Loot boxes are the first thing you see when you start up Hot Wheels Unleashed. As a reward for their efforts, players are given an accomplishment called “First One’s Free” for unlocking the first set of cars in the game. Before a single small rubber wheel touches the plastic road, these bold decisions tell just what type of game Hot Wheels Unleashed is. With an emphasis on car acquisition and growth, Milestone has created an enjoyable racing experience. Though it makes sense when dealing with a well-known toy company, it’s cold comfort to anyone wishing to breeze through a few tracks at a steady clip..
Hot Wheels Unleashed’s City Rumble campaign, a Smash Bros. World of Light-esque board game menu consisting of racing and time-attack challenges, is the most common starting point for most players. As a means of generating revenue, it is the only method of unlocking all of the local multiplayer racetracks. As a means of dispensing race after race, the City Rumble mode’s presentation is bare bones, with tiny pieces of text appearing briefly to describe both its mechanics and the game’s monster-themed boss bouts. Between incidents there is no narrative, and the soundtrack is full of music that is used to get a crowd pumped up for a press conference.
Boss battles in this game aren’t as exciting as those in Forza Horizon’s “follow the aircraft” tasks, so players should expect a straightforward race with a few hidden difficulties. As the game progresses, the monsters are essentially a quartet of the most extreme track components from the toy series, and they appear in other tracks as default dangers as time goes by. Even though these songs are some of the most exciting in the game since they are so different from the norm, it’s unfortunate that the attraction doesn’t rest in an over-the-top gameplay experiment. It’s a dreadful tribute to one of Hot Wheels Unleashed’s oddest pairings.
Milestone is mostly renowned for its work on simulation games, such as those based on the MotoGP and Monster Energy Supercross motorsports. Unleashed plays out as though it’s attempting to dial in how a real toy vehicle would behave on tracks full of loops and difficult turns, which transfers uncomfortably to the world of Hot Wheels. There are places where cars can swerve off course, tumble from the top of loops, and flip into the air owing to a lack of velocity. For example, a fan favourite model may perform worse than a legal Nissan vehicle or K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider if one of the numerous renowned toys is randomly given to a player. Hot Wheels Unleashed’s adherence to realism might be impressive, but the end result makes that same approach a perplexing decision in a world where arcade racing games thrived.
Having saying that, once the racing begins, Hot Wheels Unleashed is rather fantastic. Drift-heavy gameplay reminiscent of recent Mario Kart outings requires Rumble careful control in order to win on any difficulty level other than the simplest. In contrast to previous Hot Wheels games, you won’t get very far if you keep your foot firmly on the gas pedal all the time. While playing online or in single-player, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to get personal with the other drivers’ automobiles. A nice time may be had playing through hours of matches, but the mechanisms around it fail to make a lasting impact.
As the months pass, Hot Wheels Unleashed becomes more of a foundation for further Hot Wheels-branded content to take root. In addition to the poor visuals, this is also evident in the cash system, which removes any sense of pressure from players to accomplish tasks. For an hour of racing and cash grinding, getting a single package with a replica of an already-unlocked car doesn’t feel gratifying. The game plays like a video slot machine instead of a hero-based one like Overwatch. As of this writing, you can’t buy currency with real money, but the entire system feels like it was built with that mindset in mind. It may be more cost effective at that time to get a set of actual Hot Wheels and enjoy seeing them race around a track in person.