Cars 2
Developer: Virtual Toys
Publisher: SCEE/Disney Interactive
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: 1, ad hoc multiplayer
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If you’re reading this you’ve quite probably seen the Disney Pixar movie and may even have played the home console version that we rather liked back in the early summer. This PSP version doesn’t do the usual thing of simplifying the graphics of a PS3 game and shrinking the content a little, but rather goes for a complete redesign of the game entirely. This might have been a good idea if the original game was utter crap or the PSP couldn’t handle a 3D racer, but as neither of those is the case we’re slightly mystified at how this game turned out.

After the same animated intro as the PS3 & 360 game, Cars 2 has the same slick selection screen, which allows you to scroll through all the unlocked cars and you can’t help but be impressed by the quality of the modelling as the cars pose, posture and talk you into using them. Every car is based on a real one or a composite of several recognizable models; for instance Professor Z is based on a 1957 Zundapp micro car, Finn McMissile looks a lot like an old Volvo P1800 (made famous as The Saint’s car), Miles Axelrod is a Range Rover and Jeff Gorvette (voiced by NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon) is a Corvette C6 race car.

From the main menu you’ll find that ‘C.H.R.O.M.E. Missions’ is the main story game and consists of a training mode and six sections of events. You unlock new character cars as you go, up to an impressive choice of 20+ different ones. Completing the C.H.R.O.M.E. training teaches you how to jump, use boost and weapons. All the missions are either races or survival/battle types and in most you get to use high-tech gadgets like missiles, orbital lasers and oil slicks to mess up your opponent’s day. Each event has three types of trophy: bronze, silver and gold. Only the best performances will earn you a solid gold trophy collection and getting these proves to be extremely hard, and nowhere near as addictive as it was on the home console version, mainly due to the lack of a sensation of speed or the thrill of the weapons and jumps, and the feeling that the whole thing is hugely predetermined. You get this because the game allows the opposition to stay close regardless of how well you race, and you to catch up no matter how badly you do on the opening laps of a race (and some races are 5 laps long) if you nail the last half a lap you will win, every time.

The main difference with this PSP version from the mostly well-received PS3/360 version is the view, and it’s the reason for all the game’s main problems too. Rather than have a typical arcade racer “chase view”, set above and behind the car, the designers decided to give us a sort-of isometric view of the action, kind of as if a TV helicopter was flying alongside the track. This’d be okay and fine and dandy but every now and then (and although I’m mystified as to why I’m sure this is intentional) the camera randomly gets ahead of the car, meaning you can’t see more than a few yards ahead! This would probably be liveable with on your typical 40-50 inch home TV as you occasionally get a brief glimpse of the oncoming track before the view swivels around, but on the PSP it just feels like the game is messing you around and trying to screw you up. This random view change causes crashes that you didn’t deserve far too frequently, and you’ll be relying on luck a lot of the time to avoid the numerous on-track obstacles. The camera view, which is always pointing down so only the immediate area of track around the cars is drawn, also obviously limits the view making one track pretty much indistinguishable from another, so you won’t be able to tell if you’re in London or Tokyo unless you’re passing one of the few recognisable landmarks like Tower Bridge or notice the headlight effect on the night time Tokyo tracks.

This remote view also means that as the steering is orientated as if you were the car, while the car may be heading from left to right on the screen steering the car up or down on the track requires left or right inputs from the nub stick or the D-pad, and so on-it’s hardly an instinctive control setup for what I presume is a younger target market. To add to the difficulty the button response time is extremely varied, meaning that regardless of how good your reactions are you aren’t going to be able to avoid some of the obstacles. When offered a go at the game, a typical first time experience involves a player hitting three or four obstacles on the first lap and handing the game back to me while saying “no thanks”.

I’d love to have a chat with the guys who came up with this ham-fisted design concept and ask them why they tried to re-invent the wheel, if they’ve ever played a racing game before on any format, if they’ve ever played a little-known game called Mario Kart or any of its hundreds of clones, and ask them why they thought this particular formula would work better for a cartoony arcade combat racer than the tried and tested.

Throttle and brakes are on the shoulder buttons, the car can jump with a press of ‘Triangle’ and turbo boost is fired with ‘Circle’. Fill all 4 turbo slots and you can use ‘In The Zone’ which is a mighty, long-lasting turbo boost while encased in a glowing red force field, which on the PS3 would also blast enemies off the track if you made contact with them, sadly it doesn’t in this version.

Weapons are picked up randomly during the race and can be fired or dropped behind with a press of ‘X’, but many of the forward facing ones don’t work unless the enemy is directly in front of you and oil slicks are just as likely to be a hazard for you on the next lap as slow down an opponent.
Anyway, during the game you’re awarded ‘Spy Points’ (XP in everything but name) for good performances and can also discover hidden bonuses on each level. Collecting Spy Points levels you up and unlocks more races, locations and new cars. Each car has its own speed and energy attributes, but you’ll be hard pressed to notice any difference. Having to exit out to the race selection screen and then re-enter with your new choice is a bit of a pain and involves more of the PSP’s Achilles heel, slow loading.

Other than the C.H.R.O.M.E. missions the other race options include; Normal race mode against 3 other opponents, Attack mode (high-speed pursuits of Lemons, keep blowing them up to extend time), Battle race (with weapons and spy gadgets), Eliminator (stay out of last place) and Against the Clock. “Garage” allows you to look at the entire roster of cars, zoom the camera in on them and read some background info about them.

The game sounds good with apt music and many of the voice actors from the movie present and correct although Lightning & Finn are slightly dodgy soundalikes-My Michael Caine is better than the one in this game.

We’d have liked Cars 2 more if it was more like the home console Cars 2 game, and can’t really understand the thinking behind presenting what should have been a fun-filled racing game in this way. I can’t wait to play Virtual Toys’ next game, maybe it’ll be a first person shooter played from the enemy’s point of view, or perhaps they’ll do golf game from the ball’s-eye view, or maybe they’ll do a 2D side-on platform game from a satellite view... who knows???

Best Bits

- Looks great with superb presentation.
- All the cars from the movie are here.
Worst Bits

- Bizarre, remote view removes sensation of speed and makes racing difficult.
- Because of the camera, all the tracks look the same.
- Samey combat racing soon becomes tiresome.

by: Masonic Dragicoot

Copyright © Gamecell 2011