Review – Hot Wheels Unleashed

Tiny racing is back with Milestone’s new take on the classic toys. The toy racer is here to Surprise and impress with beautiful graphics, customisation to the hilt and fun and addictive gameplay with a variety of options from single player, local split screen multiplayer and online multiplayer. While it’s been six years since we had a Hot Wheels game, Unleashed is truly in a league of its own by giving us a variety of different modes while also putting a creative mode in the vein of mine craft, dragon quest builders 2 etc you will want to keep coming back to.

The games developer Milestone has been able to successfully capture the nostalgia of the original toys while cramming them into this world with tracks full of things like kitchen counters, construction sites and classrooms that feel larger than life thanks to the scale of the tracks and the cars themselves. The gameplay incorporates A.I races, challenging time trials that you need to really know your vehicle and have a handle on the games drift mechanic to be able to master. The more you drive the more you build up your boost in three different bursts. Knowing the precise moment to use it to not lose control of your vehicle and be able to beat that time is key to winning the race. What I really liked about this game is that each vehicle felt different and knowing when to engage this keeps you motivated during long play throughs.

The tracks offer secret paths and shortcuts that can help you gain the advantage over your rivals. There are obstacles on each track like barricades, bumper rollers and speed boosts that can help or hinder you depending on your timings. Each track has ramp jumps that can make it really easy for you to lose control of your vehicle, particularly if you get a running start. While there are only a couple of different environments, each setting is unique it doesn’t feel like a cut and paste job like other racing games can.

Visually the game is beautiful, on the Playstation 5, the retro neon colours of the vehicle and tracks really pop. The tracks are bright and colourful adding to the whacky fun of the gameplay. Being able to customise your vehicles and basement is done effectively with the blind boxes revealing some classic Hot Wheels cars and some franchise favourites that have been cleverly adapted into the game and franchise.

If like me, you grew up with Hot Wheels you will recognise the plastic orange tracks that you used to click clack together to make your lounge room raceways. Similarly here the tracks are of the same colour and shape which kicks some serious nostalgia. The game has a creator mode in which you can build your own tracks and them publish them online for other people to play, you can also find other tracks online and jump in to play them as well. This is where I spent a lot of my time figuring out how to master the track creation to get the corners and curves just right. This is part of the fun with this game and if you are heavy on creation then the Basement will be where you spend most of your time. If you are looking to play other people’s tracks, it isn’t something that you can easily browse and race, they do show up randomly through online multiplayer races.

Playing this on Playstation 5, the dev’s took full advantage of the Dual Sense controller with the haptic feedback and speaker inside the controller immersing you into the experience. When games go a little too heavy on these features the battery tends to drain quite quickly, fortunately in this case the features were there and I didn’t notice a dramatic decrease in battery function. The HDR colours really popped and I didn’t have any crashes or notable dips during my play through.

Hot Wheels Unleashed is a lot better than it has any right to be. What could be viewed as a shameless cash grab is lovingly embraced by developer Milestone to create a game and a community that is set to continue on far beyond launch. There are several different DLC packs planned for release that will unlock new vehicles, tracks and collectibles with properties like DC Comics and Warner Bros properties, it seems to be a solid investment in the future of the game. Beautiful graphics accentuate the neon palette and the fast and zippy pace elevate this title to truly deliver something special.

Hot Wheels Unleashed is now available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC and Nintendo Switch.

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