I’ll be honest, I’ve always considered Disney Pixar’s Cars to be a bit of a slap in the face to car enthusiasts. Does the character development team even like cars? I mean, how does a dated, red, NASCAR racing Lightning McQueen constantly find the ability to beat far superior vehicles around complicated tracks? Why does every Car sort of look like a real car but not quite? And why are their damn eyes on the windshield when everyone knows they come with a built-in face in real life?!
But I digress. I recently watched Cars 3 on Netflix, which I’ll review some other time, and played Cars 2: The Video Game, and have since changed my opinion. The Cars 2 Game was free during the month of April on Xbox’s Games With Gold. And even though I’m 7 years late, I downloaded the dated Xbox 360 game, played it, and decided to review it. Of course none of the following information is relevant anymore, but I had fun with it anyways.
The story, like the Cars movies, is simple and to the point. Lightning McQueen and Mater team up with British intelligence dubbed CHROME to stop Professor Zundapp and his “Lemons”. From there it’s basically a series of races and battles.
Nearly a decade later, the gameplay to Cars 2: The Video Game is surprisingly fun. I played for an hour the night I downloaded it and found myself wanting to come back and play every day for about a week. To label the Cars 2 game a Mario Kart ripoff would be unfair. Disney and Avalanche Software developed a solid standalone racer. Other than driving in a straight line, the player can collect weapons, drive in reverse, bump-check sideways, lean on two wheels, and jump up to hard-to-reach areas. I found the races always exciting and it would be fun to play with 3 other friends.
However, the “arena” mode is terribly slow paced and boring. Basically you’re dropped into a square arena and Professor Z drops down five waves of bad guys for you to blow up. Sounds fun but they got the formula all wrong. The cars are way too slow, the enemies too few, and the field is way too big. Half of your time is spent trying to collect a weapon and the other half is spent trying to find an enemy. If you’re gonna play, stick to the racing.
Of course the visuals are heavily dated but are still in HD. This means Cars 2: The Video Game looks fine on your current HDTV and runs well as a downloaded game. Some of the courses are uninspired but there are two that really stand out: Monaco and London. Monaco is a fun coastal race track that captures the essence of the real life location and London lets you race through crowded streets and pass real life landmarks. Off the top of my head, there is also an airport level and a couple of urban/warehouse levels that are fun too.
Cars 2: The Video Game is definitely faithful to the movie, but is it faithful to car enthusiasts? Surprisingly, yes! I mentioned earlier that I had changed my opinion on the franchise and this game helped. The variety of almost-real-cars is quite fun. There are easy ones to pick out such as a Chevy Corvette, an Aston Martin DB9, a classic Fiat 500, a VW Bus and then there are more vague ones like the F1 car, the WSC race car, a definite German Group B car. Either way, the Cars franchise spent a lot of effort including a little something for every enthusiast.
Side note: During the tutorial in the beginning, you’ll notice the “simulated” course is paved with carbon fiber. Nice touch!
If you’ve made it this far into this embarrassingly dated review, you’ll be happy to know that you can at least download Cars 2: The Video Game for free off of Xbox Live and try it yourself. Oh, it’s not April 2018 anymore? I guess you can’t get it for free and this has all been a waste of your time. Still, if you have young kids, a love for cars, and are a little strapped for cash, I would recommend picking Cars 2: The Video Game up at your local used game shop for less than $10.