Four to five years ago, the Hot Wheels video game scene exploded. Hot Wheels Track Builder and Hot Wheels: Race Off launched on mobile, while hugely popular franchises Rocket League, Forza Horizon and Need for Speed (No Limits) got their very own Hot Wheels DLC. Since then, we’ve seen yet another four Hot Wheels mobile games showing the brand clearly has plenty of demand. Milestone obviously saw Hot Wheels Unleashed as a no-brainer throughout the development period, they just needed to make sure they created something special to separate it from the rest of the field.
Hot Wheels Unleashed is exactly the type of game that we expected it to be. There’s a story mode called Hot Wheels City Rumble that includes almost 100 events, offline and online multiplayer, a cool basement area that you can deck out with an assortment of unlockable and purchaseable decals and items, a collection menu to view, upgrade or dismantle/sell your Hot Wheels, a shop to purchase and redeem Blind Boxes and time-limited Hot Wheels cars, and a simple options menu where you can adjust things like the difficulty level, controls, and HDR.
Hot Wheels City Rumble is a very simple text-based story mode where you unlock race after race on a large map of a city. At first the map is zoomed in, but after completing the first area it zooms out becoming a huge city filled with plenty of different types of events including races, time trials, secrets, and more races disguised as boss fights. Each event completion rewards you with different items such as HW coins, customisations for your basement, gears to upgrade your vehicles, Blind Boxes, and more. There are four difficulty levels ranging from easy to extreme, and we found easy was great for beginners, medium was tricky with the basic cars but not much of a challenge once you got a handle of the game, while hard was quite challenging and extreme was more a game of skilled luck and finding crazy aerial shortcuts. Luckily the difficulty can be scaled up and down at will, so we continued to adjust it throughout the City Rumble depending on our level of confidence. The arcade racing itself came across as very basic, and once you master the brake/drift cornering skill and line up aerials properly, you’ll find the best competition is in the online lobbies.
With just 60 vehicles in the game at launch, we found the line-up a little underwhelming given there have been more than 800 models and 11,000 variations produced by Mattel. It’s pretty obvious that Mattel plans to release plenty of DLC packs for Hot Wheels Unleashed in the future, and we already have the road map for the next nine months which shows a further 29 vehicles, 9 customisation packs and nine track builder modules will be added to the game by June 2022. While there’s no premium currency that you can use real cash to stock up on, the DLC packs will mean hardcore Hot Wheels fans will be spending big bucks to own everything in the game.
Although the Hot Wheels car selection is limited at launch, there are plenty of favourites amongst the starting 60 from the Boneshaker to the Night Shifter, the Dragon Blaster to the Skull Crusher, there’s a Hot Wheels car for everyone’s taste and by using gears earnt from events or by dismantling unwanted cars, you can upgrade the cars you want in the collection menu to become rare or even legendary. Each Hot Wheels car has four stats: top speed, handling, acceleration and braking, and by using gears you can upgrade them just once. There are also different kinds of boost, and we found that upgrading the car can give you a completely different boost system which would often leave us with a less-than-desirable result.
The Track Builder in Hot Wheels Unleashed is probably the biggest highlight of the game. After choosing one of the six locations, you can build a course or circuit of your dreams using the iconic orange track pieces as well as many of the familiar themed sets such as the T-Rex Escape, Spider Ambush, and the Hungry Cobra. Winding through the different environments, your track can utilise any part of the location, but beware that you do have to complete a trial race in it yourself before you can share it with the rest of the Hot Wheels Unleashed community. The actual building process is somewhat tricky to master, but once you get the hang of using all the triggers and rotating/stretching all the track pieces around, the Track Builder mode soon becomes one of if not the best part of the game.
Speaking of which, multiplayer in Hot Wheels Unleashed is very basic with only the race game mode included at launch. Offline is just two-player splitscreen while online lobbies support up to 12 players. There’s a quick match option where you can choose between five randomly chosen community tracks, but if you’re wanting to race on a custom track of your choosing then it might take a while to find other players online. The splitscreen offline multiplayer was fun for kids, but Milestone should have considered adding more modes to the game given how many different real-world Hot Wheels games kids have come up with over the years.
The graphics in Hot Wheels Unleashed are where the game literally shines. Each car and track piece looks as real as you could want in an arcade racing game of this calibre, especially one retailing for $69.95 AUD. The six gameplay environments are exactly what you’d expect to find, including a skatepark, college campus, garage, a skyscraper construction site where the track can actually go out a window into the clouds, a sleek empty track room, and of course the aforementioned basement. While six locations might not sound like much, the whole space can be utilised for a circuit, including areas like benchtops, air vents, rafters and even the ceiling. Graphically, Hot Wheels Unleashed allows you to create the most insane Hot Wheels track that you can imagine, and the only thing letting it down is just how many Hot Wheels cars, tracks and sets are yet to be added.
Milestone has done an incredible job in making the most photo-realistic Hot Wheels game to date. With the assets provided by Mattel, Hot Wheels Unleashed offers fans of the franchise and arcade racing fans alike a decent package at launch for the lower-than-usual RRP. While there’s not a lot to the actual racing, hardcore fans will find hundreds of hours worth of gameplay from track building to customising and upgrading the cars to mastering stunts and shortcuts. It doesn’t matter if you’re 3 or 103, there’s something for everyone in Hot Wheels Unleashed and there’s plenty more content on the way.
Rocket Chainsaw reviewed Hot Wheels Unleashed on PlayStation 5 with review code provided by the publisher. Hot Wheels Unleashed is also available on Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch and previous generation platforms. For more information, head to the official website.
- Great fun for children aged 3-103
- The Track Builder and Basement customisation modes are amazing
- Lots of modes and events including community-made tracks.
- Story mode is very basic
- Gameplay is very basic
- Only 60 Hot Wheels cars in the base game.