First back to start. Hot Wheels Unleashed is a racing arcade game reminiscent of Mario Kart at first glance: colorful cars race around a colorful track and drift through curves to get boosts. The big absence is an arsenal. You can’t win races with a blue shield or by throwing bananas on the road. There are no annoying rubber bands either, so if you’re in the back, you’re in the back. Winning means learning to drive better. Anyway, this is a plus.
So it’s just about racing over the plastic tracks that have been set in all kinds of rooms. The size of these giant spaces enhances the feeling of driving games. The (loyal) design of the various Hot Wheels cars also screams gaming. Perhaps this is a celebration of miniature car enthusiasts’ appreciation (there’s been a true annual Hotwheels collector’s show in Los Angeles for 34 years now). For non-fans, it’s nice to see how much attention to detail all the buggies and materials have been imitated, but you’ll likely miss the nostalgic bond the developers went for.
Cars have statistics for speed, acceleration, braking and steerability, which can be seen in the maneuverability. The stats of each car can be upgraded with the gears collected by winning races or recycling unwanted cars. It also means that in practical terms you quickly end up with a favorite car that you maximize. Then the need to collect more cars depends on your collecting rage and how important the appearance of Hot Wheels is to you.
Then the race itself. First Pro tip: set the difficulty level to at least medium. The default “easy” is very easy. Even blindfolded and drunk it’s hard to lose. So unless you want to avoid all the challenges in the game. This is the first step to enjoy with Hot Wheels Unleashed.
There’s a great sense of speed, due in part to the low camera angle. The key to success is getting to know the circles and using the boost button, which temporarily speeds you up a bit. The latter is also the biggest difference between the “easy” and “medium” difficulty levels: with “easy”, computer-controlled opponents rarely use a boost. How often you can boost depends in part on your vehicle (some have a number of boost moments, others a boost meter) and how many times you drift. Drifting recharges your boosters, allowing you to speed up more often. So it is important to drift through every corner, and whenever possible, either boost or hit the boost points on the track to get to the end as quickly as possible.
Since circles contain all kinds of obstacles and jumps, it is important to get to know them well. This way you know you might have to save the boost for the next jump or loop and you’ll learn where to take into account gaming obstacles that make turning a little more difficult.
If in all this you think that there is nothing new to be described here, then it is true. Herein lies the big problem with Hot Wheels Unleashed: It’s nothing new. Nor does the Campaign do anything you haven’t seen before. You see a map of a city with nodes. These nodes represent races or time trials. If you achieve the goals, more nodes will be available. There is absolutely no relationship between the city map and the tracks or locations you are racing on. These locations (eg the living room or hobby room) are repeatedly recycled using a number of alternating circuits.
There is also a track designer where you can build your own racetracks. You can then also share these online and race online. There are plenty of parts and some interesting gaming obstacles (the first thing to unlock is a plastic spider shooting slow cobwebs on part of the track) to do some fun building, but don’t expect the Mario Maker-level possibilities or the Little Big Planet sitting. The result always looks more or less the same.
There is also a track designer where you can build your own racetracks. You can then also share these online and race online.
This makes Hot Wheels Unleashed a nice racer in rather boring environments. The sites themselves are flat and generic. Progress by car assembly doesn’t really sound very convincing. The only thing that can keep you glued to the screen is your love for Hot Wheels.
In fact, Hot Wheels Unleashed looks like a nice mobile game that you play in between, while you wait for the train and unlock a few other cars. But on a real game console on a big screen, everything hangs a bit
Hot Wheels Unleashed is now available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, Nintendo Switch, and Microsoft Windows. We played on Xbox Series X
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