Disney Pixar will be unleashing Cars 2: The Video Game in the summer to tie in the with the film sequel's release at the cinema and we were invited along to Disney HQ for a sneak preview.
Movie spin-off games have a tendency to be a bit disappointing, but making a driving game from the Cars series is a no-brainer and works extremely well.
The game will be available on Xbox 360, Wii and DS and what's more - there'll be a 3D version that's exclusive to the PS3. The game has a multiplayer option so it's ideal for families to pit their driving skills against each other (let's face it, otherwise the kids would never actually get a turn with dads having the tendency to hog the controller). Up to four players can join in at the same time.
Set after the events of the film, the Cars 2 game features an international training centre where the cars are schooled to become world-class spies. Known as CHROME (Command Headquarters for the Recon Operations and Motorized Espionage), the training facility has a variety of different clearance levels that you need to pass through to become a master spy. You can choose to play as old favourties like Lightning McQueen and Mater or as one of the brand new characters from the upcoming film like Finn McMissile and Holley Shiftwell.
There's plenty of variety - you can either just use the traditional campaign mode for straightforward racing, or choose various other modes including 'battle race', which incorporates spy gadgets like missiles and machine guns that you can use on the other characters while you're racing. As you move through different levels, you earn spy points which can be used to unlock new levels as well as new tracks and cars.
There are also two spy mission modes that take place on the tracks - the first is 'attack mode' which involves chasing and attacking enemy cars until the time runs out. This is a great way of getting used to all the different gadgets and what they do. Second, there's the 'survival mode' that teaches you how to navigate the tracks. The aim is to follow the route of the pace car, while picking up the batteries that it drops. These boost your forcefield so that you can survive for longer.
There are also three modes that are set in arenas, rather than on tracks - 'arena' which is a head-to-head battle mode, 'disruptor', which is a 'capture the flag' style game and 'hunter' where you try to take out as many enemy cars as possible. There's also an option to create your own race, customising options such as the track, the number of laps and the type of spy gadgets available.
We were given a run-through of the game by its senior producer, Jon Warner, who told us that: "We worked really closely with Pixar on the animation and the script so that it would live up to the experience of the films, and add an extra dimension when it comes to gameplay and flexibility."
The first thing we noticed when we stepped up to try our hand at the Xbox version was how cool the graphics were. You can choose from a number of cartoonish racetracks that are set in cities around the world. We opted for the London track, which saw Lightning McQueen zooming along the banks of the Thames (and into it, by mistake). The visuals look great, so fans of the film are unlikely to be disappointed.
As you'd expect, the right-hand trigger button is used for acceleration while the left-hand stick is used for steering. Other controls include Jump (A), Turbo (X), Shoot gadget (Y), Drift (B). What's more, the right-hand stick offers some nifty extras - for example, you can use it to bash other cars out of the way or to do somersaults when you're in the air. It's all pretty easy to pick up so that it's easy enough for the nippers to learn, while also giving the adults a decent game to play as well.
If you're used to racing games and you want more challenges, as well as something that's kid-friendly, then Cars 2 has plenty to offer.
Cars 2: The Video game will launch in June 2011 in the US and July in Europe, at the same time that the film is released in cinemas.