You might well think that getting paid to play and write about videogames is the best job in the world. And that's before you factor in the fact you also get sent the games for free. I can think of few better ways to cover the mortgage, and I'd therefore be lying if I typed something to convince you this occupation isn't thoroughly enjoyable.
Well, except for the getting games for free bit, perhaps.
These are not the thoughts of a madman, I assure you. In the minds of most normal players, the concept of free games is obviously synonymous with Heaven. But for a game reviewer, a continual supply of 'complimentary' software is more akin with striking a deal with Lucifer – it can devalue the games themselves to a point where the critic's perspective of what it implies to actually spend hard cash on this type of entertainment is lost. It's one of the reasons why so many game journalists score games too highly. (I won't bore you with the others here.)
It's also the reason why I like periodically to buy games – it ensures I keep a player's viewpoint when it comes to the reviewing process.
Which is therefore why I didn't mind having to purchase a copy of Cars, the game of the film. And why I'm equally at ease about confidently stating that you'll be better off spending your money on something else.
Despite the handful of modes, ultimately the game plays out as a straight racer. What's more, it's a surprisingly lifeless production, a far cry from the quality of the film it's based on.
Hard to believe? Absolutely, but check out the snippets of the movie included as extras and then go back to the in-game Lightning McQueen and co – the cars may be accurately modelled versions of their big-screen counterparts, but giving them a limited number of one-liners and subjecting players to relentless insipid racing ensures the signature charm Pixar injects into its characters is quickly exhausted.
Even in Story mode the action is entirely race-based, with a surprising lack of cut-scenes (when they do occasionally appear, they tend to have no immediate relevance to the action) or potential atmosphere-setting set-pieces. A wasted opportunity, not to mention a crucial error given that people are expecting this to partner the film experience.
Another mistake is to require race wins in order to progress. This is usually done as a way of extending the lifespan of game atypically short on content. Perhaps predictably, the other 'trick' of spiking the difficulty curve is also employed here – tracks quickly get demanding and your computer-controlled opponents become suspiciously competent.
Combined, both of the above decisions result in having to replay races more often than is strictly enjoyable – an additional level of repetition that is likely to put many off from persevering with the game. (It's also worth pointing out that younger players – surely the title's target demographic – will find progress exceptionally hard.)
And that's a shame, because the potential to have a decent racing/adventure game is there. The source material is arguably as good as it gets, the graphics are respectable, the handling dynamic is decent (well, apart from the brakes, which are useless), and the concept of hiding fun alternate routes within the tracks should theoretically add both variety and fun. (And it worked on Cars mobile – Ed).
Cars is by no means a terrible game, just a very average one. And 'average' is not the sort of thing you'd expect anyone to happily spend £30 on. Go see the film five times instead.