Hot Wheels Unleashed Review – IGN

Perhaps best described as a head-on collision between a tiny Burnout and a tiny Trackmania Turbo, Hot Wheels Unleashed is an endearing arcade stunt that feels and looks absolutely remarkable. With tracks creatively woven through sumptuously detailed life-size environments and overflowing with a catalog of cars dumped straight from the toy bucket, developer Milestone’s decision to double down on a racing brand 64 times smaller than usual was a consummate success.

Highly accessible yet full of advanced techniques, fiendish shortcuts, and creative tools to master, Hot Wheels Unleashed is one of the best, most customizable, and imaginative arcade racing games I’ve played since august. less than a decade.

Hot Wheels Unleashed recreates the world’s most popular die-cast cars in their authentic scale and in environments where they’re dwarfed by barn-sized basketballs and boomboxes as big as buildings. This puts Hot Wheels Unleashed more in line with pint-sized peers like 1998’s Hot Wheels Stunt Track Driver or 2007’s Hot Wheels Beat That! as opposed to unstyled duds like Hot Wheels Turbo Racing or Hot Wheels World’s Best Driver, who simply oversized the toys to drive them like regular cars.

Staying tiny was a terrific choice, and not just because the atmosphere is infinitely more charming at the scale of the toy; the 1:1 recreations of Hot Wheels cars here are regularly breathtaking.

The 1:1 recreations of Hot Wheels cars here are regularly stunning.

The toy meets the world

The range leans towards newer models – or, at least, recent versions of classic casts, like the iconic Twin Mill, and even a 50th anniversary version of the eccentric Dodge Deora, one of the first 16 cars. Hot Wheels never made. There’s also a handful of real cars in the mix, which I think is great for variety and perfect for anyone who might not be big fans of giant hamburger-shaped cars. The small selection of movie and TV cars are by far my favorites, though, and I don’t expect to be racing much in anything other than the Back to the Future DeLorean now that I’ve unlocked it.

Completing the campaign gave me some ultra-rare original models, which are great Milestone picks. I still have quite a few cars to unlock, though, and it takes time as cars can only be purchased a la carte from a selection of five random models that rotate every four hours of play – not in real time . It just seems too long; the only thing i want my kids to do for four straight hours is sleep. The remaining option is to earn or buy Blind Boxes (which thankfully can only be purchased with in-game currency) to try and get something different. Of course, the last time I kept a stack, I opened four from the same car in a matter of minutes, which was deeply unsatisfying.

That said, the model cars themselves are simply stunning, and each one I’ve collected so far is a faithful recreation of the miniatures they represent, down to the smallest detail: the texture differences between the parts plastic and lacquered metal; the subtle mold lines left by the assembly process; the wide range of paint finishes; the text stamped under the frame bearing the name of the model and the year of production. I always find myself spinning them around, stopped in my tracks by their fantastical appearance.

As impressive as they are out of their boxes, they look even better after some doorknob-to-doorknob action on the trail. This is where they really start to look like the toy cars strewn about my youngest son’s room: chipped, scratched and worn down from the demands of their seven-year-old automobile overlord. The most striking thing is that the damage was not applied in a rash or random way; cars correctly shed paint on their vulnerable corners and raised edges, light scratches appear on larger flat surfaces, black plastic is revealed under the silver coating, and printed stamps are partially erased. In the right light, child-sized fingerprints can be seen – especially on the windshields – and even their plastic tires are surrounded by the kind of gouges an immaculate Hot Wheels car will pick up after an after -noon pounding the sidewalk. Milestone’s success in making cars so believable is a big part of what makes Hot Wheels Unleashed so joyful to play.

Milestone’s success in making cars so believable is a big part of what makes Hot Wheels Unleashed so joyful to play.

That ridiculously good level of detail also extends to the environments themselves, from the scuffed and etched surfaces of the iconic soft plastic tracks to the almost imperceptible flourishes like air bubbles under hastily applied railing stickers. The backgrounds are also excellent, especially the vast cityscape buried in clouds that surrounds the construction site.

What particularly sells it is the exceptional lighting, which regularly comes from multiple sources all around each card, whether it’s the neon of a jukebox, blazing fluorescent tubes, or the glaring sun on it. -same. The lighting sets the cars up remarkably well in the environments.

The level of granular detail seems to speak volumes about the depth with which everything has been considered here, and it all comes together to create a hugely believable miniature world. It’s a little hard to soak up the speed at times, but there’s a brilliant camera mode included for seeing it all up close. My only issue with the camera is that it seems tied to the track rather than the horizon so whenever my car was running upside down or vertically the camera axes get confused and adjust it to find shooting was a bit of a brain-breaking exercise.

Pedal at Mattel

“Okay, Luke,” you probably say. “It’s pretty and touches the hearts of the Hot Wheels faithful. But how does it play? Fair! And you’ve probably been waiting for the other shoe to drop…but in a surprise twist, Hot Wheels Unleashed handles just fine. , in fact. Its arcade-style drifting drag races are intuitive and easy to pick up, but there are plenty of hidden nuances in its air controls. Once mastered – or, at least, moderately tamed – air controls can be exploited to discover sneaky shortcuts, navigate over opponents, or save a misdirected jump Boost builds nicely and quickly, although the higher your car’s base stats the less boost you’ll have at your disposal. This creates an interesting balance, as going for a weaker car overall will give you more of a boost to compensate. Personally, I prefer to upgrade my cars as high as possible and working with fewer boosts, because I think I’m faster that way… I think.

There are four levels of AI, and the slowest one seems very error-tolerant and a good starting point for the young or less experienced. Medium proved to be a surprising leap for the kids in my house – it’s far less forgiving and they often struggled to catch the pack after even a single respawn – but it was far more satisfying for me. Hard and above really requires upgraded cars.

Hot Wheels Unleashed screens (from Nintendo Direct, September 2021)

The tracks range from simple to very technical, but the track design is brilliant across the board. Built with curved, twisting stretches of Hot Wheels tracks but tied to segments of the environments themselves, one moment you’ll be sliding over orange plastic and the next you’ll be striding over benches, air vents, shelves and the floor itself, flanked by small cones. The use of each axis is particularly impressive, with a magnetic track enabling vertical ascents, descents and even rooftop runs. This means that while six maps might not seem like much on paper, in practice the way Hot Wheels Unleashed uses the layers of each level – and every nook and cranny they contain – makes it feel fresh during throughout his game. – friendly campaign.

Some of the latest time trials really force you to search for high-risk shortcuts.

Each event has a low objective that it will reward you for completing and keep you going, but there are harder objectives for finalists – and some of the later time trials really forced me to experiment and search for high-risk shortcuts. I can only speak anecdotally, but so far Hot Wheels Unleashed has done a good job of entertaining kids under 10 and a 40-year-old car nerd, although I feel like a few additional race types would have been nice. Chases in toy police cars, or takedowns, or just…something else. As it stands, there are only races and time trials, so the online options seem sterile. That said, my kids started playing an improvised brand of split-screen beacons on map floors. Splitscreen is two-player – not four, unfortunately – but it works great on Xbox Series X and was an absolute hoot.

Even if you’re tired of the available tracks, Hot Wheels Unleashed has an extremely in-depth custom track editor for you to create and share your own. You’re not limited to clicking together predefined corners and track lengths either; the tracks can be shortened, lengthened, angled, twisted, curved and looped as you see fit, and raised or dropped anywhere. It probably took me a whole afternoon to master the tools, which are quite complex, but once I really learned how to bend the editor to my will, I was able to create Mt. Barf-O- Rama, a monster that wrapped around and through virtually every piece of furniture in my Hot Wheels-themed basement. I expect great things from user-created tracks.