Cars 3: Driven to Win Review

By Dave Horobin, 4 months ago
Movie tie-ins are generally regarded as the runt of the gaming litter. Quite often they are soulless and poorly designed games that look and feel like the rushed to market cash cows that they are, aimed at the fans of the film rather than people who enjoy games. Thankfully, Cars 3: Driven to Win is different. It’s a decent yet very simplistic kart racer.

Cars 3: Driven to WinCars 3: Driven to Win

The biggest compliment to give to Cars 3: Driven to Win is that it doesn’t really feel like a movie tie-in. Aside from a very brief introduction where you learn that Lightning McQueen and other characters from the films are taking part in a series of races for Chick Hicks’ TV show, Chick’s Picks, there’s no narrative to the game. The cast of characters and locations from the films are secondary to the racing, which sees you go from one event to the next with very little in-between. If anything, the use of the Cars license is underutilised to the point that reskinning the game with generic characters and tracks wouldn’t adversely affect what’s on offer and would probably have made for a more realistically priced title.

If you are a fan of the films, visually Cars 3 does a good job of being authentic to the franchise, especially for younger players who can overlook the occasional dip in framerate and the overall poor textures. Players can choose between more than 20 of their favourite characters and events take place in over 20 tracks across 13 different environments, such as Radiator Springs, although not all of them are available from the start and will need to be unlocked through the game's skill based progression system. Unfortunately, the game’s sound doesn’t fair as well. Voice actors are different to the ones from the movie and the limited number of character interactions will quickly become repetitive to the point that they become annoying.

The game is visually appealing to fans of the Cars franchise, but the voice acting quickly becomes annoyingThe game is visually appealing to fans of the Cars franchise, but the voice acting quickly becomes annoying

The best part of Cars 3 is the actual racing. As a kart racer, the game doesn’t do anything to reinvent the genre and is certainly lacking in some areas and depth, but what is there is quite fun. Races are a mix of five different event types that are spread between single events and cup competitions. The staple standard races and best lap challenges are straightforward, whereas stunt showcases put the emphasis on doing tricks using the right stick to build up the highest score, but the most fun modes are the takedown and battle races. If you’ve played any kart racer you’ll instantly be familiar with the premise of picking up randomised items on the track that can be used as weapons to hinder your opponent’s progress. The difference between the two modes is that in battle races you’ll be competing to cross the finish line first, whereas in takedown you’re tasked with destroying waves of generic AI controlled cars within a set time.

Outside of the events, there is also a large playground filled with ramps and jumps where players can practice stunts, take part in challenges and seek out a small number of collectable items. The various tracks on which the different events take place are all well designed with hidden shortcuts to discover, jumps, wide corners for drifting and hazards that need to be avoided. There’s a nice variety between each of the settings, which are all inspired by locations from the film. Switching between day and night also helps to mix things up nicely and it will be more than likely that you'll grow tired of the gameplay long before the tracks become repetitive.

The various tracks that the different events take place on are all well designed with hidden shortcuts to discover, jumps, wide corners for drifting and hazards that need to be avoidedThe various tracks that the different events take place on are all well designed with hidden shortcuts to discover, jumps, wide corners for drifting and hazards that need to be avoided

The pick-up and play nature of the game and the basic mechanics will make Cars 3 accessible for young children and allow gamers of all skill levels to get straight into the action; the range of customisable difficulties will make it as easy or challenging as you wish. On the easiest difficulty, players can concentrate on steering and even enable auto-drift, whereas ramping the difficulty up will challenge you to learn the tracks and be a bit smarter with the use of speed boosts. During each race, players can build up speed boosts by drifting, performing aerobatic moves over jumps, and completing stunts where you switch to driving in reverse or on two wheels. On harder difficulties, learning when to perform the actions, and if you should use shorter boosts frequently or save them for longer to go “In the Zone”, can make the difference between finishing first or not.

There are no stats on the various cars to offer anything other than a cosmetic difference and no upgrades to purchase with in-game currency. The only progression to keep players coming back for more is attempting to earn three stars in each of the events and “skill checks” that will allow you to unlock new vehicles and events. The “Skill Checks” act as a huge checklist of 136 items that reward you for completing various feats in the game. Many of them are simple and will be earned naturally as you play. However, some will require you to look for specific opportunities and alter the way you play. It’s a nice aspect for they act like an achievement list within the game. The only real downside is that some of them don’t really make it clear what you need to do, so some practice will be required.

The pick-up and play nature of the game and the basic mechanics will make Cars 3 accessible for young children and gamers of all skill levelsThe pick-up and play nature of the game and the basic mechanics will make Cars 3 accessible for young children and gamers of all skill levels

In addition to the single-player events, players can also play multiplayer locally in four player split-screen. The multiplayer is basically the same list of events as the single-player content and everything you have already unlocked is available. The only real difference is that at the end of each race you will earn points against your fellow competitors to find a session winner.

Cars 3: Driven to Win’s achievement list is relatively straightforward and can be unlocked using any difficulty in approximately 20 hours. The only potential stumbling block is that some of the Skill Check items will require a second controller for local co-op.

Summary

Cars 3: Driven to Win is a competent kart racer that is accessible to players of all skill levels. There’s plenty of content on offer and the pleasant art style, cast of characters and location will keep fans of the films entertained for quite a few hours. It doesn’t do anything new to reinvent the genre and is lacking in a number of areas, but what is there is decent and that’s more than can be said for a lot of movie tie-ins. As a full priced title Cars 3: Driven to Win is hard to recommend to anyone except the biggest fans of the franchise, but for anyone else looking for a new kart racer to sink their teeth into, it might be worthy of your time once it hits a more realistic price point.
3 / 5
Positives
  • Fun and accessible kart racing
  • Good amount and variety of content
  • Local co-op
Negatives
  • Not a great deal of depth
  • Limited voice interaction that quickly wears thin
  • No online multiplayer
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent approximately 10 hours racing in single-player events and local multiplayer races, unlocking 14 of the game's 21 achievements. An Xbox One copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Dave Horobin
Written by Dave Horobin
Dave is the TrueAchievements Social Manager and has been a Newshound since 2010. When he's not chasing developers and publishers for early review copies, he can usually be found on the TrueAchievements social pages discussing all things TA related.