If you are going to treat Hot Wheels Unleashed as another shameless authorized release to compete for the attention of young players, you may be forgiven, but it would be a mistake. Although it is undoubtedly fun to share this game with family, there are more racing cars than it first appeared. With evocative speed, clever track design and a large number of customization options, these miniature cars have a strong impact, and can provide hours of racing excitement through single-player, multiplayer, and creative tools.
Developer Milestone recognizes the nostalgia of many people for Hot Wheels, and cleverly uses this affection. Unleashed is not trying to transform the car into a life-size real-world environment. Instead, you will run along kitchen counters, basement floors and university classroom chairs, driving driverless toy cars through ridiculous loops and hot straight lines. Although players unlock various (usually weird) vehicles through blind boxes and direct rewards, the core controls are simple, with an easy-to-learn drift mechanism. If you want to improve your game level, you can master it. Although the action is similar to an arcade machine and the environment is very interesting, the comforting sense of speed is enhanced by pressing your luck enhancement button to maintain a high level of excitement.
In the “Hot Wheels City” tour, the event features a series of impressive AI matches and time trials, providing loyal players with scattered secret paths and rewards. I particularly like the course design. It seems to draw inspiration from classic games such as F-Zero and Mario Kart, which are full of slope jumps, stupid obstacles, and a lot of time to fight the unrelenting gravity. After some early and boring “get to know you” tracks, the subsequent games are full of challenges and excitement, especially the Boss match where you play against the set-piece inspired by the familiar Hot Wheels track.
Whether it is solved by splitting two people side by side on the sofa, or up to 12 people online, the multiplayer game kit is not complicated, but it is definitely a good time. Races offers the same excellent track layout, but also faces additional challenges from living opponents, and it is easy to jump in to create a private lobby, or quickly join an existing lobby to start voting on the next track.
A large part of the real-life Hot Wheels experience has always been track construction, and Milestone is committed to making it easy for you to design courses. Like any level creator, learning how to set up pleasant curves, paths, and obstacles requires patience, but you can finally build the track of your dreams. I am disappointed that Milestone does not include a more powerful way to enjoy other people’s creations; in fact, other players’ tracks are only shown as an option in certain multiplayer matches and cannot be ranked. In addition to Track Builder, I am happy to find other systems to encourage creativity, including photo modes, uniform customization, and a very flexible basement builder, where you can dramatically reimagine one of the main environments of the game to your liking.
I am happy that the core racing experience and customization tools are just right, but not everything meets high standards. Compared to the photo-realistic visual effects of most modern new generation racing cars, Unleashed looks a bit dated, even considering the beauty of the toy car. The music is harsh and repetitive, and every time you raise it, pitch/rhythm changes can make this problem worse. I eventually turned off the music completely. The gameplay lacks some of the features I expected, such as multiple camera angles in my car or tracking information about the location of my opponent. Most of these issues are easily overlooked when you taxi through a huge circular turn before launching the car out of the volcano, but experienced racing fans may notice some missing parts.
At the best moments, Hot Wheels Unleashed feels like a roller coaster, despite its greater driving ability. These are the Hot Wheels tracks that you dreamed of as a child, driving over a ramp on a building, or accelerating in the ventilation ducts of your home. The extremely fast speed and pleasantly stupid track did not make this car exceptionally complicated, but it was one of the more interesting racers who rushed to the starting line in a while.