Platforms: PC (version reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Nintendo Switch
Genre: Arcade racing game with miniature cars
You may not want to dismiss Hot Wheels’ latest license racing game title. Despite looking like a shameless licensed “all ages” title, and it is meant for the family, the breadth and controls of this arcade racer proves that it’s going beyond a mere cash grab.
Developer Milestone taps into the nostalgia of Hot Wheels and miniature racing fans young and very old. Instead of using real-life settings and tracks, you race small cars along kitchen counters and basement floors with meticulously laid-out courses, twists, turns, and loop-to-loop ramps. It’s basically the 90s Micro Machines game but in 3D and in a third-person perspective like a serious arcade racing game, even up to the high-octane racing and controls.
The action showcases the best kind of arcade-like mechanics and feel, with a huge sense of speed as your selected miniature car careens through the creative courses and launch off ramps high and with a devil-may-care attitude. The A.I in this game isn’t a slouch: Normal and Hard racers will kick your ass if you aren’t alert on the wheel, even if you’re a Gran Turismo racing veteran.
Bang For Your Buck
The game isn’t lacking in modes as well. Apart from the usual versus, 12-player online multiplayer mode, and two-player split-screen gameplay, Hot Wheels Unleashed has a Hot Wheels City campaign featuring a decent selection of A.I. races and time trials that will test your arcade racing skills. The mode definitely isn’t messing around; you may need to take your combination of Mario Kart and Forza Horizon driving skills to get through the majority of the challenges. Or gacha for a better car to help even the odds.
Yes, there is an in-game lootbox system dubbed Blind Boxes; do well in races and you’ll win some of these boxes that feature faster and better cars. The randomness of this rewards system may get to you if you’re not a fan of such frivolities.
Don’t Like The Courses? Make Your Own!
Of course, the killer feature of Hot Wheels Unleashed is the ability to make your own track to share to others. The game’s track builder mode lets you build and design courses easily, though you’ll need patience to create the best curves and pathways for the best user-generated experience. The tools are fine, but it’s not as robust as other level creators out there. Plus, there’s no way to rank them online. Still, it’s good enough to offer that level of flexibility and customizability.
This is as close as you can get to a miniature cars arcade racing game where you can do whatever you want. With the exception of the totally random toybox rewards system, everything else about this Hot Wheels game tie-in is legitimately golden and rust-free. While the game has its issues like not-so-hot graphics (compared to other photo-realistic racers), bog-standard music, and some UI features like multiple camera angles and opponent info on the minimap, the rest of the game is golden.
Hot Wheels Unleashed is a rollercoaster with all the perks of a fun ride; crazy colourful tracks included. What looks like an initial cash-grab license title ends up being a pretty decent racing experience.