Title: Hot Wheels Unleashed
Developer: Milestone S.r.l.
Release Date: September 30, 2021
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: Milestone S.r.l.
Growing up, I didn’t have too many games to play, but for some reason, I owned Hot Wheels Turbo Racing, and it turned out to be one of my favoring racing games. It wasn’t a sim or overly complex, but it offered fun tracks and easy controls. So, with the release of Milestone’s Hot Wheels Unleashed, I was ready to have the nostalgia pour over me. Sadly, what was waiting for me on the other side of the finish line was a strange experience that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be.
The main offering in Hot Wheels Unleashed is City Rumble. This gameboard-style event has you choose your path through a town as you take on different races. It’s like a mix-up of different modes, but most of the time, you’ll be taking on standard races with the requirement to come in first to proceed. Now, this was my first red flag as the game’s rewards are found in new cars, and two different kinds of in-game currency are used to purchase new cars or upgrade existing ones. However, these stages don’t offer enough rewards when completing a race, and most of the time, it seems like it’s all or nothing. If you place at the bottom, well, you might get some coins, but you’ll have to continue to do the race until you meet the requirements to continue.
The next red flag was found in my very first race. I decided to play the game on Medium difficulty. I hit the wall one time and was in 12th place the rest of the match. These AI opponents are nearly perfect, and it doesn’t matter if they’re a dinosaur car or a muscle car; every single opponent will be grouped together for the entire race. I did my best to be perfect, make all drift turns without fault, use my boost, and avoid obstacles, but nothing worked. I was ultimately forced to turn down the difficulty to easy where I was in first for the entire race and pulled ahead of the group with ease. This unbalanced design makes me question who this game is for because with Turbo Racing at ten years old, I wasn’t questioning the game’s difficulty. I was simply having fun.
However, the rewards don’t seem to change if you play on a lower difficulty. So you could easily cheese through the game board portion, collect the rewards, and start obtaining new cars. Cars are obtained through exploration and Blind Boxes. The boxes can be rewards for completing races, but they need to open from the main menu.
Further, I could only open them one at a time, which was annoying when I had five to go through. You can also purchase them for 500 Coins, but I never really needed to. Now the red flags turn to me wanting to walk away after discovering that it’s possible to receive duplicates of cars, and they have a rarity. It’s not like you can pay more to receive a guaranteed new vehicle either. It’s an annoying feature that could have been easily improved if the developers converted duplicate cars into gears to upgrade your existing cars, and these gears don’t come easily.
As you complete the City Rumble mode, you’ll have enough unlocked to entertain the idea that you may have some of the better cars available to compete in multiplayer races. However, from my experience online, all the other racers were just as bad as me, so I actually had the most fun here. I’d say this is an excellent game if you enjoy purely playing online because the arcade systems make it an easy game to pick up and understand. There are only three buttons, accelerate, drift/brake, and boost. Boots are gained from drifting and slowly rise while racing. Drifting can be extremely difficult to get the hang of, though, and after-hours playing, I still don’t think I’ve gotten the hang of it.
Control and speed come down to the car you are using, which each have their own stats and boost style. It definitely differentiates them, but some cars are just so lacking that they aren’t worth upgrading. I think the best part about them is how well they look. Yes, Hot Wheels Unleashed is a pretty game. The tracks are fun, sometimes confusing, but creative.
They’re a ton of them to unlock, and there are some really nice lighting effects on the tracks. However, I wouldn’t say I liked how they made you also pay for tracks in multiplayer. If I wanted to play with a friend, I was forced to spend coins on tracks, but those coins were hard work to obtain, so I didn’t want to pay them.
There’s an added track editor, which is probably the best part of this experience. So you can just hang out and create some crazy tracks to race on with your friends. The developers have made this mode as accessible as possible, and I didn’t have trouble navigating the construction of a track. Sadly, although Turbo Racing had a great soundtrack, Unleashed doesn’t have anything close to what you could consider a soundtrack opting for generic drum-and-bass loops for every race.
Hot Wheels Unleashed is really nice to look at and sometimes fun to play, but I’m not sure who it’s for. The in-game currency model is unnecessarily convoluted and annoying most of the time. The difficulty is unbalanced to the point where I was forced to play on easy and swallow my gamer pride. The online multiplayer is where the most enjoyment is, but expect to invest hours trying to pull a car that can compete with some of the rarer racers. If Unleashed were a contender in a race, it would place 12th, like I did many times.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.