In 1968, the Hot Wheels were born when the American toy company, Mattel, introduced their line of little toy cars to the world. Since that time, well over 6 billion Hot Wheels cars have been sold and 27 video games (up to and including this one… and not including HW-themed expansions in other games like Rocket League and Forza) have been branded with the Hot Wheels moniker.
Personally, I never was a huge fan of the Hot Wheels cars as I preferred the G.I. Joe and super heroic Mego action figures of that era, but my youngest brother, Mike, loved Hot Wheels cars. He had scores of the damn things which he used to leave everywhere, and that made them prime targets for accidentally stepping on in bare feet. And yes, the goddamn Hot Wheels hurt just as bad, if not worse, than LEGOs, quite notorious for exactly this. Take my word for it.
Although, my enduring memory of him and his Hot Wheels cars will always be the literal convoys he would construct that ran up and down and all over our living room couch. He would have meticulous lines of 30 to 40 tiny cars everywhere, and he would sit there for hours on end just slowly rolling them along the arms and back of the couch. What was meandering through his four-year-old brain while he was doing this one of the most fascinating mysteries of the universe… probably it was something akin to what’s going on in this new Hot Wheels racing game, Hot Wheels Unleashed.
The game, which is slated for a September 27th 2021 release, will feature a career mode, a single-player experience called Hot Wheels City Rumble, in which players must win races time attacks, complete special challenges, and take down bosses to expand their vehicle collection with unique cars and track pieces.
On top of that, there are also Track Builder and Livery Editor modes. The Track Builder is the definitive tool for creative players as they will be able to create whatever tracks strike their fancy, and then share them with the global HWU community, and the Livery Editor will allow sticker customization and liveries of player’s car collection. These creations can also be shared with the community.
Your collection of in-game cars can be upgraded by investing gears to boost their stats. Gears can be obtained by dismantling vehicles you aren’t using. Upgrades are useful to jump from one rarity level to another, except in the “Super Treasure Hunt,” which can be discovered in a different, unique way.
It’s also both interesting and pleasing to note that Hot Wheels Unleashed won’t feature annoying microtransactions of any kind. Coins, the currency of the game, are gained simply by playing (i.e. winning races and/or completing challenges).
To top it all off, developer Milestone states that on day one, there will be over 60 playable and collectable cars, over 40 unique tracks spread out over six environments (garage, college campus, skyscraper, skatepark, etc.). One of these environments will be a kind of player’s “home base,” as it will be customizable to look distinctly when you race on it with your friends. And speaking of friends, there will be multiplayer modes that support both offline split-screen and online races (for up to 12 players).
In terms of the provided playable build of Hot Wheels Unleashed, there are only 28 cars and 9 tracks that are available. The only modes available to me now are Quick Race and two-player spilt screen.
Quick Race plays like any other racing game, or your garden-variety kart racer that’s been released over the last decade or so. You select your car… you select your track…then, BOOM, it is race time. And racing is fun, as it should be in a racing game: the controls are tight and responsive, drifting seems on-point, as do the amount of power-ups and/or boosts that are available on the tracks.
There are no real “weapons” as there are in a true kart racer but, to be fair, Hot Wheels Unleashed seems to be more about the need for speed and driving skill, rather than blowing up your opponents to achieve victory. The available tracks are creative and diverse throughout the various difficulties (easy, medium, and hard), with only a couple of unfair obstacles, mainly the mechanical/cut-out spiders that randomly shoot impeding webs down at your car. And, speaking of the difficulty levels, the AI seems fair enough as I didn’t notice any “rubberbanding” (an annoying feature found typically in racing games that allows computer-controlled opponents to catch up no matter how far behind they are… Its intention: to keep challenging the player – but it also tends to give AI opponents an unfair advantage) or out-and-out cheating… Especially when I was in the lead.
My only real complaint (beyond the fact that I would have really loved to try the aforementioned Track Builder mode as that’s always been a favorite feature of mine since I was introduced to those kinds of options on the C64 with EA’s sublime Racing Destruction Set) with this demo and/or preview build is that there’s a song on the soundtrack that most definitely feels like it was lifted from Prince’s early classic, I Wanna Be Your Lover. C’mon, Hot Wheels people… don’t steal from His Purple Badness! Jeez, let the man rest… and stop “borrowing” his shit.
All told, Hot Wheels Unleashed is shaping up to be a rather enjoyable, little racing game with a longstanding and historically fascinating license attached. Hopefully, the devs at Milestone will use these next few months to add some spit-shine (and maybe a virtual archive of some sort that chronicles the Hot Wheels brand’s 53 years of existence?) to an already adept addition to the racing game category.
Jerry Bonner | Gamepressure.com