Review: Cars (PSP)

Monday, June 26, 2006

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Good: Solid racing gameplay, graphics, voice acting

Bad: Over-reliance on shortcuts, almost too simple

Still Talentless: Larry the Cable Guy (even in voice-over form)

After reviewing Cars on four different systems, I'm burnt out on the license before I've even seen the film. The kinda-creepy talking cars surprisingly make their best appearance on the PSP with this title. The console version was an open-ended adventure, the DS version was a smattering of minigames, but this one is a straight-up arcade racer (and it's better for it).

The two primary modes are Story and Grand Prix. Story takes you through a linear set of races, complete with cutscenes and "boss races." Many of these races can be frustratingly hard, as the game seems to have an over-reliance on shortcuts. On some of them, it's nearly impossible to get first place if you just stay the course, regardless of how well you drive. Thankfully, the shortcuts aren't terribly hard to find, and it shows you the locations prior to the start of the race.

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Controls are basic, but they get the job done. You can boost, accelerate, jump and powerslide, but that's about the extent of it. It's more Mario Kart than Gran Turismo, albeit without any form of powerups. It actually does a decent job at creating a sense of speed (something the console versions completely lacked). Some races have in-course objectives, such as hitting a target to summon a firetruck.

Grand Prix takes gamers through a series of races, and you receive points based on your finish. I actually preferred this mode, considering you don't have to finish in first to advance. The game also features an ad hoc versus mode for multiplayer action.

Graphically, the game actually looks very good on the PSP. The cars are expressive and the environments are decently designed and presented. All of the versions of the game feature some great voice acting from the all-star cast, and this one is no different. While the cutscenes aren't that crucial to the gameplay, they do an alright job of moving the "story" along.

While the racing gameplay is passable, it's still not necessarily a purchase-worthy game. There are multiple unlockable cars and a decent amount of courses, but it gets repetitive fairly quickly. Unless you're a huge fan of the film or are starved for another PSP racer, this would make for a semi-entertaining rental for a bit.

Graphics: 8.0

Sound: 7.5

First Play: 7.5

Replay Value: 6.0

Gameplay: 7.0

Overall: 7.2