The free to play feeling makes the driving pleasure cool down.
Were there knitted hats and boring books instead of fancy toy cars under the Christmas tree as a child? Such trauma can now be cured Hot Wheels Unleashed, a racer full of dream cars from the long-established American model car manufacturer. You get to drive movie acquaintances like KITT and Delorean, container-edged Audi Quattro and madnesses like dinosaurs and sausages with bread on wheels (with accompanying grill iron). It runs on plastic tracks, so it may not need to be explained that it is arcade racing.
“They make a full-price game feel like some free-to-play junk for mobiles”
But right at the start of the game, a new trauma is thrown in our faces – loot boxes. When you drive well, you are rewarded with cars, building elements and other things, and the cars are delivered in such vibrant, colorful nicks that do everything to excite your “Must have more stuff!” Desire. The better, the boxes are cosmetic (at least now during testing) and can not be bought for real money, but they still bother – they make a full-price game feel like some free to play junk for mobiles. Dlc-shop and season pass advertising directly in the main menu do not make things better.
You have about 60 cars to crave now that the game is released, and with most of it locked from the start, you need to run some campaigns to get new and better. The cars’ performance is shown in categories such as top speed, acceleration and “action”, and they are sorted by rarity. All have a powerful boost function that varies from short puffs to a tank that lasts up to a few seconds. Throw out the rear end in a pair of wide racks to charge the boost.
Milestone has got a good driving feeling with quite good but sometimes a bit spotty steering. The boost is absolutely crucial because the maximum speed without it is never very high, not even with the fastest cars. So it is important to choose a car with the right boost design to be able to push past Batmobiles, hot rods and other things the last nervous seconds before the finish line. And keep your fingers crossed that the car does not just then grab the side rail and spin as randomly as it sometimes does.
On the whole, both the layout and the execution are quite uninvolved. Some races are over in under a minute and can be run with the little finger, but one I am forced to wear for over an hour to reach the podium and get on. On another occasion, I get stuck completely in my career, there are no more unlocked races. It turns out that a specific race must be run with a certain car to unlock the next, and with that completed, everything rolls on in the same lukewarm as before.
Otherwise, most follow the standard template: driving against the clock or ai-driver, online driving against about ten people and local split screen for two. But the game has one thing that stands out – track builder tools. In the same way as in Trackmania you can create your own paths and then share them with the world. And in the same way, you need to plan and test yourself so as not to expose the world to jumps where the car lands a hundred meters too far away.
“In the same way as in Trackmania, you can create your own tracks”
But the build mode is difficult to understand, even though the functions are explained on the screen, it is difficult to find the right one and get fluency in it. In the end, it attracts more people to download courses from people with more time and patience. Maybe the developers’ patience also ran out. That would explain the occasional unbalanced creation in the career mode.
Hot Wheels Unleashed does not take advantage of the potential in either the track construction or nervous arcade racing battles. It is careless, uncommitted and greedy, and feels like a product (emphasis there) developed with revenue rather than gaming joy as the highest priority. The result is a game that costs way too much for what it offers. And that before all season passes and dlc.
PC version tested. The game will be released on 30/9 for PC, all Playstation, all Xbox and Switch.