Welcome to C.H.R.O.M.E.


You have to hand it to Avalanche Software; they know how to get the most out of a license. I was a major fan of Toy Story 3, particularly Toybox Mode, which managed to perfectly capture the fun of playing with toys in an open world game. Although they aren’t revisiting the open world concept with Cars 2: The Video Game, Avalanche once again seems to have the franchise’s core concept figured out.

It would have been incredibly easy to take Cars 2 and build either a crummy platformer or racing title out of the license. That was the story with the previous Cars game. Instead, Cars 2 takes one of the film’s key story points – the spy theme – and builds it into an incredibly fun, fast-paced kart racing title.

The single-player campaign is actually more of a sequel to the movie than a scene-for-scene adaptation. The game features 20 characters from the films, such as Lightning McQueen and Mater, as well as Finn McMissle and Holly Shiftwell, as they train in the command center for the spy agency, C.H.R.O.M.E. (Command Headquarters for Recon Operations and Motorized Espionage).

The single-player campaign wasn't available on the show floor, but Disney’s booth was rocking with four-player matches in two of the game’s multiplayer modes, which is a big focus. Gameplay is more than a little reminiscent of Split/Second based on the sense of speed. The tracks also have the same sense of style, with lots of brightly colored set pieces sticking out, such as airplanes taking off and landing near the track. Races take place all over the world, including Japan and Italy.

Multiplayer matches are split between multiple modes. I was able to play through two of the game’s main match types, Battle Race and an arena match. Battle Race is similar to most kart games; you race around the track and jockey for position while blasting opponents with weapons. The selection of weapons includes missiles, as well as oil slicks and machine guns. Avalanche is having fun with the film’s spy theme, and it shows. Races are designed to appeal to both casual and veteran players. It’s easy to quickly grasp the concept behind the game – win – but Avalanche went a little further by introducing tricks. With the flick of a stick, characters can go up on two wheels or flip around and drive the track in reverse (allowing you to blast enemies behind you).

Arena matches are free-for-all matches where you drive around a small map and attempt to knock your opponent out. It’s simple fun, but also a bit of a challenge if you underestimate your opponent. Cars 2 may look like a kids' game, and though it is certainly accessible, our matches were a bit cutthroat (and a lot of fun).

The game will also include a few other match types, including two co-op games. In one, you’ll team up with a friend and chase down enemy cars on the track, while in the other you’ll take on waves of enemies similar to Horde Mode in Gears of War.

Similar to Toy Story 3, Avalanche is working closely with Pixar in order to make sure Cars 2 lives up to the company’s legacy and make sure everything stays true to the franchise. This includes importing the actual model data from the film into the game. The quality shows too. Characters are bursting with personality.

Cars 2 is aimed directly at family playtime, though like Toy Story 3, there’s something for everyone here. Matches were filled with smiles and laughter, which is a big deal considering stressed, worn-out demeanor E3 brings out in attendees.

Cars 2: The Video Game comes out on June 21 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS and PC.