NEWS

Hot Wheels Unleashed Impressions

Get behind the wheel of die-cast icons from your childhood

By THE OMEN NEWSROOM TEAM | April 19, 2022

Like LEGO, He-Man and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hot Wheels is one of those cherished childhood experiences that most would love to revisit even as adults. Hot Wheels Unleashed is banking on just that by bringing some of that die-cast car nostalgia to the virtual world. It’s by no means the first game to be built around miniature cars – nor the first Hot Wheels game, but it does stand out as a love letter to Hot Wheels and great fan service for those of us who grew up collecting them.

Hot Wheels Unleashed is an arcade racing game, where you race unlock and race iconic Hot Wheels cars around those unmistakable plastic tracks you may have built around your homes growing up, complete with 360 loops. These tracks are set in various real locations like homes, sky scrapers and parking lots, that gives players a great idea of the actual scale of these cars versus normal objects like furniture and basketballs that seem gigantic by comparison.

The cars themselves are meticulously and lovingly designed, and the game let’s you inspect them closely to truly appreciate the level of detail. The metal and plastic textures are recreated to a tee, as are the little creases left by the casts in which they’re made. Look closely and you’ll even spot fingerprints from the cars being held. The game also does a great job of making unlocking cars feel like building a collection thanks to some great presentation.

While Hot Wheels Unleashed might seem like a game geared towards kids, the controls offer enough depth even for experienced gamers. The cars have different characteristics and getting around the game’s twisty tracks isn’t as simple as it might be in, say, Burnout or other simplistic arcade racers. Instead, the game demands the right use of drifting and the opportune use of boost. None of this is overly challenging, mind you, and with a bit of practice, the controls are fairly easy to master. The one downside is that Hot Wheels Unleashed lacks the sense of speed you would expect from a game such as this. The cars do seem a bit slow, a feeling that’s compounded when you’ve run out of boost.

Like the cars, the signature Hot Wheels tracks look the part, and in Unleashed, there are plenty of jumps, obstacles, traps and boost pads to keep races challenging and somewhat tactical. For the more devoted, there are also secret shortcuts to find. The campaign is where players will be spending most of the time. After a few simple races early on, the game throws its best races at you at the later stages, and there are even some memorable boss events to take on. The objective here is to unlock great new cars and grow your collection, and we do feel that the game is a bit stingy in the frequency of car rewards. You do have the option to buy blind boxes using in-game currency, but you never know which car you’ll get. From our experience, it’s also quite likely that you might end up with duplicates. 

The game also features a robust creation suite, which gives serious players all the tools required to craft great tracks. It’s not for everyone and will take some time to learn, so if you’re rather just play, you can sample some of the best creations the community has to offer. The game also features two-player split-screen and 12-player online multiplayer, and while the multiplayer offerings aren’t too deep, they’re fun enough for when you want a break from the campaign.

Developer Milestone could well have played on our nostalgia and left it at that, but instead Hot Wheels Unleashed feels like a labour of love. It’s easy to pick up and packs enough depth for players looking for a challenge. The cars and tracks are painstakingly created and a joy to behold, but beyond that, this is a solid arcade racing experience, and comfortably stands alongside the best in the genre.

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