Cars 3: Driven to Win has an interesting background. The game’s developer, Avalanche Software, formerly worked on the Disney Infinity franchise. When that series got shelved, Avalanche was bought by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. However, Cars is a Disney franchise, which means the title credits of this game make me feel like I’m peering into some bizarre mirror-world where the Disney/Warner rivalry took a strange turn.
Anyway, Cars 3: Driven to Win is a video game. Here’s a review.
Cars 3: Driven to Win‘s opening might confuse you, especially if you haven’t watched a Cars movie in years. You’re thrown straight into the thick of a story that acts as a prequel to Cars 3. Players are tasked with completing various races and challenges to rise through the ranks and eventually take on Jackson Storm, the film’s antagonist. However, all the races happen in a simulator, and most cut-scenes take place in the same setting, giving the storyline almost no impact or visual flair.
There’s a decent level of fan service in the game, with more than 20 playable characters from the films and a bunch of recognisable tracks to race around. The tracks are fun enough, although many are just slight variants of each other. There are shortcuts and perfect lines to find, and the tracks have a great deal of interactivity. Gameplay is highly reminiscent of kart racers (like Mario Kart and Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing), with weapons, stunts, and different driving modes to take advantage of. For example, you’re able to generate turbo boosts by drifting, driving backwards, or going on two wheels over certain sections of the track.
To the game’s credit, it offers quite a lot to keep players occupied. Advancement is tied to a Hall of Fame checklist, which is made up of 100 different challenges. These challenges tie into story progress, and are completed by doing things like driving backwards, blowing up opponents, and getting some sick air. This progression system is quite enjoyable, and is a good way of letting you progress at your own pace. The game is also fun in multiplayer, and split-screen is supported for up to four players.
Unfortunately, there’s a host of issues with the game. The racing itself feels slow, and driving without boost is a slog. Every character plays identically, making the extensive roster little more than decorative, and everyone constantly spouts the same handful of quips and threats. Now, you could just turn the voice volume all the way down, but that would leave the repetitive, dull music all the more audible. Worst of all, the game’s difficulty levels are ludicrously imbalanced. Easy is boring, hard gives the AI supernatural racing abilities, and medium is an unhappy compromise between the two that never really feels satisfying.
All in all, Cars 3: Driven to Win feels stripped down. There isn’t much punch to the story, there isn’t enough diversity in the voice acting and handling of the characters, and even the menus are tedious to navigate. It runs well and plays just fine, but there’s a general lack of quality throughout. Hell, there isn’t even an option to adjust the screen size, which I didn’t realise was a problem until I noticed half the mini-map was cut out. It’s got some good moments, but there’s really no reason to get it unless it’s for your kids, or you can’t play Mario Kart.