Despite having to carry the weight of being one of Pixar’s least successful films –which still grossed over $400 million, fact fans – the original Cars, and its whimsical tale of restoring a lost aspect of middle America retained the company’s trademark for creating sympathetic and relatable characters. Which just happened to be cars.
While Cars 2 basically threw all of that out of the window in favour of faux-James Bond style shenanigans, it did manage to produce the Cars 2 videogame, which turned out to be a surprisingly satisfying racer featuring much of the license’s good humour. Cars 3: Driven to Win is largely more of the same, developed once more by Avalanche Software, but while there’s plenty of fun to be had, a touch more polish for the current generation wouldn’t have gone amiss.
The racing is very much in the realm of console karting, and besides a satisfying drifting mechanic you’ll also be performing various stunts which earn you enough turbo to smoke the competition. There are glowing blue areas on each track where you’ll gain large boosts as long as you can stay in the zone while drifting, driving backwards or on two wheels. Your stunts are all pulled off with different directions on the right analogue stick, and the controls are satisfyingly responsive once you’re used to them.
There’s a fun range of different event types that extend beyond straightforward races, with the Mario Kart-esque Battle Races unlocking a range of weaponry with which to annihilate your opposition. Besides that there’s the horde-mode-on-wheels of Takedown, as well as Best Lap and Stunt Showcases, where you have to earn the most points from performing different stunts within a set time limit. All of these events offer plenty of chaotic fun, whether solo or in multiplayer, though there’s some very aggressive rubber-banding at times, and in the race events it’s a virtual necessity to learn and use any shortcuts available to you.
Progress is fairly organic, and while you begin with only one track available to you and a handful of racers, you soon begin to expand your options. Everything is controlled by your progress in the Hall of Fame. This is essentially 136 achievement-style picks that begin fairly simplistically, but become tougher and tougher as you delve deeper into the game.
The Official Cup Series is your traditional Grand Prix event, taking you through three events while you’re looking to take home the gold. These aren’t limited to just the straight race events either, with Stunt Racing and Battle Racing also coming into play.
What’s most hilarious about Cars 3: Driven to Win is just how tough it can be, and with the game set to Medium you’ll find yourself desperately fighting to get into first the whole way through even the earliest events. The aforementioned rubber-banding is an annoyance, but it remains a surmountable one, assuming you’re equipped to deal with what the game is asking of you. Though the license is primarily aimed at younger children, the game’s difficulty level and complicated controls place it squarely into the hands of more seasoned players, which is something of an odd choice.
Avalanche have included a way for you to work on your techniques in the Thomasville Playground. An open section of land to fling yourself around, and the practice area also features an array of beacons that house different skill challenges designed to make you better at the main game. It’s a cool diversion – working out how to get all of Mack’s hats from some hard to reach spots was right up my street – but it may not be a mode you’ll be returning to once you’ve spent a few hours there.
It does at least look the part, and from the Playground through to the different tracks and racers, Avalanche have done a good job of capturing the feel of the films. It still isn’t what you’d hope from the current generation, and it’s not as though they’ve made the game’s performance the priority either, with some very noticeable and detrimental moments of slowdown across all of the modes when the screen becomes too hectic.
Cars 3: Driven to Win is a fun and eclectic racer, and one that boasts plenty of content that’ll keep fans of the films happy for many hours, especially younger gamers who may well overlook some of the flaws. It’s a shame then that the game’s poor performance, lack of polish and often unfair difficulty level make it that much harder to recommend to anyone else.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4 Pro