Cars Race-O-Rama Review for Nintendo Wii by Wrecker & Predat0r
‘Cars 2’ the movie isn’t due out until 2011, however that didn’t stop THQ from keeping the ‘Cars’ franchise fresh in gamers consciousness with the release of Cars Race-O-Rama. The cynics out there may claim this to be just a money making exercise (and you’re probably right), but you try telling that to the myriad of kids that just adore Lightning McQueen and his crew. Get ready for some racing in the third ‘Cars’ incarnation on the Wii.
Cars Race-O-Rama is obviously aimed at youngsters and as such most aspects of this title are kept relatively simple. Your objective, as Lightning McQueen, is to win the Race-O-Rama trophy via various racing events, and the back story is that you are assisting some ‘rookie’ Cars into the ‘big time’ league at Radiator Springs. The problem is, Chick Hicks and his rookies are also doing the same thing: and they don’t always play by the rules
Players are free to drive around and explore the track and surrounding area to access the various events via the coloured icons – white not complete, yellow star gold events, green completed and so on. It does have an open world ‘sand box’ element to it (complete with the all-to-familiar GTA style map), but in saying that it is on a rather small scale and quite restricted.
The game has a story mode, as well as an arcade mode featuring standard circuit races, relay races where you nudge cars each lap to swap over, Guido kart (a Mario-kart clone) as well as other mini games. Events range from straight out races to timed runs around basic obstacle courses and drifting events. Although they add variety to play, all events are all fairly similar, generic and quite easy to complete(for adults). During races collecting ‘sparkplugs’ will unlock kit pieces to customise your cars and there are also characters and events to unlock. As well as the familiar stadiums there are also some new environments, which while not all that inspiring, mixes things up. They include the beach setting of Santa Carburera, the streets of Motoroplis City, and the desert of ‘Autovia’.
Not only do you participate with Lightning McQueen but in certain scenarios you will race as some of his buddies. The game does feature a good selection of charcacters including some newbies such as Stinger(stockcar), Candace(small sports car) and El Machismo (pickup/4x4). Completing the races in a particular area will allow access to the next.
Cars Race-O-Rama features three control styles; the Wii Remote held side-on, the Remote/Nunchuk combination or the wheel (which comes bundled with the game). The driving in the game tends to feel a little wooden, no matter which controls are used. Tilting the remote to steer is implemented quite well, but the nun-chuk controls are a touch better and feel more natural (although having the A button as brake/reverse doesn’t really feel right). Finally with the wheel, it’s probably best left for youngsters, as it’s a tad easier and just that bit more fun. Buttons are assigned for gas, brake, turbo and drift, and a quick flick of the Wii remote will jump. There is also some minimal shaking of the Wii remote whilst performing jumps or tricks which are displayed on screen prompts and as a novelty, you can also flip the car around and drive backwards.
As far as the races in Cars Race-O-Rama go, the AI is a bit ordinary and if you fall behind other cars seem to wait for you to catch up making winning rather easy. You’ll gain and lose positions in some unrealistic places, mostly after hitting the barriers and during one of the mini-games – ‘Sheriffs Chase’ - the AI of the cars is downright terrible with them hitting an object and stopping dead, allowing you to just stop beside them to capture them. Car physics aren't great with car movements being rather wooden and lacking of a sense of speed. As a whole, the racing just feels artificial and as a whole lacks any real atmosphere.
While all of the cars and tracks are well represented, the graphics in Cars Race-O-Rama can’t even begin to be compared to Pixar’s movie counterpart. The range of cars have reasonable animations and although it is nice to be able to drive around the levels (such as Radiator Springs) they are quite dull and watered down in comparison to what we see in movie. The games intro and first cut scene are stuttery and pixilated and unfortunately turn out to be a common trait of this game with the poor frame rate, blocky graphics and flickering distracting and detract from the general game play. The effects are often very poor such as the dust particles and reflections on the cars and while there is a decent attempt at lighting and sunglare, the sun often shines through the mountains and produces un-natural shadows. Draw distance is also another black mark with trees in the forest levels popping into view only a few car lengths ahead.
There are still some good features such as the blur effect when hitting turbo and some nice slow-mo’s when performing jumps (complete with Lightning’s Michael Jordan impression) as well as Lightning McQueen’s eyes moving with each turn. It is good to finally be able to do some ‘donuts’ with McQueen as well (although they seem to be more on the octagon shape rather than ‘circle work’). But this doesn’t really balance out the other issues such as basic animation errors like Lightning lifting his wheel and it not being attached to the car or cut scenes which have some Cars ‘floating’ with their shadows randomly disappearing. One ominous mention is the shadows of the cars in the race mysteriously being projected high onto canyon walls and on the roof of tunnels and ledges during races.
Cars Race-O-Rama has decent voice acting but while featuring authentic character voices, they are a little disjointed, most likely because the actors recorded them in another studio. During racing the voices can be a bit too prevalent and repetitious, overpowering the other noises which are faded in and out. The cars engines also sound flat and tend to sound much better during the cut-scenes. The soundtrack is quite good, consisting of some ‘Mater style’ steel guitar and country music, and while sometimes lacking in variety is quite unobtrusive.
It would be remiss of the developers to not include multiplayer in such a title and in Cars Race-O-Rama the split-screen Arcade Mode does features this, but annoyingly only allows two players where most other racing games cater for four. Although the omission of four player is most likely a conscious decision as even in the two player mode, the frame rate is even worse and is missing the turbo blur effect as well at the drift assist icons.
The Final Verdict Cars Race-O-Rama is a rather disappointing offering. There is little flow to the game and although it does contain some variation in events and a good line-up of characters there are just too many negatives which really hold this game back. There are poor loading times in all areas, many graphical faults, fairly average sound and the rather dull racing. Pixar’s world of Cars is such an amazing place and has so much potential for a good game, but the fact that these titles will make money regardless, often leads to sloppy development and corner cutting which are more than evident in this game. Cars Race-Rama contains just enough to keep only young fans of the movie happy, but the standards that the movie has set have certainly not been reached here.
Nice Cars line-up, decent settings but gameplay is repetitive and rather dull.
The general look of the characters and environments are decent but to many technical glitches overshadow this.
Ok voice acting, ok music and effects
Comes bundled with a Cars wheel, contains some unlockable in new characters, pictures and events. A lot of car customisation and some depth in story mode but only two player multiplay.