One particularly ingenious thing that Cars does is that it actually splits itself into two games. One is designed for players of "all ages," and the other is a shorter, easier version for younger kids. Obviously plenty of games have multiple difficulty levels, but most games of this ilk just play it safe and dumb the experience down for the kids. That's not to say Cars isn't completely absolved of this crime, mind you. Even in the general audience version, the game is still fairly simple. Until the last stages of the game, it's pretty hard to lose races, especially since the opponent artificial intelligence rubber bands quite a bit in favor of the player. Get behind by a significant margin, and you'll actually see cars ahead of you slow down sometimes, giving you the boost you need. The later races are certainly more challenging, but a more even balance of difficulty would have helped the gameplay quite a bit. For what it's worth, the difference between the two versions is still pretty noticeable.
Cars also suffers a bit due to a few glitches and technical issues. It's all relatively minor stuff that just happens to become a bit infuriating in some areas. Most of the problems have to do with graphical bugs and physics issues. The game's environments are often set up with borders and sections you're not supposed to be able to traverse, but some of these borders are spotty with their barriers, and you can get stuck in certain pieces of the environment if you run into them the wrong way. The car physics also get wonky in some spots. Fall sideways off of a ledge, and you may find yourself driving on your left tires for a while until the game figures out a way to reset your car back to normal. You'll also see some occasional issues with cars clipping through one another.
These issues aside, however, Cars is a nice-looking game. The character models are great interpretations of the characters from the movie, and the quality of animation, especially in cutscenes, is excellent. The cars are extremely expressive with their facial animations, and the lip-syncing is more spot-on than most games starring humans. The one downside to this is that while you're driving, you are typically relegated to the usual 3rd-person camera, so in effect, all you get is the butt cam. But there are more than enough cutscenes to make it so all that great character animation isn't wasted. Radiator Springs itself is also rather pleasing to look at. Most of the area is made up of desert, but the few scattered bits of the township, as well as some of the mountain environments and areas, look great. You'll certainly see some dirty textures here and there, but usually you're moving so fast that it doesn't even matter. Between the Xbox, PlayStation 2 and GameCube versions of the game, you're not really missing out on anything no matter which way you go. The Xbox version looks the best, but not by a wide margin.
Obviously, one of the biggest selling points of Cars is the inclusion of the movie's voice cast. Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, Tony Shaloub, Michael Keaton, Larry the Cable Guy (in a decidedly "Git 'er done!"-free performance), George Carlin, Darrell Waltrip, Richard Petty, Cheech Marin, and Paul Newman are all on hand. Yeah, Paul Newman in a video game. Kind of insane, no? All the actors are pretty much on point throughout the game. Wilson is just as endearing in the game as he was in the film, and pretty much every actor seems to be treating their game dialogue as importantly as the movie stuff. There's also a pretty good licensed soundtrack on hand with tracks from the Stray Cats, Lynryd Skynryd, the Edgar Winter Group, and the All American Rejects, among others. The only thing really worth complaining about in the audio department is the repetition of the aforementioned aspects. One-liners from the characters during races tend to repeat too often, as do most of the soundtrack songs. Again, it's all great stuff, so it makes the repetitious nature of it a little easier to swallow. It would just be nice if there were more variety.
Though Cars will almost certainly take you well under 10 hours to complete, there's two-player multiplayer to mess with, as well as some bonus materials to check out. Not to mention that the quality of Cars' content is enough to make up for its relatively short stature. It's hardly the next big thing in driving games, but it still manages to deliver the most authentic Pixar film experience to the video game medium of any previous attempt, and it's certainly one of the better kid-oriented games to come out this year.