Even if you have never played with Hot Wheels, you surely know this line of miniature cars from Mattel that has transcended the world of children’s toys to become collectibles for all ages. More than 6000 million units have been sold thanks to a very affordable price, and if you are not interested in creating tracks to play with them, you can always get hooked on buying your favourite vehicles.
Of course, this success is not maintained only with the scale figures. Mattel has worked on movies, series and a long list of video games with varying degrees of success. After collaborating with several weight licenses ranging from Rocket League, Forza Horizon, Need for Speed or Asphalt, now Hot Wheels gives the baton to Milestone – Ride, Monster Energy Supercross, MotoGP, MXGP or Valentino Rossi: The Game – which is in charge of developing a pretty fun arcade speed game which sums up the spirit of the license: speed, collecting and customization, although it lacks a rung of ambition to become an essential of the genre.
Skidding in your living room
In our impressions, we tell you the base of Hot Wheels Unleashed, a casual arcade where we play with one of the more than 60 car models available – many, but not as many as it could have – in miniature circuits that take place in different settings. The title plays with the scale of the toys so that any minimum height will imply a fall into the void, and the lightweight makes them a bit unstable when they jump down ramps; that is, we will need to maneuver a little in the air so that the car does not of bell turns or bouncing off the track.
The circuits contain some traps and surprises that make the race more fun, which, as we warned, lacks weapons or other offensive mechanics seen in karting or combat games; the only way to annoy our opponents is lunges. Some cobwebs trap the vehicles, drive panels but also slow down the speed, moving parts in the forks that open or close the path, breakable obstacles and, ultimately, the transfer of Mattel circuits to video games, including loops and slopes. Worthy of a roller coaster.
These races are fun, and the control is very arcade. It does not reach the speed of a Ridge Racer or Burnout, and the design of the official lines is quite comfortable even for novices – open curves, long straights – so it is usually more about managing the turbo of the vehicles and drifting as long as possible and then having excellent driving skills. The difficulty is accessible in the first tests of his campaign, and any regular player of the genre will have no problem leaving the rest of the squad behind within a few moments of starting. That changes as you progress, but generally, we believe that this ease against AI negatively affects emotion; unless you make a series of blunders, you will run in the lead for many laps; We recommend raising the difficulty if you have experience in arcades.
Hot Wheels Unleashed has a primary mode for a player: exploring a map with a test network that we unlock. In this way, if we get a terrible test, we can always choose another route and continue through other nodes and who knows, we could even find secret trials and rewards. You can imagine what you can find: races against the clock, competitions to get on the podium or the “boss” phases that are more demanding. Winning brings prizes that include virtual money and loot boxes, because of course, one of the pillars of Hot Wheels is collecting vehicles realistic or quirky looking. Each car has different characteristics of speed, acceleration, control and stopping power, and its capacity or type of turbo; If you find one that you like, you can continually improve it and customize its appearance with a relatively simple colour editor.
All these awards are therefore aimed at getting more content. Be it vehicles, money, parts for the track editor, or decoration elements, little by little, you will expand the collection and the performance of your cars. The rest of the modes are pretty typical but no less important, from time trial mode to online multiplayer and split-screen, which is where we will find more fun in the long run. Still, it remains to be seen if Hot Wheels Unleashed achieves a sufficiently strong community in the middle. Long term.
The summary, without a doubt, is that Milestone has given birth to a game that entertains even if it sometimes feels too “formal” and conservative, something that can come from the use of a license. We don’t necessarily ask for missile or mine-dropping vehicles, that’s what other speed games do, and it doesn’t fit Hot Wheels, but in a way, Unleashed isn’t “unleashed” – all it does is just what we might ask an arcade game to do. With the Mattel brand, but missing a surprise point.
Where Hot Wheels Unleashed more than meets what we could expect is in its circuit editor, with which you can create your dream track. You will probably know these types of editors from other games or genres: connecting pieces, creating curves, adding obstacles, etc. It is pretty intuitive, although it is one thing to build a track and another to design an inspiring way, which requires experience and dedication. Those who enjoy the game will get a lot out of it beyond the campaign and the “official” circuits.
Although not a very demanding game, Hot Wheels Unleashed looks pretty good, and all the attention is on Mattel vehicles and items. You can miss some more locations to give variety to the atmosphere of the tracks, but once the game begins, we will pay very little attention to what surrounds us. We have played it on PlayStation 5, and it uses the adaptive triggers of the DualSense to give resistance to the pedal and the brakes, a function that we will see in all speed games.
The sound section has left us a little colder, not so much because of the quality, which accompanies and adapts the audio according to turbos. Still, we are talking about fictitious cars, and therefore the effects of the engine are somewhat generic, while the music electronics are quickly forgotten.
Hot Wheels Unleashed is a fun title for fans and not-so fans of collectible toys, and that speaks well for a game based on such a license. If you are looking for a classic arcade and you are attracted to the idea of editing your circuits, it will surely meet your expectations. Could it be a rounder?
Yes, it is a very competitive genre. You will find better exponents section by section on any platform, in more chaotic, more spectacular slopes or with online communities with a guaranteed future. That does not mean that Milestone has taken this development very seriously and shows talent beyond their motorcycle simulators.
We prepared this review with a digital review copy for the PS5 version provided by the publisher.