02nd Nov2021

‘Hot Wheels Unleashed’ Review (Xbox Series X/S)

by Phil Wheat

Anyone out there remember Micro Machines? Those tiny little diecast cars that kids, at least of my generation, went crazy for… Well if you’re old enough to remember the toys, then you’re surely old enough to remember the video games! Spanning multiple consoles, including the Sega Megadrive, Commodore Amiga and the Nintendo NES – the version of the game I loved the most – Micro Machines saw players race, fight and generally cause havoc across a variety of household settings in a top-down racing game that mixed odd, unfamiliar landscapes (billiard table anyone?), with ridiculously frenetic gameplay. I for one LOVED it!

Over the years there have been many new iterations of that original game, including the final game in the franchise, Micro Machines V4, which was released back in 2006. There have also been a number of “knock-offs” (or homages if you prefer) that have made their way to consoles and phones/tablets in the intervening years – games like Micro Pico Racers and Toybox Turbos. Well, surprisingly, its taken a game based on a larger set of toy cars – Hot Wheels – to recapture the spirit of those early, great and more importantly FUN Micro Machines video games… Hot Wheels Unleashed.

I’m not going to beat around the bush, if you like arcade racers; games that are a hell of a lot of fun to play and, at times, demand you use skill and timing to beat tracks, then Hot Wheels Unleashed is a MUST BUY. It’s that simple. But OK, let’s talk about the game too. I guess saying “buy it, its good”, doesn’t really work as well if it’s not a mate with the same gaming tastes as you or if you’re not a kid who doesn’t have to worry about the cost of a games ’cause their parents will fork out for it, no matter the quality!

So what makes Hot Wheels Unleashed good? For starters it distills everything arcade racers get right into one game. Everything that gamers loved about the Micro Machines games is packed into Hot Wheels Unleashed and there’s also aspects of Burnout Paradise here too – throwing your car around the tracks, drifting corners to charge your boost bar. This is literally everything I’ve experienced AND love about arcade racing games in one title!

Then there’s the fun factor. A real FUN factor. From crazy tracks that throw you left to right, flip you upside down and generally try and disorientate you at every turn, to spiders, dinosaurs and flaming dragons, Hot Wheels Unleashed tracks are completely unforgettable. The bright, colourful and crazy layouts literally look something a kid would have built in their bedrooms, with the kind of wildly imaginative ideas that only a game based on a toy franchise could bring to a video game.

But the bright cheery colours and the fun layout doesn’t mean that the gameplay of Hot Wheels Unleashed is childs play. Anything but. In fact there’s a distinct learning curve to the game that demands you actually learn the mechanics of the game, from getting the best start in a race; to drifting around corners (and oftentimes corner after corner after corner) and just when is the best time to use your cars turbo function. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the games time trial courses, which can be brutal. Honestly without mastering the aforementioned skills you can literally be unable to complete a time trial by seconds… milliseconds even! It’s even trickier if, like me, you want to 100% / Gold-Star each and every course under the fastest times. Yeah, turns out I’m a perfectionist when it comes to Hot Wheels Unleashed!

It’s not all great however, whilst I honestly REALLY enjoyed my time with the game there was one frustrating issue I had. The “secret” courses! It didn’t take me too long to complete all the available, and open, courses (about 19% of the game) at the start of Hot Wheels Unleashed but – honestly – I was flummoxed by the “clues” the secret courses provided. I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out the rather obtuse “riddle” that some of them provided. That was until, after repeating a few course and maxing out the rewards, including the previously mentioned time trial courses, that I got a car which was named in one of the secret course “clues/descriptions”. It was ONLY then that I realised that said clues were hints as to completing courses in a specific fashion – such as winning a course in a particular car. Once that clicked it didn’t take long for me to unlock the courses and proceed further into the game. I do wonder though, given this game is based on a kids toy franchise, whether its all a little too highbrow for kids? Or maybe I’m an idiot!

Whatever the case, once I’d figured out how to unlock those courses the fun continued and, as is often the case with racing games I truly adore, I’ve revisited Hot Wheels Unleashed multiple times since completing it. Not because of any need to FULLY complete the game, because I’ve done that, more because its such fun. The kind of pick up and play game you can jump in and out of at any time and know you’re going to enjoy yourself. And best of all there’s plenty of DLC incoming, which means you can drive round the courses in you’re favourite cars – be it the Batmobile, Delorean or more – all over again!

****½  4.5/5

Hot Wheels Unleashed is out now.


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