When it was announced that Cars 3 was getting a video game, I kinda just rolled my eyes and thought, of course it is, but when I leaned that Avalanche Software was working on it, I sat up and took more notice as the studio had recently shuttered, turns out they reformed and they returned to what they know.
Cars 3 Driven to Win does not tell the story of the movie, it instead is a challenge based game, giving you a reason to push forward always and that reason comes from Cars character; Chick Hicks. During an interview on Hick’s show a statistician states that Lightning could never beat newcomer Jackson Storm, to which Lightning refutes the claim and thus the stage is set. Yes, that is really all the game has in the way of a story, a vague challenge and some veiled threats and you are on your way. While not the greatest story ever told, it does give you a reason to race and race you shall.
The racing is broken down into multiple types, standard racing, battle race and stunt race, these can be played solo or with a friend in the games multiplayer mode. For those looking for a longer event type, there are also cups, which will let you race in a series, where winning gets you points and the most points at the end wins. As you race though, you will complete challenges, sometimes you will do them without knowing what they actually are, but sometimes you might race with a challenge in mind, as you complete enough challenges, new tracks and events open up, the biggest challenges come from racing against set challengers, beating them will unlock them, the first one is Miss Fritter, who is an American school bus, but with bull horns and saw blades all over. The problem with these races is that while entertaining, once you have done them, you never need to bother them again, which seems to be a trend with all the races.
The standard races are where you are likely to spend the bulk of your time, either solo or in cups, and while the game does offer a large track selection, there are only 8 locations, each offering up different tracks at them. The tracks also have a day night variant, which does help increase the number of tracks available, the biggest addition though is that a handful of tracks from Cars 2 also make an appearance. Each track has a nice theme, but sadly they are bland to race upon, sure there are trick strips to entertain yourself, so driving on two wheels is cool the first few times you do it, but outside of doing it on the strip for boost, there is little point. The drifting strips are the most rewarding as you will find yourself drifting around every turn on every track, doing so on the strip grants you a massive speed boost as a reward.
The actual method of controlling the cars is straight forward, you have a gas and break peddle, with a drift button for that, a jump button for some reason and then tricks like backwards driving, two-wheel driving or air tricks all being handled by the right stick. The cars handle well enough, though players will find a learning curve, unless you spent a lot of time in Disney Infinity over the years. Starting a race also brings back an element from Disney Infinity, the turbo start, at the beginning, you need to spam the accelerator as fast as you can, as you do, you boost bar will fill up and when the timer runs out and the race begins, you will blast forward, letting you gain some ground on the opposing racers. This is something you will need to get good at, because every AI controller car does it each and every race and speaking of AI, the games balance is so out of whack, I don’t know if its intentional or an accident. The game lets you choose a difficulty at the beginning of a race or cup, even on easy, the AI cars will hound you for the entire time, until the last lap, where if you are ahead and avoid messing up, you will lose them without too much effort. Medium or Hard has them sticking to your rear bumper like nothing else. Sometimes you will spend most of the race, trying to even catch first place, let along holding it for yourself.
The AI is not the only bizarre element to be found in the game, before each track you are given a course overview by Darrell Cartrip, voiced by Nascar legend Darrel Waltrip, during this introduction the camera moves around, showing each course off, the problem is the visuals here look like they were rendered on the Wii. Once you are racing, they are vastly improved, but it’s a common thing, the visuals are low key, at least on Switch and it stands out. The tracks as I mentioned before are bland, but that is not the world of it, they are full of multiple paths and such, but each track has a large amount of invisible walls, that if you pass through, will reset you back to the track, so you had better be careful on making sure you hit your line perfectly.
Speaking of perfect lines, the voice acting in the game is a mix of great, at least for any new characters and woeful for the characters you already know. At the end of every event, you are given a quick summary of how well you performed by Chick Hicks, which is quite irritating, even worse, he invites special guests on for their opinion and for me, it was usually Mater most of the time and as both characters have unique voices, hearing impressions by other actors was hard to deal with, but even worse is that in the races, if you get passed or pass another driver, they always and I mean always have something to say. So if you don’t like cheap sounding imitations, then you had better mute the game, because the voices repeat a lot. Music wise, the game is fine, there are some call backs to scores from the first two movies, as well as past games, but nothing stands out above the rest and when it has to fight against the voice work, it just becomes pushed to the background.
Cars 3 Driven to Win is a solid racer, the controls take a little getting used to, but if you are coming from Disney Infinity, then you will be ok, the lack of different tracks, modes and woeful voice work hampers what could have been a fun game and makes it just mediocre.