Cars 3: Driven to Win Review: A Hard Drive

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Let’s face it; movie videogame tie-ins have a history of being a bit rubbish.

It would appear that notoriety has got the better of them these days though, as very few now appear to get made, at least for consoles, anyway. Though, I’m sure mobile marketplaces are still subject to a deluge of them. The latest movie franchise to have enough clout to warrant a videogame tie-in for consoles is Disney/Pixar’s Cars 3, with Avalanche Software being revived to develop Cars 3: Driven to Win.

Cars 3: Driven to Win has the loosest of stories. The gist is that Lightning McQueen is now considered to be something of a has-been – a relic of the past – especially by the more modern and sleek Jackson Storm. Still, Lightning McQueen is desperate to show that he can still compete with the best, but only by demonstrating his prowess across a number of events will he get his shot to show Jackson Storm that he’s still a contender.

“While initially quite fun, Cars 3: Driven to Win eventually becomes a little bit prescriptive, with you doing your best to pull off specific tricks in specific areas to quickly build turbo and boost ahead of the pack.”

After completing an introductory event, Cars 3: Driven to Win opens up, pretty much allowing you to progress how you want. Your main goal is to complete a number of challenges and objectives called skill checks – the accumulation of which unlock master level events as you progress. In total there are 136 skill checks to complete, ranging from the simple – such as complete a race event – to the more time consuming – like activating the special “In the Zone” mode 100 times. You only need to complete 90 to unlock the fourth and final master level event however, and face off against Jackson Storm.

Some skill checks require you play a specific gameplay mode or event, but most give you a great deal of freedom as to where you achieve them. You can take part in specific one-off events for instance, choosing between race, battle race, stunt showcase, takedown or best lap challenge event types. If you have a bit more time to spare you can take part in a cup series, taking on the competition across a number of races. And if you want to engage in something a little more laid back, you can visit the Thomasville Playground, an area that you can freely drive around to hone your skills and complete a number of challenges.

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No matter which mode you choose, in Cars 3: Driven to Win you have the option of playing alone or with up to three other local players. As always, the more people you have playing with you the more fun the action tends to be, and there’s also a Sponsored Team Play mode that’s only available when playing multiplayer, allowing players to arrange themselves into teams for competitive or co-operative play.

Unfortunately, Cars 3: Driven to Win isn’t the most exciting game to play. Cars feel sluggish and the handling is just dull, with little, if any, noticeable difference between all the rides on offer. It’s the type of racer where you simply hold down a button to drift and the use of turbo is integral to victory. That’s understandable for what’s essentially a game aimed at kids, but the truth is, winning in Cars 3: Driven to Win is often rather difficult.

“Cars 3: Driven to Win isn’t really a bad game. It can be fairly enjoyable in short bursts, especially in co-op. At the same time, however, it’s not what I’d call a good game either. It’s decidedly average, chock full of content and variety, but let down by being prescriptive, uneven in difficulty and quite frankly, a bit dull.”

Events like Takedown where you have to destroy waves of small vehicles with weapon pickups tend to be a walk in the park, but races and best lap events can prove to be frustratingly tight, sometimes even on easy. The key to winning is using the right analogue stick to perform stunts like driving backwards or on two wheels, especially when you spot the respective pads on the floor that boost your turbo accumulation for doing so. You can side swipe the opposition too, and make use of your jump ability to get some air and pull off some tricks. Then, when you have one or more full bars of turbo available you can activate it for a burst of speed. Fill all four bars of your turbo meter, however, and you can activate the “In The Zone” mode for even more oomph.

While initially quite fun, eventually it all becomes a little bit prescriptive, with you doing your best to pull off specific tricks in specific areas to quickly build turbo and boost ahead of the pack. There are a wealth of new vehicles and tracks to unlock, including many fan favourites from the Cars 2 videogame, but you’ll begin to tire of the repetitive nature of the on-track action. Like I said, it’s certainly more fun if you have friends or family members sat by your side, but no one’s going to walk away overly impressed.

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Even the visuals of Cars 3: Driven to Win will leave you disappointed. There’s a great deal of variety, but most environments are basic in structure, with textures that frequently look last-gen. There are some nice lighting and environmental effects that catch your eye from time to time though, and the vehicles look nice too. Oh, and audiophiles won’t find anything interesting in Cars 3: Driven to Win – its soundtrack is very forgettable and generic.

Overall then, Cars 3: Driven to Win isn’t really a bad game. It can be fairly enjoyable in short bursts, especially in co-op. At the same time, however, it’s not what I’d call a good game either. It’s decidedly average, chock full of content and variety, but let down by being prescriptive, uneven in difficulty and quite frankly, a bit dull. Still, if you’re after a colourful game that will keep one to four fans of Disney’s Cars franchise happy for a while, I dare say it’ll do the job quite nicely. It certainly could have been a lot worse.

Cars 3: Driven to Win is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Switch. We reviewed the Xbox One version.