Like many kids, I loved playing with Hot Wheels cars as a kid, and now, as an adult, I eye off the Fast & Furious Hot Wheels cars every time I’m in Target. I also, of course, grew into appreciating racing games and eventually micro-racers, of which it’s been some time since we’ve had a good one. The last one I sunk a lot of time into was Table Top Racing World Tour. When the trailer for Hot Wheel Unleashed released a couple of months ago, I was instantly intrigued. Not only do I have a micro-racing itch to scratch, but the game looked rather pretty in a way I haven’t seen this genre look before. Well, I’ve now got my hands on a preview build of the game and can confirm: these are some pretty little Hot Wheels cars.
The visual quality and detail on each of the Hot Wheels cars in Hot Wheels Unleashed is by far the most impressive aspect of the game from what I’ve played so far. Each vehicle in the game looks life-like with minor scratches and details that make them feel even more accurate and played with, adding an element to them that grounds them in reality like no other Hot Wheels game I’ve played before. I wished the game had a photo mode already implemented because I wanted to explore the cars in more detail; that’s something I’ll look forward to doing in the full release.
I had access to various Hot Wheels in the preview build, including some of the rarer vehicles you wouldn’t usually unlock until later in the game. So I tried a little bit of everything out, but once you go fast in a legendary vehicle with a dinosaur on the bonnet, it’s hard to go back.
Depending on how you feel about AI racing that adjusts to your skill level, you’ll either love or hate to hear that no matter what car I was in, Hot Wheel Unleashed was an intense racer and a struggle to win on the game’s ‘Medium’ difficulty. It was a little too punishing for the default difficulty. However, developer Milestone noted that the difficulty is still fluctuating in the lead-up to the game’s release in September.
The racing itself is straightforward without any crazy mechanics. The vehicles handle roughly, and I struggled to master the drifting, but again, they’re toy cars, so how would they handle at the speeds I’m doing? I’d like to see some fine-tuning to tighten up the turning, at least.
One unique factor is that the cars don’t all share the same boost button. All of the vehicles gained boost energy as you drift, but some can hold only one short burst at a time, others held several small ones, and then there are vehicles with a more a-typical standard boost metre. This was the only factor that had me leaning towards liking some vehicles over others, although they all had their own stats about max speed, handling etc.
The tracks themselves also left me wanting more as — at least for the ones included in the preview build — they didn’t incorporate enough real-world elements in their tracks. A couple would have you racing across a table or something briefly, another had a shortcut through a vent, but for the most part, you’re racing on those famous orange Hot Wheels track pieces in different variations. Take me through a backyard, show me a track dumping me onto a kitchen bench – go wild!