Racing and video games have always been a natural fit, and the trend continues this summer.
Two new titles — "Cars" and "MotoGP 06" — offer very different takes on high-speed pursuits on either two or four wheels.
Packed with realism and incredible graphics, Climax's "MotoGP 06" (Rated E, Xbox 360, $59.99) is something motorcycle racing purists will definitely appreciate.
It's the latest in a long line of MotoGP games giving normal people a chance to experience what it's like to ride some of the fastest vehicles on two wheels.
In the real world, these exotic bikes are reserved for the elite of the Grand Prix motorcycle racing circuit.
"MotoGP 06" is by far the best-looking video-game version yet. The graphics take motorcycle racing to a new level, even down to the tiny decals on the windshield.
The sense of zipping down a race track at 200 mph is breathtaking — all that's lacking is a strong wind blowing in your face and the smell of burning rubber.
In fact, there may be a bit too much visual splendor — the graphics regularly jerked and stuttered, taking away from the otherwise spot-on realism.
"MotoGP 06" is packed with plenty of customization features for tinkerers. Options include the look of your biker, parts and accessories, braking, horsepower, weight distribution and other performance factors.
Modes of play include quick race, career mode, time trials and multiplayer races.
This attention to realism comes with a fairly steep learning curve, however, and newbies will find even staying on the courses to be a tough chore. Getting a handle on the controls is like learning to ride a real bike, but at least you won't die trying.
Short of obtaining your own superbike, this is as good as it gets for a two-wheeled thrill ride, earning it three and a half stars out of four.
If such harsh realism isn't your thing, Beenox Studios' video-game version of the Disney-Pixar film "Cars" (Rated E, $39.99, PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube) is a racing game that's as kid-friendly as they come.
For a video-game knockoff of a movie, it manages to be somewhat good, which is really saying something. Historically, movie games have been nothing more than marketing filler along with the cheap plastic toys sold in kid's meals at fast-food restaurants.
"Cars" is not flawless but at least offers some variety. Though not as pixel perfect as the movie, the video-game version effectively recreates the overall animated whimsy of Radiator Springs.
You can play as racer Lightning McQueen. Many of the actors from the film version lend their voice talent, including Owen Wilson and everyone's favorite redneck, Larry the Cable Guy.
It's an important touch, considering we're dealing with a desert town populated with talking, expressive automobiles with eyeballs for windshields.
The story mode advances as you complete a series of easy missions, such as winning Sally's Sunshine Circuit races or mini-games like tractor tipping.
There's nothing particularly hard here, and it's this simple, easygoing nature that could be a problem for some.
I can see children who loved the movie spending hours, if not days, obsessively reliving the experience in this video-game version. But adult gamers probably won't find much to do here unless they have children to play with. For that reason, "Cars" earns two and a half stars out of four.