Before we get into Hot Wheels Unleashed, some preamble.
Growing up in the UK we had Matchbox before Hot Wheels. Then over the years and even into adulthood Hot Wheels got cool. Even now, in my fifties I spy a funky Hot Wheel in a dollar store or at a market stall and I’m in for a nose.
The attraction is in the design for sure, yes the cars traditionally run smooth and fast. Even the free ones from McDonalds last pretty well. It’s the style that sticks though, classic cars, outlandish cars, superhero themed cars and everything in between. I’ve had a few in my pocket or on a shelf, most recently in a bucket for the kids.
What’s this got to do with Hot Wheels Unleashed?
Well, the cars are the stars. It’s that simple, yes its a sturdy arcade style racer that’s accessible and entertaining, but grinding the collectible and familiar cars. That’s where it’s at.
As soon as the boys saw the growing collection, they instantly recognised the Toaster Car, the Koenigsegg and more. There’s no doubt, especially when you look at the Season Pass info that the game is all about collecting the cars.
Accepted they all perform differently given the stats they have, Acceleration, Braking, Handling etc. However, once you start upgrading them by using Gear Bits, the field gets narrowed. Add to that the human factor when racing and even the most underpowered car can lead the pack. One of the best aspects of the game is the livery editor, it won’t be long before some Forza level designs start appearing.
Gone in 60 Seconds.
Boost away youngsters. Hot Wheels Unleashed starts out well, the excitement of opening a mystery box, the first few races and the potential for track designing. Then I get a wobble, followed by an annoying wheel coming off.
It’s all about the Boost. Arcade racers need a healthy dose of playability. Classic Mario Kart had weapons and some extreme rubber-banding, it didn’t force you to constantly boost around tracks at breakneck speeds.
What starts out innocently enough starts to be the absolute of every race. Get a boost start, hit boost patches and pads, hit the patches that add to your boost and drift every corner. You’ll be sweet. The incredibly well-built tracks soon become a blur of incandescence. When spectating you can enjoy the world around the tracks, as a driver you really only see your car.
Days of Thunder.
There’s a price to be paid when things are going so fast, keeping your wheels on the plastic can be tricky. Especially with a supercar like the Koenigsegg, more times than I care to remember I’ve led the pack and lost a race due to a floaty jump or clipping some scenery. The restart takes time, which is fine, but the huge lead you have vanishes putting you way back in the pack.
It’s a little unbalanced, or unforgiving and don’t get me started on Time Trials. Apart from saying Time Attack events should be banned. There is no leeway to hit some of these times without a perfect run. Thats not just driving clean, its drifting every corner, hitting every boost and landing every jump. Time Attacks; can get in the (beeping) bin.
Being a cornerstone of progression in the Hot Wheels City, Time Attacks are something of an irritation. I don’t have the time or patience to deliver the performance it needs. Until you can beat some of them your game is stalled and certain unlockables are out of reach.
The game offers up plenty to see an do. The city map is the key to unlocking the range of cars. Other than that you can run Quick Races for coins off-line or online. Even at this early stage the online mode is awash with plenty of custom tracks. Ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. The lobby method is non-existent as it throws you into a random group, and online drivers are addicted to the weirdest tracks. It might be cool to run twenty magnetic loop-de-loops together, but you can’t race for crap on them.
The excellent track editor will no doubt give dividends in the long run, especially as the dedicated drivers persevere. Even in the supplied races there is plenty of action. Courses with flipping gates, all the turbos, no side rails and the upside down drive-on the ceiling sections.
Does Hot Wheels Unleashed take the podium spot?
It’s a cool game, with fun bells and whistles. I really like the concept, I don’t like getting frustrated at certain things. There is a buzz attached to finding a rare car, but under the hood, they’re not that different. Although I tend to melt them for Gear Bits or coins to upgrade or buy something else.
Hot Wheels Unleashed has plenty of fun factor for now, I just can’t see it staying exciting for long.