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Developer: Rainbow Studios | Publisher: THQ
Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 06/06/06 | Genre: Driving

cars.jpgOne of the biggest films of the Summer 2006 season in Hollywood is Disney Pixar's Cars. The movie featured a world of living, breathing cars and a complete lack of all humans. THQ obtained the license for the videogames based on the film and they have done a remarkable job in creating the best game version of a Pixar film. Utilizing the resources of Rainbow Studios, Cars is a game that fans of the film will want to give a look. However, despite a very good attempt, all is not perfect in Cars.

Once upon a time, videogame versions of movies did not receive the voices or likenesses of the actors who portrayed them. In the last several years this issue has been largely addressed and now it is a rarity to see a move-based videogame without all the big-named actors. For Cars, this is a very big deal because it features incredible voice work by Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Paul Newman, Michael Keaton, Tony Shaloub, Darrell Waltrip, George Carlin, Cheech Martin, and Richard Petty. On top of that, there are musical performances from Lynryd Skynrd, the All American Rejects, the Edgar Winter Group, and Stray Cats included within Cars. THQ definitely gets a big thumbs up for the inclusion of all of these bands and actors. However, the only disappointing aspect to this is the lack of variety. After a short while within Cars, players will hear the same lines repeated over and over again. The same is true of the small number of tracks.

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For those of you who have not seen the new Disney Pixar movie, it is not entirely necessary to experience the game. However, I seriously doubt anyone would pick up this game if they haven't watched the movie. All of the action within Cars takes place at the conclusion of the film as players, controlling Lightning McQueen, go into a new racing season again their biggest rival Chick Hicks. All of the action isn't limited to just racing though (we will get back to that in a moment). Players control a free-roaming world--similar to Grand Theft Auto--as they complete missions for bonus points and items. You can be limited on where you can go at some points. But for the most part, the player is free to travel all over the game world to participate in missions.

When the action moves to the NASCAR-like racing, players will find relatively little challenge. You move left and right--bumping other drivers--while trying to finish the race in first place. The one requirement of each race is that players make one pit stop. It is here when the only mini-game of the racing appears. Players move around the analog sticks and hit buttons that appear on-screen in order to complete the pit stop faster. If you succeed, the player will not lose any position in the race. Failure will cause you to come out of the pit with lost position. But due to the relatively easy nature of the gameplay, it will not be very difficult to get back into first. For example, if a player gets behind, the AI-controlled opponents will slow down and allow you to get back into the action. In fact, the only time a player might have a little bit of a problem with a race is the final one.

Besides the pit stop mini-game, Cars contains several others that fans of the film will recognize. Mater will go tractor tipping, Guido will collect tires, etc. These feel fairly polished for a mini-game and while they are much improved over prior Pixar-based videogames, they still lack being anything more than "just okay."

One thing interesting that Cars does is divide up the game into an "All Ages" mode and a "Younger Kids" mode. Instead of just dumbing down the AI and creating an easier version of the same game, the "Younger Kids" mode is a shorter and easier version of the game. While all games are not made for a younger audience, this is an interesting element that I would like to see other Developers and Publishers integrate into their games. This would allow for gameplay to be experienced by all ages without tarnishing either version of the game.

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Looking at the visuals in Cars, the game is looking pretty good. While the Xbox 360 version of the game will not be shipped until the release of the DVD, the PlayStation 2, GameCube, PC, and Xbox versions all look and play very well. There are a few minor graphical issues that were probably not resolved due to a lack of time in shipping the game by the release of the film. Some of these issues include: on occasion, players can become stuck in the world, car physics are not fully developed, and cars can clip through each other with no collision detected. While getting stuck and clipping cannot really be explained away--the physics are probably an element that can be explained. For example, your car can be up on its left side and it takes the game a while to reposition the car and make it level. In the world of Cars, this could be explained by a vehicle showboating.

Overall, Cars is a fun game that fans of the movie will want to pick up and play. While it can be beaten in roughly ten hours, it is nice to have a GTA-like open world for younger audiences to play through. While nothing in this title is groundbreaking, it is all fun--especially for younger players. Fans of the film will want to purchase this on the platform for their choice. For all others--I recommend a rental before purchase.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 07/23/06

Screenshots for Cars

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