E3 06: Cars Preshow First Look

We check out THQ's game based on the upcoming Disney and Pixar CG extravaganza

THQ recently had journalists down to Pixar to check out a work-in-progress version of its upcoming game based on Cars, the latest opus from the Emeryville, California-based movie maker. The game is being developed by Arizona-based Rainbow Studios--best known for its work on racers such as Splashdown and the ATV series--who began development on the game in 2003. We had the chance to get an overview of the title from Rainbow and Pixar reps, and to try out a work-in-progress version of the game.

If you haven't followed the film, we'll bring you up to speed now (pun intended). Cars is about the misadventures of Lightning McQueen, an up-and-coming racing star who winds up in the sleepy town of Radiator Springs. Cars the game is set shortly after the film, though it includes plenty of movie references and moments.

The game will use an open-world, mission-based structure that will let you roam around Radiator Springs and its surrounding locales--some of which weren't shown in the film and created especially for the game--interacting with characters and taking on missions. Everything will be tied together by a story that should play out over the course of 10-plus hours. The story will find Lightning coming back to Radiator Springs and interacting with old and new faces as he tries to snag top honors in the Piston Cup. Rainbow has collaborated with Pixar to create 14 new characters from content that didn't make it into the film. The two companies also collaborated in expanding Radiator Springs from its cinematic counterpart, as well as the surrounding areas. All told, you'll find 30 races and minigames spread out through the game's story, arcade, and multiplayer modes.

In terms of control, the vehicles in Cars will handle like, well, cars, with a few anthropomorphic perks. Besides the standard acceleration, braking, boosting, and powersliding, you'll be able to jump and shift up on one tire, which comes in handy during the NASCAR-style piston races. As you progress through the game you'll be able to power up your vehicle. Though Lightning McQueen is obviously the star of the game, several other playable characters will be unlocked as you play. After the characters are unlocked, you'll be able to take them into the different modes. The visuals in the game are shaping up nicely and offer a fair approximation of the movie's amazing CG. The environments we saw were nicely done and stayed true to their cinematic counterparts. The only hitch to the game's graphics is that the third- and first-person perspectives don't let you see the emotive faces on Lighting and the gang--a shame, considering they're in there.

The audio is coming together very well, thanks to Rainbow's collaboration with Pixar. Just about everything you hear in the game will be true to the film's audio, including the voice cast, who has lent voices to the video game counterparts.

Based on what we played, Cars is looking like a solid complement to the film. The gameplay is accessible and offers some nice variations to the racing mechanic. The visuals stay true to the film's CG and move along at a good clip. Odds are that fans of the film will want to check out Cars when it hits this June. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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