We asked for it for years and now, finally, we’ve got it: a new Hot Wheels expansion for the Forza Horizon franchise! The bright orange tracks, lavish vehicles and mad races have returned, and it’s… OK.

The introduction to the expansion, rocketing up into the sky in a Bad to the Blade car was pure exhilaration from beginning to end, with corkscrews, loops and death-defying drops that had my heart in my mouth whilst leaning all the way forward on my sofa. Now this, I thought, is pod racing. Don’t worry, I punched myself in the stomach for that.

After the ridiculously glorious introduction to the expansion, I believed there was no way the rest of it could continue the adrenaline rush I now had. I was correct, as it turned out, but I wish the game had at least pretended it was going to. It is here at the very moment of being given free roam that the ugly problem of the Horizon 5 Hot Wheels experience raises its head: The pacing.

At first, players are locked into B Class cars and must complete races and open world objectives to unlock higher classes, and therefore better cars. Suddenly, being confined to an Audi TT I hadn’t used in dozens of hours was more than a little jarring, and to add insult to injury it took far longer than I’d have liked to work my way up to the juicy S1 Class cars and beyond.

I’m also not wildly keen on the map. Yes, Playground Games have gone above and beyond to make it as big and beautiful as possible, but similar to Bender’s space-scraping tomb in Futurama, I feel the world is a little too big. Particularly in the early game, it takes forever to get anywhere, even managing to be boring on occasion despite the backdrop. The developers seem to have tried to counteract this by making fast travel around the map free from the outset, but to me this carried more than a whiff of realising their map was too big, and rather than downsizing slightly to bump up the fun factor they just tossed in free fast travel as if that makes it all right.

Races are pretty good if you can pick the right car, but you’ll often find yourself getting left behind by the pack if you stubbornly stick to your favourite rides on bloody-minded principle. It wasn’t the end of the world when I had to use cars I wouldn’t usually because my favourites were either locked out or unsuitable, but I discovered far more cars I disliked rather than like during my 15+ hours so far with this expansion. None of the events feel as exciting as the opening did, and I’m very sure that all the best parts of the world are not included in any races after the introduction.

The Hot Wheels Goliath event is definitely the most replayable in the whole expansion, but as it stubbornly tries to stick to the edges of the map, it also makes the mistake of staying away from most of the corkscrews and loops we know the game has to offer by this point. I want to give a separate special mention to the race in the forest in the Deora II down the waterslide pieces of track for being one of the few new original additions to the entire game.

I can’t sit here and pretend I didn’t enjoy my time with Horizon 5’s Hot Wheels, but I can tell you it did little to replicate the absolute thrill of Horizon 3’s. Despite the verticality of the new Hot Wheels track, both within itself and the fact it floats miles above Mexico, the moment to moment gameplay feels flat. I do absolutely adore the fact you can glimpse over the edge of the track and look down upon Mexico, but I wish they’d done more with this, like being able to see a sandstorm rip through the desert.

Having paid for the Ultimate edition of Forza Horizon 5 before launch, I received this expansion for ‘free’, but having discovered it retails for £15, I do think it is worth every penny, despite my views on its shortcomings. If you enjoyed Hot Wheels for Horizon 3 then you will definitely enjoy this, but less so, and if you enjoy racing games regardless of the setting then this is another one for you! I don’t see myself revisiting the Hot Wheels park for a while as I’ve seen all I can within it, and I’m still completely besotted with the world in the base game.

It doesn’t look like Forza Horizon 5 is going to be my game of the year in 2022 through its expansions, but I can still confidently score Hot Wheels

7 / 10

Let me know your verdict on the new Hot Wheels expansion in the comments and how you feel it compares to the Horizon 3 version, and thanks for reading.

Written by Alexx

Edited by Catherine

Images captured by Alexx on Xbox Series X