25/07/2011 at 21:08.
    • james123
      The Ginger Ninja
      Since: Nov 2009

      Defo can say Toy Story 3 is a good game

      Comment posted on 25/07/2011 at 21:25.
      • mrfodder
        Since: Nov 2009

        How well would you reckon a 3 year old would get on with the Toy Story 3 game?

        Comment posted on 25/07/2011 at 21:32.
      • Kovacs
        Since: Dec 2009

        My nephews are five and two respectively. The former gets on very well with Toy Story 3. His brother more or less just watches but has started to play a little. So, a three year old? Probably very frustrated unless someone is there to help with the tricky bits.

        Comment posted on 25/07/2011 at 21:53.
      • mrfodder
        Since: Nov 2009

        Should be good for xmas then

        Comment posted on 27/07/2011 at 20:44.
    • philbert8
      The Frankie Boyle Of TSA
      Since: Sep 2010

      My 3 year old son, plays and fails, plays and fails until he gets it right, fascinating to watch. He’s working his way through Lego Pirates at the moment.

      Comment posted on 26/07/2011 at 09:41.
  3. bunimomike
    Since: Jul 2009

    Hope there’s a demo on the store soon. I’d heard it was a bit of a clone but it was no bad thing. Really love the graphics too as I have such a soft spot for the original film.

    Cheers, Al. Great fun, great review.

    Comment posted on 25/07/2011 at 21:09.
  4. blackredyellow
    Since: Mar 2009

    A nice surprise, think I’ll add it to my Lovefilm list. Cheers Nofi.

    Comment posted on 25/07/2011 at 21:12.
  5. SpikeyMikey23
    Since: Jul 2009

    Haha! Love the first line of this review! Bravo!

    Comment posted on 25/07/2011 at 21:13.
    • Kovacs
      Since: Dec 2009

      I’m on a horse.

      Comment posted on 25/07/2011 at 21:51.
  6. tom_lord
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Apr 2009

    Woah there, steady on, a 7…? But, it’s well justified in the text and Toy Story 3 was a good game so it goes on the Lovefilm list!

    Comment posted on 25/07/2011 at 21:20.
  7. tactical20
    Since: May 2010

    The proximity of the London Eye to Tower Bridge gives the distinct impression that this is not a driving simulator.

    I’ll probably like it. I got MySims: Sky Heroes the other day for £4 and I love it. That’s like Diddy Kong Racing.

    Comment posted on 25/07/2011 at 21:22.
    • Amphlett
      Since: Jul 2009

      Glad I’m not the only one to have noticed that they’ve moved the London Eye, or less likely, moved Tower Bridge.

      Comment posted on 26/07/2011 at 08:40.
  8. Origami Killer
    Since: May 2010

    was not expecting such a good score, the film has preformed terribly from what ive heard so wasnt holding any hopes for the game.

    However, the first film was on tv the other day, what has happened to childrens films?! it was utter crap. Luckily i was brought up in the beginning of Toy Story and Bugs lIfe era

    Comment posted on 25/07/2011 at 21:41.
    • minerwilly
      Since: Feb 2009

      I was even luckier , was brought up on great kids films like –
      Time Bandits , old Herbies , Muppets, Goonies , The Last Star Fighter , Tron , Wargames , ET , Indiana Jones , Star Wars , Back to the Future !!
      80’s was goddam awesome .

      Comment posted on 25/07/2011 at 22:16.
      • SpikeyMikey23
        Since: Jul 2009

        Was Willow one of them? My favourite film ever!

        Comment posted on 25/07/2011 at 22:35.
      • Origami Killer
        Since: May 2010

        Muppets and the Goonies are truly epic

        Comment posted on 25/07/2011 at 23:04.
      • Mundham
        Since: Feb 2011

        Amen to that!

        Comment posted on 25/07/2011 at 23:38.
      • theberzerka
        Since: Dec 2009

        Willow is the best film ever!
        I also wouldn’t say that cars is crap, it’s one that’s constantly on repeat in our house and I can still tolerate it.

        Comment posted on 26/07/2011 at 07:02.
    • R4U Eldave0
      Since: Aug 2008

      As much I loved Toy Story and Bugs Life as a kid, I always watch Cars with my younger family members whenever it is on :P

      Comment posted on 26/07/2011 at 09:18.
  9. Topov81
    Since: Sep 2008

    Would like a demo to see how this compares to Madagascar Kartz and Sonic & SEGA All Stars Racing.

    Comment posted on 25/07/2011 at 21:48.
  10. Smallville2106
    Since: Feb 2011

    Fingers crossed for a demo ASAP. Thanks for the review.

    Comment posted on 25/07/2011 at 22:19.

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