REVIEW: ‘Hot Wheels Unleashed’ Offers Good Nostalgic Arcade Racing (XSX)

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Hot Wheels Unleashed- But Why Tho

In a world full new of ever-increasingly realistic racing games and kart racers, there is Hot Wheels Unleashed, sitting on a shelf of its own. Hot Wheels Unleashed is an arcade racer developed and published by Milestone. The focus of the game is to play as classic and licensed Hot Wheels racecars on nostalgic tracks in a large single-player mode or against friends online. It’s not too complicated, but not too simple either. If you ever played with Hot Wheel cars or their always fancy-looking track sets, you might know what to expect here: a little bit of simple track structure combined with loops, magnets, racing on the floor, and dodging giant monsters. The game’s entire being feels like playing with toy cars on the floor of your basement in a unique feeling for racing games.

The mechanics are just a bit past simple. The key part of the game e is in drifting and boosting, where the former charges your boost as well as helping you around sharp turns and the latter is essential for winning races, since gaining boosts is based specifically on your skill and the more skilled driver can boost more often. It’s a nice way to keep the game from being simply about hitting the gas and making turns. Plus, each car has different and noticeable stats, especially the stats having to do with braking and accelerating. Cars with lower stats in those categories have a much harder time drifting. Cars can be upgraded with a currency you accrue over your racing career, as well as visually customized to help any style of car become a viable favorite in competition.

The other mechanic that I enjoy is the midair control. It wouldn’t be Hot Wheels if it didn’t have leaps and jumps on the tracks. Whenever you leave the ground, you gain control over 360 degrees of movement rotating and flipping the car to land squarely with four wheels on the ground. This is especially important on more complicated tracks with tilted roads or reversed gravity. Sometimes there’s this annoying thing that will happen where you hit another car or something and the wheels leave the ground briefly so you switch to arial controls and it’s briefly jarring.

The game’s main single-player mode is basically one giant map with dozens of challenges, either single races or time trials. You unlock the next node on the map as you complete races and win more awards, such as currency and decals as you complete different requirements in each level. I love a huge map like this in a game. I only wish there were more types of levels. The time trials are just repeats of the same courses you race on and the races are the only other mode. It would be fun to have more types of levels with frequency, like a bowling level or derby or really just anything else.

The one something else is that the map has a little story involving some “bosses” that are causing havoc. The only problem is, they’re really not bosses. They’re just longer and more challenging levels that feature one of Hot Wheels’s famous monster tracks. I really was expecting there to be something more special about these boss levels, including racing against said boss or having those bosses really make the races unique. But alas, they’re just glorified races. Still fun, and I like the small things that make them different or more difficult.

One of my favorite parts of the game though, has to be how you can really see a lot of the track ahead of you at once. It gives this extra feeling of playing with toy cars as well as visually exciting you for what’s to come. The loops and jumps never get old, and the 3D mini-map that shows the track and competitors’ placements is both useful and visually unique for the genre.

Hot Wheels Unleashed has a huge track-building mode. It’s as intuitive as can be and worked way better than I imagined it might. You start off with a bevy of options for making simple or complicated tracks as you like with huge areas to build within for as long or short a race as well. You also unlock plenty of additional elements as you play the single-player game for you to come back to, build, and share with friends. Hot Wheels Unleashed is playable split-screen locally and online with twelve players.

The one thing I simply cannot understand its value is the Basement, basically a place for all your trophies but also fully customizable. There doesn’t feel like much reason for customizing it since you never spend time there. But if this is your kind of thing, there are lots to unlock and to play with.

Hot Wheels Unleashed is a good addition to the world of racing games, with enough to make it totally unique but not too much to overcomplicate it. There are a few things I wish would make it feel more full, but for what it does deliver, it delivers it well.

Hot Wheels Unleashed is available on September 30th on Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam.

Hot Wheels Unleashed
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Hot Wheels Unleashed is a good addition to the world of racing games, with enough to make it totally unique but not too much to overcomplicate it. There are a few things I wish would make it feel more full, but for what it does deliver, it delivers it well.