As a child, certain toys bring you so much joy. When I was growing up one toy that made me extremely happy was Hot Wheels cars. Building the tracks, picking the right car, and watching the cars go around the track was just so much fun. Milestone decided to bring the world all of that childhood fun wrapped in a nice bow for every current and next-gen console plus PC. Hot Wheels Unleashed is the new racing game on the block. Here is our take on this new title.
When you think about racing games you generally think about Need for Speed or Forza, not Hot Wheels. Making a title out of toy cars and track pieces from your childhood seems like it would be a huge task. We all know how tracks are normally one car wide and you can’t do too much racing on them, so obviously you have to expand the box without breaking the immersion. The amazing thing about Hot Wheels Unleashed (HWU) is how immersive the levels are. As the first race begins the amount of immersion is clear. You are on a giant Hot Wheels track which is on the floor of a room where chairs, tables, and a full eco-system is present. There are areas where the track can be left and you can drive around the entire area. This will lose the race but sometimes you just want to experience what the game creators have given you.
Track layouts go from super simple to extremely complex very quickly and that makes the challenge level that much more important. I will tell you that some of these races were difficult to play through without knowing all of the racing tricks or track layouts ahead of time. Playing on a higher AI difficulty level has caused some of those issues too. I love to have a challenge though.
The greatest thing about Hot Wheels tracks was the ability to put them together however you want with whatever pieces you wanted. That is no different in HWU. The track creator is a very in-depth piece of technology that allows you to take every single piece you can think of and make your racecourse. The controls take a little bit of getting used to but once you do it can be a lot of fun to build your tracks. The track pieces are placed down as straight pieces but can be molded and twisted to make the signature turns and the loops you remember as a kid. Interactive pieces such as spiders shooting webs at racers can also be added to your custom loop. Throw in some speed boosts and some walls to both speed people up and slow them down and you have yourself a Hot Wheels track.
The meat and potatoes of this title are the racing, and it hits every checkmark on my list for a good racing game whether playing single player or multiplayer. We will start with just how amazing the graphics are to the point of photo-realism. Detail is important, but the track details and the rest of the world’s detail are what attracts your eye in any game you play. The racing mechanics are simple but can still cause some problems without using a little skill. For example, when you hit a jump your joystick controls the rotation and turn off your car while in the air. If you over-adjust your turn or angle in the wrong way expect to flip your car or have something else happen in a bad way. These small adjustments will win or lose you a race.
Drifting is a key feature in HWU as it helps you turn the tight corners a lot easier. I have played a lot of racers and my first introduction to drifting was in Need for Speed: Carbon. Ever since then drifting in games is more of a fun feature for me to try and see how long I can hold a drift, or how far I can turn out before losing control. The same is true in this title. It is fun to drift a corner and then hit the booster to immediately fly past the competition. Again this is good and bad. When you leave the ground anything can happen. Several times I have lost a race because I flew off of the track and landed on top of a rail or another car and flipped over or spun out of control. If you are playing on PlayStation 5 as I did, their haptic controllers will have you feeling every interaction on the course also.
Like most other titles HWU also contains a shop where you can buy new cars to race with. There are gold coins that you don’t even have to buy though, they can be earned by doing well in races. These coins can be used to buy daily cars or blind boxes that give you a random car to use. Coins can also be used to unlock maps that you haven’t unlocked through the main Hot Wheels City Rumble mode. With over forty tracks to run in race mode or time attack, you will spend a lot of time getting coins to unlock new cars. There are also gears that can be earned through gameplay and winning races. These gears allow you to upgrade the base stats of your racers so that they can continue to be used even against faster racers. Also, there are some themed cars to get you wanting more with Knight Rider, Batman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and more coming soon. Livery options take these cars to the next level allowing you to take a car you love and put your color spin onto it. It is fun just taking a few minutes to play with the different colors and car materials to make them look different.
Note: Our copy was reviewed on PlayStation 5 with a code provided by PR.