After reviewing the Micro Machines World Tour game many years ago I learned a major lesson, if a game uses an IP in a way that should be a slam dunk, that doesn’t guarantee success. In case I am beating around the bush too much, a Micro Machines game should be awesome, Micro Machines World Tour sucked. So naturally I was careful about being too excited with a Hot Wheels game.
Well my apprehension wasn’t warranted. Hot Wheels Unleashed is a banger.
What Milestone has produced here is an interesting game. The steering, acceleration, and drifting feels like a kart racer, but without the gimmicks. So it winds up acting like a serious game but controlling like a more relaxed fun game. This weird happy medium is kinda perfect for Hot Wheels.
Hot Wheels have fantastic scale models, and absurd dinosaur cars, which are also somewhat to scale if the car was legit. So kinda serious, kinda silly is the exact tightrope Hot Wheels as a franchise walks, and as such the gameplay in Hot Wheels Unleashed is spot on.
What makes the game truly brilliant is the map design. The tracks are made up of those orange roads with blue connectors you use in the real world. They have even used things like the dinosaurs and other expensive features you can buy as real Hot Wheels pieces. Most of the tracks I have played with are my sons and it was cool seeing some of those bits in the game itself. As well as the bits we couldn’t afford of course.
Then there is the world around it. Some of the tracks have the track merge to the ground, and then ramp back onto the track. This is an awesome detail because that’s what you do with Hot Wheels tracks. You can then even go off the beaten path and drive around these rooms. If you don’t focus you can easily get distracted by the massive furniture as you drive around, before realising you lost the race.
Then instead of being based on houses in the room, they go absolutely all out and have these Hot Wheels tracks in absurd locations. Driving around a track which is in a half built room at the top of a skyscraper is especially a highlight. Here you finish by going off a ramp at the finish line which goes straight out the side of the half built building. These level designers are clever, I’ll tell you that.
Surf ‘n Turf
There is no over engineered campaign here either. The campaign consists of choosing races to do from a map. There is a combination of races along with time attack trials, and you make your way through them as you see fit. This got a little annoying because some levels required doing certain tracks with certain cars and tasks like that before you could do them. This always resulted in me hunting for ages for the name of the track which was an unnecessary pain.
But that minor gripe aside, the game mode is exactly what you need. A bunch of fun races on fun maps. Then there is an arcade mode, split screen races, and online multiplayer. Again, do you want more? I definitely didn’t. What the game delivers is what I wanted. Lots of ways to drive Hot Wheels cars around Hot Wheels tracks.
Of course anyone who has played with Hot Wheels as a kid or with their kids knows the most fun comes from 2 things. First is building the tracks themselves. Hot Wheels Unleashed has a great track builder that my 7 year old jumped into. Not long later he had built an awesome track with all the fancy tricks. It is pretty safe to say, it is easy to use.
The other thing of course is the physics from said built tracks. If you blast around a loop-to-loop or around an angled piece of tracks then you feel the wheels leaving the track. Too slow and the car falls. Every time you make a fancy track the next trick was actually trying to get a car to stay on it. Even the feeling of hitting a slight rise at the wrong speed and angle will fling your car to the ground.
Bad To The Blade
Hot Wheels Unleashed is a simple premise. You race Hot Wheels cars on super fancy Hot Wheels tracks. Everything from the scale room around, to the expensive track features, to falling from the top of a loop-the-loop because you didn’t have enough speed feels true to the Hot Wheels we love in the real world. It’s a damn fun game, seriously.