Hot Wheels Unleashed is a fun and fast racing game with a great sense of speed and control.
Developer – Milestone
Publisher – Milestone
Platforms – PlayStation®5, PlayStation®4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One,
Windows PC®, Nintendo Switch™
Before we start, I’d like to make one thing clear: I am a huge racing game fan. I enjoy a good arcade racer and occasional race against a friend. Sadly, the arcade racing genre as a whole is not something that has thrived as of late. Outside of Forza Horizon and the Dirt series, new arcade racers are so few and far between. Thankfully, Hot Wheels Unleashed goes much further beyond a simple licensed game to deliver fast, high skill arcade racing excellence.
Forza Horizon 3 featured a fun take on Hot Wheels with it’s DLC. Unleashed takes that neat idea and turns it into a full blown and in depth racer. Circuit tracks exist in several different environments such as a garage, skate park, or even a custom basement that is yours to customize. These unique areas are home to some absolutely insane course designs. Some courses are simple enough, some are the sick and twisted creations you would expect to find in Trackmania.
Speaking of Trackmania, Hot Wheels. Doesn’t quite go that far, but it does feature a course creator. Making courses is pretty straight forward. With some good pieces and allows you to select which backdrop it will feature. Then you can upload your creations and share them online, and such a simple feature will surely add a nice boost to it’s longevity.
Hot Wheels has a whole meta verse of cars to choose from. From Hot Wheels classics, Diecast models and incredible licensed cars such as K.I.T.T from Nightrider. Every vehicle performs and feels unique, and different classes effect how turbo boost works. The visuals do a fantastic job on this front.
For as limited the budget can feel when it comes to user interface and most of the screens you’re interacting with, the visual fidelity on the cars themselves are fantastic. Each car is lovingly detailed, and the frames never dip even as a full pack of cars is moving at blistering speed.
Cars can be earned in a variety of ways. Progressing through the campaign, performing and discovering campaign secrets and winning online can all help with car unlocks. It’s a bit frustrating if you want a specific car however, as most car boxes are blind unlocks. It wasn’t a problem once I was midway through the campaign, but early on your choices will be pretty limited.
Each car can also get an upgrade, which essentially maximizes it’s potential and can make it viable for all the content. The campaign is fun, albeit a bit simple. It’s a straightforward map that features different locales and races with various objectives. Most usually want you to land a podium finish but my favorite of the bunch was a Hot Lap. One car, a limited amount of time and a lot of mastery to finish. This is where Hot Wheels truly shines. The actual on the track gameplay.
Hot Wheels caught me off guard with how skill based it is. The AI on harder settings can be unforgiving, and one slip off the track and end any hope of victory. The moment to moment racing is very tactile, and mastering over its’ drifting mechanics is essential to victory.
The drifting and how it performs, took me back to Ridge Racer. If you aren’t drifting hard and fast you can kiss winning goodbye. Each car handles different, and the course design dictates a strict balance between careful drift and boost management. It’s a level of skill that I was honestly surprised to experience. Outside of Trackmania, not much arcade racers move at this speed or demand so much mastery over the drift mechanic. It feels tough at first, but it’s very satisfying to learn a car and know exactly how to whip it around each track you race on.
There are multiple ways to play multiplayer with the inclusion of actual split-screen gameplay! It’s not often racing games allow this, and it was fun to blast around the track while my son was driving off jumps left and right.
Online mode will have to be examined a bit later on, as pre-release it was hard to get into any significant online action. Once I have tested the net code and online options, I will update the score and this section of my review.
If you’re itching for a fun arcade racer, you can’t go wrong with Hot Wheels Unleashed. The tracks and cars graphics are solid, the core gameplay is fast and there is plenty of things to keep you busy. In addition to the base content, the track creator plus more cars and races will be added as DLC later.