I have fond memories of an old Hot Wheels game on the N64, not to mention collecting and playing with the physical cars when I was even younger. Those memories drove me to pursue a review code for the new game, even though I had some reservations about the developer only having released more simulation style racing games in the past.
Hot Wheels Unleashed is an arcade style racing game using cars from the Mattel toys brand as well as other licensed vehicles on the iconic orange track in a variety of everday locations. It launches with over 60 cars to collect and several locations like the basement, garage, and skatepark. It includes a single player campaign and online multiplayer races as well as the ability to create and share your own tracks. There is also regular car drops at 99 cents each, track editor pieces, and full locations planned as dlc alongside a battle pass system.
The single player campaign has you completing races and time trials across a city under attack by monsters. As you progress, you get a chance to take on these monsters as setpieces on the track, like a spider that shoots entangling webs at the track. You can also access secret nodes and rewards by using the specified vehicle, like the Bone Shaker. Speaking of rewards, each node has two goals to complete. Each goal corresponds to a reward such as coins, Gears, blind boxes, and basement customizations. The basement is a place for you to show off your favorite cars, liveries, and custom tracks to friends.
Multiplayer races are interesting. You can of course host a custom lobby, including making it private, or do quick races. These lobbies have everyone vote on the track they want to race. Each time, you are presented with two official tracks and two random player created tracks. This allows for an immense amount of replayibility because there are near limitless amount of tracks to race on. Unfortunately, because of the nature of car rarities, you can be matched against cars with higher stats, as there doesn’t appear to be any matchmaking beyond getting you into a race the quickest. It is also possible to join a race already underway, requiring you to spectate before you can race.
The cars are the real star of the game! With a mix of famous Hot Wheels designs like Twin Mill and Rodgers Dodger, officially licensed real world cars from the likes of BMW and Chevrolet among others, and licensed pop culture vehicles like Kitt from Knight Rider, you will always find something you enjoy driving. Each one is meticulously recreated in astounding detail, especially apparent on next gen hardware. The only downside is how to get them… Although a few are direct unlocks in the campaign, most will need to be randomly found in blind boxes or purchased from a small rotating store. While Blind boxes always cost the same, the car’s rarity determines its cost in the store. Luckily duplicate cars do have a use. They can be sold for coins or salvaged for gears, which are used to increase the rarity of the car, thus increasing its stats.
Being an arcade racer means that the controls are simple and intuitive. Right trigger for gas, left trigger for brake, and a button for boost. Simple and effective! This allows you to concentrate on having fun and winning instead of which button to press. Arcade style also means that it is on the easier side, even suitable for children, though you do get several difficulty options to choose from.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with the game. I would recommend it to fans of Hot Wheels models, previous games in the series, or fun arcade style racing games. I also think that the individual car DLCs are priced well, matching the cost of the physical cars. I even think that the DLC plan as a whole is well thought out, especially in regards to free DLC cars. Only time will tell if the execution is done just as well. Hot Wheels Unleashed is available now on several platforms.
I received an Xbox code for Hot Wheels Unleashed from a PR company with the expectation for coverage of some kind. I played a prerelease version on the Series X for several hours. I am mostly blind, so some things I have trouble with may not affect your experience with the game.