Dad gum, we're not in Radiator Springs anymore!!
From the game's main menu you have six options to choose from, the first of which is called "C.H.R.O.M.E. Missions". This is the meat and potatoes mode of Cars 2, the story mode as it were. The premise behind it is that Finn McMissile and Holley Shiftwell are first going to train you as a secret agent, and then afterwards put you out in the field to combat the efforts of Dr. Z and his minion of Lemons. In total there are seven chapters of missions to play in this mode. The first chapter is called "New Agent Training" and it includes six different training exercises that Finn and Holley will guide you through, getting you used to the game's controls and main themes. The next six chapters are called "Clearance Levels 1-6" and each feature six real missions you must undertake, to strike at the heart of Dr. Z's scheming. At the end of each chapter is a seventh mission called the Squad Series, which is basically just a challenge for you to beat all of the chapter's six missions in a row without failing any one of them.
Each of these story missions will have a set of target achievements attached to them, such as where you finish in a race, or how many enemies you destroy. Depending on how well you do on achieving these targets you will be awarded a bronze, silver or gold medal (or a did not finish if you sucked!). Attached to these medals is a certain amount of Spy Points. Spy Points are what you need to collect in order to unlock the future mission chapters in this mode, as at first only the New Agent Training chapter is available. Once you choose a mission in this mode you will be taken to a screen that displays an overview of said mission, including what type of mission it is. The requirements for the bronze, silver and gold medals are also displayed here, as well as the amount of Spy Points attached to them. Once you advance past this screen you then select which character you want to compete with (a display of each character's speed/power ratio will be displayed when you highlight them), at first there are only 10 available but more can be unlocked via your successes in the game. Once you play all of the missions in this mode and achieve at least a bronze medal on each, you've won the game and foiled that consarned Dr. Z once and for all!
The second option from the main menu is called "Free Play" and is where you can compete in all of the various event types that make up the missions in the story mode I just discussed, only in a one off type of manner. The modes this game features includes "Race" (a simple 3 lap race against seven opponents), "Battle Race" (same as Race mode but weapon pickups are available throughout), "Attack" (you must chase down and destroy as many enemies as possible, with each kill more time is added to the clock that is counting down, once time runs out your game is over), "Survival" (you try to complete a 3 lap race while Dr. Z chases you in a helicopter, as soon as the shield that is protecting you is down he will destroy you, try to keep you shield topped up by collecting the various batteries that appear around the track), "Arena" (a multiplayer only game that pits up to four human controlled characters against each other in a free for all battle, whoever reaches the target kill limit first wins), "Disruptor" (another multiplayer only mode for up to four players, in this one you must pick up the randomly generated disruptor device and deliver it to one of your opponents' home bases, the first player to make the target number of deliveries and blow up their opponents' bases wins), "Hunter" (you get dropped in the middle of an arena and must earn points by taking down as many enemies as possible, in total there are five timed waves of cars that will come at you) & "Squad Series" (in this mode you can complete a series of any six events in a row that you want, with a randomize option available as well).
Like I said, these various modes encompass the types of events that you'll have to complete during the C.H.R.O.M.E. Missions mode of the game, but they are not immediately available in Free Play. You must unlock these modes progressively as you successfully navigate the story mode. Anyhoo, once you are in to Free Play and have selected the type of event you want to play, you then have to choose the track or arena you want to play at. In total there are 15 race tracks that are shared between Race, Battle Race, Attack and Survival modes, and 6 arenas that are shared between Arena, Disruptor and Hunter modes. These tracks/arenas must all be unlocked via your play in story mode as well. Once the location is set it is then time to configure some settings. Here you can adjust the game's difficulty level (easy, medium or hard), weapons (toggle which ones you want to appear during your event), toggle friendly fire on/off, adjust the target number for enemy takedowns (Arena mode), adjust the target number for disruptor drops (Disruptor mode), adjust truck frequency (Attack mode), change the number of competitors (Race and Battle Race modes), and change the number of laps (Race and Battle Race modes). Once this is complete you select your characters and then it's off to the races!
Getting back to the main menu the third option that comes up is called "Awards", which is divided up in to two sub-options. The first of these is called "Badges". Here you can view the 28 available badges that it's possible for you to earn over the course of your play on Cars 2. The tasks you need to complete in order to earn said badges include things like using a certain number of turbos in a single event, destroying a certain number of specific environmental objects during an event, or driving backwards for a set period of time during an event. As for the other sub-option, it is called "Crests". Here you can view the 24 available crests you can earn, and they work very similar to the Badges, only the tasks needed to unlock them are more long term goals. These tasks include things like performing a certain total number of air tricks, earning a minimum bronze trophy on all story mode events, or even unlocking a specific amount of crests and badges. When you highlight a Badge or Crest, it's name and the objective behind it is displayed, as well as how far you have progressed towards earning it.
Fourth comes the "Options" option, which is divided up in to three sub-options (enough with the word options already!!). The first of these is called "Game Settings", where you can go to adjust sliders controlling the music, voice and effects volumes, as well as toggle the Nintendo GameCube controller rumble function on/off. Second is the "Enter Code" sub-option, where you can input any Cars 2 cheat codes you may have come across. Finally comes "Credits", where you can view the names of the great folks who built this game for us.
"Garage" is the fifth option on the main menu, when you select it a grid style graphic is displayed, showing off all the Cars characters that are available for play in this game (whether they are unlocked or not). In total there are 36 cars, with only 10 being available when you start the game. The remaining 26 characters must be unlocked as you progress through the game. By highlighting one of the cars in this grid, information will be displayed as to how to unlock that specific character. All of these bonus characters can be obtained via a combination of unlocking the various Clearance Levels in the C.H.R.O.M.E. Missions mode of the game, and by achieving certain Badges and Crests.
The sixth and final option we come to is called "World of Cars Online". Here you can link your Cars 2 video game to the World of Cars online computer game, which allows you to access certain rewards for both titles. This option is no longer valid as I know for a fact that the World of Cars online game has since been shut down, unfortunately.
Now, once you're out amongst the beautiful scenery Cars 2 has to offer and engrossed in the various game modes, there is a small amount of stuff to look out for. First and foremost are weapons pickups. These pickups take on the form of multi-coloured diamonds that appear at certain areas around each track or arena. The weapons that can be obtained via these pickups include oil slick, machine guns, impact mine, missile, troika missiles, leech, skate jack, and the satellite quake. Another important item is the turbo pickup, which takes the form of white (almost see through) gas cans, and also appear at certain areas around each environment. These help fill your boost bar and earn you turbos to use. In each track/arena there will be an icon of a computer (coloured blue and white/see through) to be obtained, which is usually very hard to find. These pickups earn you bonus Spy Points and also contribute towards your Crest completions. Large red sticks of dynamite should also be a concern, as they are scattered throughout the game's environments. Run in to one of these and you get blown up a bit, causing you to lose pace. Finally, the last thing you need to be aware of are random environmental objects that can impact your progress, such as crates, traffic cones, lamp posts, buses, etc.
The game screen for Cars 2 isn't overcrowded, but it does give up some important information. In the top left hand corner you will find an indicator representing your status in the current event. In Race and Battle Race modes it shows icons of the cars involved, indicating their current race positions, changing as need be. It shows your current total number of kills in both Attack and Arena modes, while in Disruptor mode it displays how many of them you have managed to deliver. Finally, in Hunter mode it shows how many points you have earned from the cars you've destroyed. As for the top right corner of the screen, it represents the mechanics of the mode you're playing. In Race and Battle Race modes it appears as a lap indicator (underneath is displayed your total race time, best lap time, and current lap time), while in Attack and Hunter modes it is a timer that counts down, signaling the end of your game or your waves of enemies. As you achieve certain objectives in the game like earning a Badge or Crest, or stringing together a kill combo, game messages informing you of these feats will temporarily flash across the top middle of the screen. Finally, on the bottom of the screen, immediately underneath your character, is the boost bar. The boost bar is made up of four segments that fill with yellow as you gain boost energy. You can earn this energy by performing certain feats during your event, such as jumping, doing air tricks, drifting, destroying enemies, driving backwards, etc. In certain modes other indicators will be attached to this boost bar, such as your shield strength indicator in Survival mode, or your health gauge in Arena, Disruptor and Hunter modes. As for the pause screen, when you halt the action you are faced with three options, including Resume, Restart, or Exit.
The controls involved with this game are actually really cool and are so easy and comfortable to get used to. There are a few different styles you can use, but the one I prefer is where you just use the Wii remote, tilting it on it's side so that your left thumb is above the control pad and your right thumb is above the 1 and 2 buttons. In this position you tilt the remote left and right to steer your car, while lifting it up in the air quickly initiates a jump. Pressing the 1 button makes your vehicle go, while the B button is used to brake/reverse. You can also hold down the B button while steering through a turn to make your character drift. As for the A button, it is used to take energy from your boost bar and engage a turbo speed boost. Pressing the A button once will burn one of the four segments of boost in your bar. However, if your boost bar is entirely full you can double tap the A button and engage a long lasting turbo that also erects a shield around your vehicle, taking out anybody who gets in your way. With regards to the control pad, those buttons perform a number of functions. Press Up to fire your equipped weapon forwards (you can also press and hold Up to drive on two wheels) or press Down to fire your equipped weapon backwards (you can also press and hold Down to drive backwards). Pressing Left and Right makes your character throw a body check in either direction, which is a great option for taking out your competitors. You can also press in all four directions while airborne to perform air tricks. As for +/-, the – button performs a rear view look, while + pauses the game action.
The presentation behind Cars 2 is really good, well above average! The landscapes are detailed, colourful, and are all very true to the franchise, they look exactly like they belong in the Cars universe. As for the characters, the vehicles in this game are rendered as if they just came from the set of the Cars 2 movie, they look absolutely fantastic! Everything about the game's sound is great as well, there is a vast array of in game music that suits the mood of each event, plus the voice overs are excellent. They all seem to be the genuine voices from the movie, at least as far as I can tell. And like I just said in the paragraph above, the controls are set up perfectly and respond just as well.
Weighing the good and bad in Cars 2 the pros well outnumber the cons, it's not even funny. First of all, like I just mentioned, everything about how this game is put across, the look, sound, controls, is just perfect. Also, this is a very long game. It takes a good while to play through the story mode, and then on top of that there is some fun to be had in the various Free Play modes afterwards. Boosting this fact is all of the unlockable content, from the oh so elusive Spy Points bonus pickups, to the Badges and Crests, through to the additional characters, there is enough going on in this title to keep you interested and engaged for a good long while. My favourite part of this game though, and this really helped boost the fun factor, is that you can play it multiplayer even through the story mode. So, instead of having to take turns playing it on single player, my son and I were able to play this game through to the end completely together, it was so awesome! The only con I could come up with is that during the story mode of the game a lot of the events could seem repetitious at times. Not a big deal, but worth noting.
In terms of tips and tricks that I can offer, one I can give is to always keep your eyes open, right from your very first event, looking out for those Spy Point bonus pickups. Like I said they are very hard to find, so being aware that they are out there and being on the alert for them right off the bat will hopefully let you find them faster. Also make sure to keep track of which ones you've found. Make sure to get used to using some of the cool game controls, such as the body checking feature. You won't always have weapons available to use or within your reach, but this method is just as effective at taking out enemies, so practice and get good at it . . . it's a ton of fun! I would make sure to check on the Badge and Crest requirements early on in your game as well, as some of them (such as the drive backwards for 15 minutes task) can take a lot of action to obtain, so getting started on their requirements earlier rather than later will help you obtain them that much faster. Lastly, sometimes you're going to get frustrated at not being able to achieve at least a bronze medal on certain events. Don't worry about it, just keep at it and keep trying, eventually the practice will pay off and you'll succeed.
Well, what more can I say than that Cars 2 seems to be a very well put together game that is 100% faithful to it's mother franchise. It even blazes a path of it's own, what with it's unique premise and game modes. Throw in a lot of unlockable material and some fantastic multiplayer action and you've got a game that ends up being as fun as it looks like it should be. A prime effort!