Cars is a strange franchise. The first film was excellent; an excellent family film that extolled the virtues of friendship and humility, introducing us to the loveable Mater and, of course, Lightning McQueen. The sequel was greeted with significantly less enthusiasm, leaving the race track and the sleepy town of Radiator Springs, in to the world of espionage… for reasons uknown. It had been a decent watch and kids lapped it up, and I applaud Pixar for trying different things, but it was too much taken off the race car origins of the initial and it appeared to be the finish of the series.

But here we are in 2017 and Cars 3 has hit cinemas around the world. Time for the world of motor racing and seeing Lightning McQueen still trying to compete keenly against newer and more complex machines, it appears as if Pixar paid attention to feedback and made the film that people arguably must have got in 2011.

Now, the Cars videogames have traveled a different road to the films, but have largely been overlooked by the masses. The initial game was an excellent blend of open-world and different race events, really capturing the essence of Radiator Springs and its own inhabitants. In addition, it spawned a sequel of sorts in Cars: Mater-National, that was equally fun but underrated, and was suitable for kids. The Cars 2 game arrived later and moved from the open-world style, instead concentrating on Mario Kart-style arcade racing, including battle racing, and I spent many one hour playing it at the job throughout a particularly slow period. I suspect that its underwhelming sales had something regarding being linked to a film that lots of persons simply didn’t hook up with, because I won’t think that persons didn’t enjoy it.

After seeking to be doomed with Disney Infinity’s shock closure, Avalanche Software returned from the brink and is rolling out the brand new Cars 3 tie-in: Driven to Win. Set following the events of the brand new film but careful never to spoil much, this new title once more applies to the arcade racing style but injects somewhat of character and storytelling involved with it. The complete premise is that Lightning McQueen arrives for a rematch against Jackson Storm, however in true Rocky style, there is a lot training to be achieved to be able to win that race.

This training basically involves completing enough challenges and races to unlock the ultimate showdown. There are basic races, Battle Races, Stunt Showcases, Takedown challenges and more, all with their own traits. Races require no explanation, and Battle Races merely add weapon pick-ups to the mix, creating just a little extra carnage; Stunt Showcase asks you to score the most points by performing tricks (more on that in an instant); and Takedown throws waves of generic vehicles, painted like crash test dummies, at you and you should do your best to eradicate all of them with weapons or by side-bashing them with a left or right flick of the proper stick. There is a good sandbox area in Playground, enabling you to practice at your own pace and even find hidden Mac caps that are dotted around the region, or play Disney Infinity-inspired minigames.

Talking about Disney Infinity, it will come as no real surprise that Avalanche has generated after the driving mechanics found in its Toys-to-Life game and that Cars 3: Driven to Win plays almost identically to it. This isn’t a really bad thing though, since it means it’s not difficult for anybody to play and the handling feels solid. Triggers accelerate and brake, while holding circle begins drifts and pressing X will jump. Triangle fires weapons and square initiates boosting, which is accrued through performing tricks and stunts.

There are several various ways to execute these tricks, plus some of these are boosted by on-track arrows. You can drift over some, whereas others need a quick upwards push of the proper stick to be able to drive on two wheels, and there are diamonds that denote the necessity to pull back on the proper stick to be able to drive backwards. Hitting big jumps enables you to perform more tricks using the proper stick, such as for example flips and barrel rolls, which boost your boost meter.

Boosting is vital to winning races, especially on higher difficulties. Despite being targeted at a younger audience, this game is surprisingly challenging even on the medium setting. The AI includes a whiff of rubberbanding about any of it, which can bring about many “the way the hell did they get before me?” moments, especially through the showdown events against special characters. It’s a shame really, as there’s an excellent racing game in the centre of Driven to Win but it’s spoiled by difficulty levels that are simply just too punishing. If it were more related to skill instead of dumb luck or the rubberband AI i quickly could get up to speed with that, but it’s just unfairly hard to beat your competitors most of the time. There’s a significant gulf between Easy and Medium too, which just makes it even worse.

There’s a few of that disappointment in the voice cast aswell, unfortunately. The special characters, just like the remaining cast, just don’t sound right. The majority are voiced by the film’s cast, nonetheless they genuinely appear to be soundalikes instead because of some awkward voice acting, to the main point where it’s not clear if Owen Wilson voices McQueen or not. It’s especially noticeable when they’re repeating lines again and again, during races. Having said that, the commentator’s introductions and outros are excellent, and sometimes there’s some genuinely fun banter between characters mid-race.

On a visual level, the Cars aesthetic is near perfect. Radiator Springs looks amazing, as do the rest of the locales, not really much right down to raw technical displays however the art style and animation is pure Pixar. Every car is expressive and moves how they do in the films, and each environment is filled up with little details that bring the spots alive. There are a good amount of spots and tracks too, each smartly designed with tonnes of shortcuts and secrets to find in your quest to win races.

Cars 3: Driven to Win is a casino game that nails the appearance of its source material and has so much potential, but it’s held back by some phoned-in voice acting and a problem level that goes against the young audience of which this game is aimed. It’s an enormous shame as there exists a really fun, easy-to-handle racing game in the centre of everything, with a good amount of varied content to sink your teeth into.

The Switch version runs pretty much, generally, though there are occasions where frames are dropped. In most cases it’s an excellent version of the overall game.

Positives

Looks similar to the films
Includes favourite characters
A lot of tracks and race modes

Negatives

Difficulty is much too harsh
Repetitive voice lines