Developed By: Milestone
Published By: Milestone
Platforms: PlayStation 4 & 5 / Xbox One X, Series S & X / Nintendo Switch / PC
Reviewed On: PC
Hot Wheels has been a staple name not only in our favourite collectable car toys but also in the automotive industry. There have been a bunch of Hot Wheels games released over the years and even some cross overs like in Forza Horizon, Need for Speed and Rocket League. After nearly 8 years without a full console game, the game returns with its new title aptly named, Hot Wheels Unleashed.
Driving Around The Neighbourhood
Being a racing game, Hot Wheels Unleashed comes as standard as it gets. There is no open world for you to explore but instead, you are given the task of going through races one by one and unlocking more as you go. Each race will give you either a reward, parts, or coins to help you either getting or upgrading your car. There are a few “secrets” that you unlock by completing certain races to get more rewards but besides that, the game has a very linear pathway.
Hot Wheels Unleashed visual perfectly blend the real-life look of each toy car with the crazy monstrous tracks. The game applies a miniature camera effect to the cars to make it look like you are really driving a toy car in the real world and with giant look items in the background, you will feel immersed in this illusion perfectly. Amazingly, the cars themselves look great in model and in-game. There are reflections on any shiny part of the car and each car is detailed exactly like how it looks in the real world down to the interior and texture. The only thing that does look a little bad are the tracks as they are always orange and repetitive but it is just a small minor issue on my part as you won’t care too much as you speed past them. The game does have an excellent photo mode to help you get those awesome shots to show off to your friends or create your own Hot Wheels desktop wallpaper.
Each car in the game luckily sounds unique and different. You can feel the engine roar as you drive muscle cars like the Rodger Dodger or the electric motor winding up in Super Charged. All this and the sounds of tyres burning really gives the emersion that you are in a race. Sadly, the game is marred by its generic soundtrack that is in and out of races. It would be great if we could get some license driving or racing song or even better, a way to play our own collection of songs in-game.
It’s Not All Fun And Games
Let me make this clear, Hot Wheels Unleashed is an arcade racer, so you expect it to be simple but in all honesty, it is one of those games that is easy to pick up but hard to master. During races, you are given a very clean overlay, a map at the lower left of your screen and a boost gauge on the lower right. There is no speed indication at all in this game which, to be honest works very well as I felt taking corners were more fun instead of getting distraction by looking at your entry or exit speed. The boost meter is simple with two types of boost depending on the type of car you have but the map is a little useless I would say as it is too zoomed in which does not help you see the upcoming track or other cars behind you.
With all that aside, driving in this game is exhilarating. I am glad that each car not only look different, but they also drive differently. The game does have driving physics but it is adjusted to suit the Hot Wheels toylike world. What I mean by that is the car does drive and take corners like normal but when it comes to jumping and crashing into other cars, you are immediately reminded that you are still driving a toy car. The weightless feel of each vehicle is felt every time you ram the sidewall or even knock into the car in front of you at high speed. Cars being knocked around the track or bounces out of it after a jump does make the driving feel a little chaotic at some times.
And this is where skill and experience start to become a factor. Learning how to take jumps, boost timings, and even learning the track is important in this game because each track has its own unique corners, split lanes and even gravity tracks that let you drive upside down. These factors, however small it may seem, can increase the chances of you winning the race. I say chances because the game does throw obstacles at you which does make each race feel different but it feels random at some times. You can easily be in the lead one second to losing it in another because of one of the track gimmicks. Getting throw out of the track during a jump can also be frustrating especially if you are on the last lap of the race.
Custom Creation Galore!!
One of the most unique features of the game is its Track Builder. Creating your own track has never been so exciting as there are so many elements to track building in this game from placing the tight bank corners to placing those gravity-defying jump ramps. Once you are done, just simply grab your car and give the track a spin and share it with the world online. I have seen some amazing tracks being shared online by other players and some tracks are just jaw-dropping in which the amount of effort put into them.
Not only that, but the game also comes with a Livery Editor to create the car decoration of your dreams. It has great customization from selecting the colours to the materials being used with the livery. Even each of the car parts can be customized which makes the decoration possibilities almost endless. Once you are done, you can even share your livery online or if you are lazy, just download those that you like.
Last but not least you can also customize your basement to show off online if you create a track to be shared online using the basement backdrop. It’s nothing big but it’s a good featured to have non the less.
Take It Online
The online experience is a mixed bag. There are only a handful of people playing online at the moment which makes it hard to find lobbies at a certain time zone and since this will be one of the best ways to earn gold coins, it does make grinding a hassle relying on other people playing. The net code is great as I rarely found me or other cars rubber banding or lagging on the track. The waiting lobby, on the other hand, needs some improvement as certain things are hard to see and can be miss. I didn’t know I had to get ready and the timer was running but the timer is too small to see while I was busy selecting my car so I missed joining the race and had to be a spectator instead for the race. There also seem to be a lot of empty space in the lobby UI which could have been put into better use.
Not Feeling So Hot After All
Hot Wheels Unleashed sadly, does have some issues mainly how to game economy works. To get new cars, you either get blind boxes through the campaign or by using gold coins to purchase more. First, the cars you get are random so you will be receiving duplicate cars along the way which you can either exchange for gold coins or parts to upgrade other cars. Another way is to directly purchase the car you want but the car being sold will be random in a rotation every few hours. Second, once you complete the campaign, the only way to earn coins is to play quick races or multiplayer which will be a grind for some people. Luckily, right now there is no way to purchase these blind boxes using real-world money and hopefully, it stays that way.
There are also certain technical problems like not being able to cancel a multiplayer lobby search or certain keyboard key functions not displayed especially on the keyboard. This does not affect the gameplay experience thankfully but the game does need some improvement in its User Interface in which I felt was overlooked.
What I Liked
- Cars look gorgeous
- The driving mechanic is well though with a great balance between arcade and still being able to be skill-based
- A good variety of license and Hot Wheels Original Vehicles
- Track Builder is an excellent feature
- Crazy amount of customization for the car’s livery
What Should Have Been Better
- The driving soundtrack is too generic
- Able to change views while driving
- Better ways to earn more gold in the future
What Lies Beyond The Track
The future for this game seems to be planned with more vehicles coming in the future in Season Passes which you can purchase and support the game. Having more cars would also attract more people to the game which in turn also solves the multiplayer issues. Overall, Hot Wheels Unleashed has a great start in this generation by being an excellent and fun arcade racer. It reminds me of the fun I had in the good old days of Need for Speed games that had those crazy UFO cars and tracks. The use of blind boxes does feel a little alarming but let’s just hope that the game can stay afloat with season passes and future DLC instead.