You would be forgiven for expecting little from a branded game based on a movie.
For many years publishers have been jumping on the big name brands to bring us underwhelming video games. But Warner Brothers and Avalanche are aiming much higher than 'just another movie game'.
Cars 3 doesn't aim to replicate the movie (we've seen far too many games restricted by a script of a film) but instead the game 'Driven to Win' continues directly from the final big race in the film.
After a short introduction, you take control of Lightning McQueen or a host of well-known and new faces from the Cars franchise. There are only limited customisation options such as your horn, light effects and turbo colour but each give a little more depth to your favourite racers.
The main game remains loosely directed without a restricted story. Instead you're given the opportunity to choose your game mode and track as you aim to complete as many of the 136 skill-checks as possible, striving to reach the hall of fame.
These skill-checks provide the back-bone of the game, giving you the freedom to explore each of the different game modes, tracks and characters knowing that you'll still be working towards a large selection of checks and unlockable rewards.
There are plenty of options when choosing your game mode, with only a handful of races required to unlock a variety of modes across standard and cup, or team-play if you're playing split-screen for up to four players.
The standard events consist of racing, battle race, stunt showcase, takedown events and best-lap challenges as well as master-level events. These are unlocked once you've completed at least one of each of the previous challenges.
Standard races are simple lap-based challenges, with battles adding in weapons. Stunt showcase challenges you to grab as much boost and air time as possible, so you can hit the right stick to spin and rotate in the air for trick points. There's also driving backwards, plus drifting and riding on two wheels which help top up your boost across all modes which add a little more excitement especially on the standard races.
My favourite mode, Takedown, feels similar to the old Burnout mode.
The core gameplay always remains very similar, with car handling easy to control. With more than 20 tracks scattered across 13 well-made locations there is plenty to explore across all modes. Most hide away a wide variety of shortcuts which range from blatantly obvious to rewarding finds hidden behind scenery.
The game is a bit of a surprise bundle. It's obviously geared towards younger players, and there's a very welcoming pick-up and play nature, without requiring too much concentration on a single discipline. It's accessible enough for the whole family to enjoy together thanks to simple controls, some challenging rubber banding and the four-player split-screen.
The Skill-checks give plenty of reason to explore. While you'll need to check out all areas of the game to work through all of them, you'll regularly keep obtaining them through gameplay with rewards of new characters and tracks.
Graphically, there's the expected bright, colourful details with the characters and locations well represented. While the customisation isn't anywhere near what it could be, everything's visually recognisable during a race without being too distracting. With a wide selection of short-cuts across the tracks, it's nice to see that some are well hidden and will reward the more adventurous drivers without the need for giant 'shortcut' signs.
The overall presentation is great, and certainly does the franchise justice. Character voices are spot on, with regular banter between the racers. Professional race overview speeches after the event are all accompanied by music that feels like it's been pulled directly from the franchise.
More experienced gamers won't find much depth and will encounter a little too much repetition with Cars 3: Driven to Win. But this isn't a Forza competitor. Cars 3 is made for younger gamers and there's a great little bundle that our own little bundles will enjoy playing.
Grab a few extra controllers and spend some family time with Cars 3, and you'll find it's more than enough fun for everyone to enjoy.
Cars 3: Driven to Win is a surprising package which comes highly recommended as a children's game. While also suitable as a family game, it's not going to appeal to older or more experienced gamers.