Cars 3: Driven to Win is a car combat racing game available from select retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Cars videogames date back to June 2006 when Cars: The Video Game released on PSP, PS2 and a variety of other home and portable platforms which was a direct tie-in to the first film, continuing the series with Cars: Mater-National Championship in November 2007 on various platforms including PS2 and PS3, followed by Cars: Race-O-Rama on PSP, PS2 and PS3 in October 2009; Cars 2 as a tie-in for the second film on PSP and PS3 in June 2011 all coming before the tie-in to the third film Cars 3: Driven to Win on all home consoles including PS3 and PS4. Avalanche Software originated in 1995 starting out with arcade hockey game 2 On 2 Ice Challenge, followed by Mortal Kombat ports before developing Rampage and Rugrats games, alongside Prince of Persia: Arabian Nights and NCAA College Football in 2002 and 2003. In 2003, Tak and the Power of JuJu started a platforming action adventure trilogy before the development team was bought by Disney in 2005 which resulted in a number of Disney tie-in games including such highlights as Toy Story 3, Cars 2 and the toys-to-life Disney Infinity trilogy. Unfortunately, despite strong sales of their games especially the Disney Infinity trilogy; Avalanche Software was closed by Disney in May 2016 and it looked as though the team would suffer the same fate as Black Rock Studio, although Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment saved the day by purchasing Avalanche Software coupled with publishing rights to videogame adaptations of certain Disney intellectual properties. Despite the short turn-around period of just over a year since being closed by Disney; can Avalanche Software produce the comeback of all comebacks by developing the best Cars videogame adaptation in the form of Cars 3: Driven to Win?
Events mode is initially the only mode available comprising of race and battle race events with each of the previous event types needing to be completed at least once in order to unlock stunt showcase, takedown, best lap challenge and master-level events.
Cup Series is unlocked after completing 10 skill checks; encompassing 16 championships in which you are participating within an 8 car field for three laps per track throughout three races which culminates in the ultimate reward as the cup series winner as well as the second and third place cars for each championship get to celebrate on a glorious podium. Upon earning 60 skill checks; players will unlock the ability to create their own cup series allowing full customisation or alternatively randomising including saving up to five unique cup series to choose from comprising of human only or human and A.I. competitors, anywhere from two to ten competitors and between one to five events in addition to the race, battle race, stunt showcase and takedown modes albeit takedown mode is only available against human opponents, the amount of tracks that have been unlocked during gameplay in other modes, event duration such as one to ten laps in race and battle race or up to five minutes in stunt showcase and takedown and one of 18 weapon sets or all weapons for battle race or one of seven weapon sets or basic takedown weapons for takedown events.
Thomasville Playground is unlocked after completing 37 skill checks; providing an extensive training facility including a variety of timed challenges such as getting enough air to pop 60 balloons scattered throughout the environment, gathering wrecking balls to throw at targets, collecting weapons to shoot as many targets as possible, driving through as many oil cans as possible and much more besides, alongside collectibles in the form of Mack’s 10 lost hats that mostly require perfectly timed jumps combined with turbo or in the zone to be able to reach them.
Multi-car events have a 10 car field in events mode instead of the 8 car field found in cup series mode. Event types include races in which every car competes to cross the line first in 3 lap races, while battle races add weapons to the mix; stunt showcase tasks players to accumulate as many points as possible by successfully landing air tricks within the time limit of 3 minutes and get enough air from stunt ramps to pop balloons for bonus points; and takedown sees players earning points by destroying as many crash karts as possible. Best lap challenge provides 10 laps with the aim of continuously pushing the boundaries to set new lap records, while master-level events challenges players to take on well known characters such as Miss Fritter in a battle race, Mater the Greater in a stunt showcase, Chick Hicks in a takedown and Jackson Storm in a race.
There are 23 cars in total, although at first Lightning McQueen, Cruz Ramirez, Tow Mater, Sally, Ramone, Guido and Fabulous Lightning McQueen are the only cars available, albeit with unlock conditions clearly stated for the remaining 16 cars. Every car has its own unique persona inspired by the Cars films such as Lightning McQueen exclaiming that “Lightning is about to strike”, while expressing in true Cars style as the windscreen contains two eyes and the front grill is the mouth of the car which moves as the cars are talking to each other, smiling or looking determined to win the upcoming race. Every car can be modified via a variety of unlockable horns, light effects and turbo colours, alongside the ability to auto-drift or manually drift; however there are no clearly defined attributes to portray any varying performance for each car and it would have been even better if players could have customised their chosen car’s paint job.
Track design is varied as there are 21 tracks full of shortcuts, while some tracks even require avoiding action to be taken from moving obstacles such as trains and trucks in addition to water hazards that cars must jump over. Out of the 21 tracks; the majority are new tracks such as Fireball Beach Sprint, Heartland Countryside Dash, Arizona Sundown Run, Midnight Run, Thunder Hollow Back Country Rally and Destruction Derby, Radiator Springs and more besides, although there are some returning tracks from Cars 2 including Airport Runway Rally, London’s Buckingham Sprint, Italy’s Grand Tour and Go Go Tokyo. It would have been good to see further track variation through forward track layouts also being accompanied by forward mirrored, reverse and reverse mirrored track layouts. Weather conditions are hinted at with snow as well as stormy clouds and thunder in the distance on specific tracks, but there are no definitive customisable weather conditions for every track such as dynamic weather going from dry to wet or rain to dry with a wet track gradually drying out, rain, heavy rain, snow and storms, although they are features that could perhaps be introduced in a future Cars game.
There is a greater sense of speed when turbo boosting in comparison to normal acceleration and in the zone is effectively four times the length of consistent turbo boosting. However, in order to turbo boost or be in the zone; players must fill turbo meter units singularly or all four units respectively by drifting, driving on two wheels, driving backwards, aerial tricks, drafting cars directly ahead, hitting enemies with weaponry or side bashing cars, although drifting, driving on two wheels and driving backwards accurately through a blue speed strip offers a bonus towards filling a turbo meter unit, alongside collecting turbo boost cans. Meanwhile, handling is always consistent as your car does not randomly become undriveable during turbo boosts or being in the zone; therefore allowing players to attack the track for the fastest lap times.
Power-ups and weaponry offer a range of different purposes including the nullifier that removes every opponent’s weapon or power-up throughout the entire field of cars, while oil slicks can be spilled to send opponents spinning out, a turbo syphon which transfers turbo energy from an opponent directly to your car and booster jets provide a serious increase in speed. In contrast; rapid fire temporarily adds a chaingun on either side of your car, a variety of rockets such as manually aimed rockets, lock on tracking rockets, triple rockets for triple the destruction against opposing cars and first strike rockets automatically locks on to the leader of the event and anyone else that gets in the way, alongside high voltage which emits an electrical field that will send nearby cars spinning out, spike strips inflict damage to tires causing temporarily blown out tires and a loss of speed and many more weapons. Weapons can be fired backwards as well as forwards resulting in weaponry being just as important for the leader to be able to extend their lead at the front as it is for the car in last place to attempt gradual progression through the field in battle races. However, there are further elements to car combat generally; even when not participating in a battle race or takedown event such as side bashing into other cars to knock them off their preferred racing line and making contact with any number of cars when having engaged a full in the zone boost results in those cars being momentarily taken out of the event and being reset to the track without any immediate speed, alongside certain areas of some tracks containing objects which can be towed behind your car and fired as a projectile at an opposing car.
Positive performances are rewarded with a skill check which advances your progression through the Hall of Fame; resulting in new characters, modes, master-level events and car effects being unlocked. There are a total of 136 skill checks to earn including completing an event within each event type, earning first and second in a multiplayer race or battle race event, side bashing 200 opponents, successfully landing a double front or back flip air trick combo and much more besides.
There is only one camera angle from a third-person perspective positioned a reasonable distance behind the car. However, it would have been better if there were a variety of camera angles such as a camera mounted to the bonnet of the car, a viewpoint from the front of the car looking ahead without showing any of the car, further camera angles attached to the tyres and bodywork, alongside a top-down perspective reminiscent of Micro Machines and MotorStorm RC, while there are unfortunately no post-event replays.
It is disappointing to not see a Vita release for Cars 3: Driven to Win, especially given the amount of Cars games that released on PSP including Cars: The Video Game, Cars: Race-O-Rama and Cars 2. However, as a consolation; there are optimised controls including acceleration and braking re-mapped to R and L respectively, while looking behind your car is moved to tapping the top right of the touch screen and towing an object is mapped to the top left of the touch screen resulting in a comfortable remote play experience. Cars 3: Driven to Win’s remote play performance is excellent as it retains the graphical qualities, audio and general performance from the PS4 version. Unfortunately, split-screen multiplayer remains split-screen on Vita which would have displayed better with the Vita having a full screen for that particular player, while the second, third and fourth players could have shared the television.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of holding R2 to accelerate; pressing L2 to brake; pressing L1 to tow an object; holding R1 to look behind your car; pressing square to engage turbo boost when at least one of the turbo boost meter units is full; double tapping square to be in the zone when all four units of the turbo meter are full; pressing triangle to fire weapons or towed objects at opponents or alternatively pressing triangle when no weapon is equipped to beep your car’s horn; pressing downwards on the left analogue stick to enable your car’s weapon to be fired backwards at a car behind you; holding O and changing the direction of the left analogue stick to drift; pressing X to jump; pressing upwards on the right analogue stick to drive on two wheels; moving the right analogue stick to the left or right to side bash a car in that respective direction; pressing downwards on the right analogue stick to drive backwards; combining different directions on the right analogue stick to perform a variety of air tricks; changing the direction on the left analogue stick to steer your car; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Vibration occurs when venturing off the racing line into a muddy surface or bushy grass. However, there is no touch pad implementation which could have been an alternative method of driving on two wheels, driving backwards or performing aerial tricks and no light bar which could have produced a lighter shade of blue when accurately drifting, driving on two wheels or driving backwards through a blue speed strip, flashing red during a crash, green when leading and a multitude of colours to reflect the fireworks and confetti display when winning a race.
Graphically, Cars 3: Driven to Win is better than the impressive Cars 2 with pre-race track guides showing the sites and sounds of key areas from the upcoming track, while sun, clouds and water washing up ashore on the beach on Fireball Beach Sprint and three planes flying overhead producing contrails in the process at the start of Arizona’s Copper Canyon Speedway are excellent graphical touches that excel environmental details. It does not stop there though as there are amazing turbo and in the zone effects, incredible weapon effects and explosions, spectacular fireworks and confetti displays for the race winner and series winner, sparks flying when a car side bashes into another car, while trackside details such as a variety of cars watching the event in grandstands or just off-track as they cheer on their favourites. Mud gathers on the car and water splashes onto the camera when driving through a muddy or watery surface respectively, oil positioned on the track by an opposing car obscures a significant quantity of your vision through the camera and covers the car momentarily. Despite the quantity of graphical flare and effects shown off simultaneously; performance maintains a consistent frame-rate without any frame-rate drops or screen tearing.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, events menus, cup series menus, sponsored team play menus, Thomasville playground menus, multiplayer menus, hall of fame menu, car selection menus, extras menu and various gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. The background of the menu screens include Guido and his friends playfully running around in front of the RSN cameras as a posing Chick Hicks sits next to the Piston Cup trophy.
Pre-race build-up and post-race commentary comes courtesy of a former competitor to Lightning McQueen who has now re-invented himself as a commentator for Racing Sports Network (RSN) named Chick Hicks, while Natalie Certain provides post-race statistical analysis. Voice-over artists have captured the mannerisms and tones of their big screen counterparts, while every car reacts to what happens during events such as if they feel they have been unfairly side bashed. Sound effects include grunting engines during acceleration, increased acceleration when turbo boosting or being in the zone, screeching tyres when drifting through corners, crashing, side bashing into other cars, weapons being fired resulting in explosions after hitting opponents’ cars and when opponents hit your car, alongside rock riff laden music that accentuates the feeling of racing and being victorious. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation which would have been best suited to producing the voices from the cars as they react to what is happening during events.
The trophy list includes 22 trophies with 14 silver trophies, 7 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the trophies which may seem more difficult to accomplish than they are albeit when attempting to earn the trophies in best lap challenge such as the Reverse Racer silver trophy for driving backwards for a total of 15 minutes; the Livin’ in the Zone silver trophy for going in the zone 30 times in total; the Give Me A Boost silver trophy for using 15 turbo boosts in a single event; the 2-Wheel Champ silver trophy for driving on two wheels for a total of 15 minutes; and the Zoned Out silver trophy for going in the zone 4 times in a single event. Harder trophies include the Master of Trickery gold trophy for performing 70 air tricks in a single stunt showcase event; the Hall of Famer gold trophy for completing all skill checks; the Mack’s Hat gold trophy for perfecting every jump and technique required to collect Mack’s 10 hats situated throughout the Thomasville Playground training facility; and the Stars All Around gold trophy for earning a star in every event. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 15 to 20 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are three difficulty levels including easy, medium and hard with the major differences between each difficulty seeing A.I. controlled opponents utilising shortcuts, driving accurately through blue speed strips, collecting far more turbo boost cans and performing more aerial tricks in order to reduce their lap times and increase their pace. Therefore, medium and hard difficulty levels require players to know the tracks enough to be able to compete with the A.I. competitors’ knowledge of the tracks which can otherwise produce a considerable margin in their favour.
Local multiplayer is as much a standout in Cars 3: Driven to Win as it has been since Cars: The Video Game on PS2 with an incredibly impressive feat of 2 to 4 players able to participate in every single player mode without any frame-rate drops in comparison to single player even when competing against a full grid of A.I. controlled cars. Every event type including race, battle race, stunt showcase, takedown, best lap challenge and even master-level events are all playable in split-screen as individual events or within any of the 16 official championship series and customised championships. Sponsored Team Play is a mode specifically available in local multiplayer which is unlocked after completing 24 skill checks; comprising of 1 vs. 1 competitive gameplay when selecting opposing teams and 2 vs. 2 co-operative gameplay when joining the same team from the available four teams for selection with the opposing team consisting of two A.I. or human opponents. Thomasville Playground provides a Free for All deathmatch modes that is exclusive to split-screen competitive multiplayer in addition to all 18 challenges. There are no online multiplayer modes and no online leaderboards for fastest lap times in races, battle races and best lap challenge events or highest points scoring for stunt showcase and takedown events, although if you have up to three friends or family members situated locally, then Cars 3: Driven to Win is technically one of the most content filled local multiplayer racing games you will ever have the pleasure of playing.
Replayability stems from numerous modes that feel fresh when comparing them to each other, three difficulty levels providing a noticeably varying challenge, car and track design inspired by the Cars films, Thomasville Playground offering 18 challenges, alongside extensive local competitive multiplayer for 2 to 4 players throughout every event and mode with deathmatch modes available in Thomasville Playground and local co-operative multiplayer in Sponsored Team Play mode which is also playable competitively.
• Title: Cars 3: Driven to Win
• Developer: Avalanche Software
• Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
• System: PS4
• Format: Limited Retail Release/PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1-4 (Local Competitive and Co-operative Multiplayer)
• Hard Drive Space Required: 7.25GB