No matter your age I am confident we can all agree that Hot Wheels is cool. From the moment this game was announced I was hooked on the concept and now having played a few hours of it I can tell you it does exactly what it says on the tin, err, case. Through a splendid assortment of crazy tracks with a great level of vehicle variety, Hot Wheels Unleashed absolutely delivers on a solid racing game, which thanks to the ability to share custom tracks made by players, will continue to churn out content for a decent amount of time post launch.
This isn’t just a normal racing game which the developers have slapped the Hot Wheels branding on, as through the level design and backdrop scenery, the cars you drive actually feel small. Don’t think that all you’ll see around you will be table legs and tile floors, as there are plenty of changes thrown into the mix as you progress through the plentiful events unlocked as you play.
The cars are all fun, highly responsive and made all the better to use through the wonder that is the DualSense controller. From picking the best moment of the race beginning countdown to slam on the accelerator to pulling off the perfect drift being complimented by the delightful sliding rumble, you may be able to play this game on any current gaming platform but I can’t see it being more at home on any console than the PlayStation 5.
It’s not a perfect game however, as while the sound design for the cars might be as good as you would expect from a Hot Wheels racer, the same cannot be said for the ambient music which plays during each event. It’s not horrible or intrusive but it does feel very token, as if it has been thrown in to kill the odd seconds of silence from the race itself, and as a result I would tune it out of my brain inside the first minute of every race.
The amount of difficulty options makes Hot Wheels Unleashed welcoming for players of all levels of ability. Despite my typical tendency to stick a game on easy and coast through it, I quickly discovered that this meant I would usually abandon everyone else at the beginning of each race and then never see them again until the end, even if I crashed. Bumping up to medium fixed this somewhat, as whoever was in second place would often be nipping at my heels for the bulk of each lap.
Each of the five tracks come with a range of obstacles or boosts to always give you something to avoid or aim for. These include random barriers which would slow you down (even if you just mildly grazed them annoyingly) to giant spiders which try to spit webs down onto your car to stop you in your tracks. To balance this, you will frequently find boost pads to suddenly hurtle your car forward, hopefully not always straight into the back of the vehicle you have been trailing until that point.
Drifting around each corner is very reminiscent of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, in that it is easy to pull off and looks amazing, but has awful consequences if you get it wrong. There is a respawn button if you get into a sticky situation, but you have to hold it down for just a little longer than you’d like so it feels more vexing than helpful.
Rewards for winning races or time trials are coins to purchase new cars with or cosmetics for your Basement, a room you can decorate with hundreds of possible options you can buy in-game. I have no clue what the appeal of this is, or why it is in the game as it doesn’t actively contribute to gameplay and I don’t buy a Hot Wheels game to practise interior design.
The only other gripe I have is likely to be the first thing prospective players will notice about it, the price. Currently retailing for £40, I appreciate this is no longer the benchmark for a full price boxed game release, but no matter how much fun I have been having with the game I simply cannot justify that cost. Whilst I do like Hot Wheels Unleashed enough to recommend it to anyone who enjoys racing games, I have to clarify that with wait for it to drop in price a bit.
Striking visuals, smooth and satisfying gameplay though let down a little by its soundtrack and launch price, Hot Wheels Unleashed is a fun game which will certainly scratch the itch you’ve had since you saw its announcement. I score it