Cars 3 Driven To Win review: Let Me off This Wild Ride

Game movie tie-ins have had a notoriously rough and repugnant past. There used to be games released with movies all the time when I was younger, and as I was growing up I soon learned that these games weren’t as good as the others I was playing. I will admit that I have played a fair share of movie tie-ins — hell, the first game I ever beat was 102 Dalmatians on the PlayStation 1. And now, every year, we get more tie in games designed to be something that a child can play on the side with their new favorite movie or toys; that’s all good fun. Cars 3: Driven to Win exists for this same reason, because kids get to hang out with their favorite buds from the Cars franchise. Underneath that simple guise, however, is a game that is riddled with so many strange and baffling design choices that I don’t even think a child could enjoy it.

Who is the target demographic for this game? The obvious answer is ‘THE KIDS, ZACH, THE KIDS.” When you make a game based off a children’s IP you’d expect the game to be friendly towards that audience. Cars 3: Driven to Win says, “nu uh!” and decides to be one of the most frustrating games I’ve played this year.

The Cars 3 (dropping the Driven To Win from now on) game has a simple story: you’re Lightning McQueen and you go on a TV Show, where some dude calls you out and says you have to race him. But since you’re an old and beat up Lightning McQueen you have to prove your skills to him by collecting 136 lug nuts. ONE. HUNDRED. AND THIRTY-SIX. LUG. NUTS. To collect these special nuts you have to complete certain feats of skill and strength in the various game modes. There’s an individual race mode, a grand prix, trick mode, ghost race, demolition mode, item mode, team race (local multiplayer) and also master challenges. Within these game types you can crash into an opponent to get a lug nut or jump in the air and do a trick to get a lug nut. It’s all easy at first, but as you progress many of the challenges become quite hard to complete, and the whole system is so convoluted that you know for a FACT a child would not know how to navigate the menus to unlock more modes. Yeah, all the modes in the game are locked at first and you have to keep doing these game types and getting lug nuts over and over to unlock new things to play. Again, if it was another game I would be all in for this type of unlocking gameplay cycle, but here it comes off as tedious.

When you have all of these systems set up in the game, you should WANT to play around with them to unlock upgrades, tracks and aesthetic changes and you should WANT to have fun and mess around with the mechanics while doing so, right? Well, yeah that is right. But Cars 3 does none of that. We’ve already established that this IP is for children, so you would expect the gameplay and the story to be fun and easy for a child to enjoy. Nevertheless, the game is so convoluted and bogged down by its controls and boring race tracks that you could never imagine a child actually having any amount of fun with it.

The tracks are bland, boring and actually really long. On every one there are three types of blue boost pads that build up your a meter. The pads require your car to do something very specific to get this boost such as requiring you to be on two wheels, driving in reverse and drifting. All of these separately are normal fare for a racing game (except the two wheels perhaps) but here the controls make it unbearable. The way you make your car go in reverse, but still fast, is to flick the right stick down. Then to make your car go on two wheels you flick the stick forward. And then we have the drifting mechanic… it’s so bad that the game can’t even do it itself. When you select your type of drive there’s an option to turn automatic drift on. I used it because I could not for the life of me figure out the timing. Well the game couldn’t figure it out either.

The races are built around you gaining boosts by doing crazy stunts, but they make it so hard to pull off that if you fail one boost trick while everyone else is succeeding on theirs you are going to lose every time. The mechanics are unfair and hard to keep track of for me and I’m an adult. I’m good at racing games. I am always finishing in the top three or so even if it’s a game I have never played. In Cars 3 I was between fifth and last every single race. I know there’s a general consensus of “most games journalists are bad at games!” and I implore you that this is not the case with Cars 3. The game itself is bad.

Cars 3 sets out to be a fun romp with familiar Pixar characters for children but ends up being a drag in the dirt. There’s no highway with this game; it’s taking you through the back roads kicking and screaming if you like it or not. The game fails on almost every level except one, the voices. The voice actors used in the game are obviously not the same as in the film but they do a good job working with the material. Lightning McQueen’s voice sounds like Owen Wilson just had root canal surgery, and Tow Mater (bless his heart) is the shining example of what a redneck would sound like if he really was a car doing some wicked sick flips in the air. I found myself dying of laughter at the voice work. It’s worth mentioning that the game glitched out fairly often. For example, sometimes I’d flip my car around to get that epic boost and then flip my car forward again, and the controls would still be in reverse. I even had a few races where right was left and left was right. Sure, the bugs are disappointing but I still had a good laugh at that.

Cars 3: Driven To Win lost its drive somewhere along the lonesome road of development and decided to teeter out around no-mans land. Just trust me on this one: skid to a stop and do a two point turn away from it.

This review was based on retail code sent to SideQuesting by the publisher.

Author: Zach Quest

I’m so boring I sat here and tried to think of a bio for a few minutes. Just follow my twitter: https://twitter.com/okayquest

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  • Eric M Whitehead

    just want to add, my kids LOVED the last cars game.. LOVED it to death..so they were VERY aware of the fact that at least two of the levels they have unlocked so far in this one are the exact same levels from the last game. Very lazy game design that doens’t even make sense since the levels, the airport and london, aren’t even in this movie.