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GameFam

May 25, 2006

PREVIEW: Cars

  • Release Date: June 6, 2006 (3 days prior to the movie release)
  • Platforms: Xbox 360, Wii (Fall '06) PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, PSP, DS, GBA & PC. (basically, everything but the PS3).


Like death and taxes (or, say...toys, bugs, monsters, fish & superheroes), you can always count on Pixar to deliver a wonderful moviegoing experience for all ages. In the small world that is kid-friendly movies that parents can also enjoy, Pixar is the '27 freakin' Yankees. C'mon, just look at this murderer's row:

  • Toy Story
  • A Bug's Life
  • Toy Story 2
  • Monsters, Inc.
  • Finding Nemo
  • The Incredibles
That's cinematic gold, Jerry. GOLD! In fact, the "worst" one on the list is the very film that brought the CG revolution down from the stop-motion hills - the original Toy Story (I guess you could call that praising Pixar with faint damnation). And given what a monumental cinematic achievement Toy Story was, it means that Pixar is honing and refining their skills as they go. Scary good.



The latest feature film to carry the illustrious Pixar torch is Cars, which opens on June 9th. And while my wife and I won't be camping out at the local cinemegaplex starting June 8th, alongside the hordes of rabid Pixar fanboy/otaku/cosplay types, we definitely plan to take the kids to see it soon after.

On June 6th, THQ releases Fammy-winner Cars the video game on the following consoles; Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, PSP, DS, GBA & PC. The game will also be a Wii launch title in the Fall (sorry, no PlayStation 3 version). Anyhoo, having seen Cars up close and real personal-like at E3, I thought I might preview it for you.

Cars is first and foremost a racing game, which is just fine, since developer Rainbow Studios has some serious chops in that area, with franchises like ATV Offroad Fury, Splashdown, MX Unleashed & Motocross Madness.

Often, as a way to achieve economies of scale (and avoid reinventing the wheel), game developers and publishers will copy and paste the engine from one game into another, assuming appropriately similar gameplay, of course. Of the games I've already reviewed, the example that leaps to mind is Activision's use of the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 engine in Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure.

In this case, however, Rainbow built a brand spankin' new engine for Cars, and it shows. I watched the cars race around the track on both the Xbox 360 and PS2 versions, and the result is a much more refined racing look than the grittier offroading games that are a Rainbow staple. The level I saw reminded me to a degree of EA's NASCAR series, which, for a racing game, is a compliment.

Cars has more than 30 races and minigames, which cover not only scenes from the movie, but also areas that weren't explored on the big screen. Cars the game stars 10 characters from Cars the movie, as well as some special new characters that Pixar designed exclusively for the game.

Speaking of characters, since the game is based on a movie, and the movie introduces us to characters we're supposed to care about, there are several ways that the game takes care to preserve that connection between character and player.

First, although you spend much of the races looking at the backs ends of the cars, their personality shows through via the comments they make during the race.

Second, you can actually race backwards, so you can see your car's "face" as you race merrily along, butt-first.

And third, while you will be able to customize the cars' paint jobs, as far as body work is concerned, it's strictly no-touchy. Because these aren't simply cars. They're Cars. And just as you wouldn't perform surgery on Buzz or Woody (Sid's sadistic impulses aside), you don't get to do any nipping or tucking of Lightning McQueen, Sally, Mater, or even Chip Hicks.

As someone who focuses more on games for younger kids, I'm thrilled that Cars has an "explore" mode. If your kids aren't ready to enter the exciting, high-pressure world of competitive racing just yet, they can simply drive around and explore their surroundings in relaxed comfort. That's a huuuuuuge plus for me. Huge, I say. Have I said how huge a plus that is?

Finally, since I'm a guy who has had issues with video game voice-over quality in the past, I'm very happy to report that all of the actors from the film voice their respective characters in the game.

Well, I'm sold.
Is it June 6th yet?

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