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Game preview: Hot Wheels Unleashed (PC)

Mon, 5th Jul 2021
FYI, this story is more than a year old

It was with some trepidation that I started up Hot Wheels Unleashed, a racing game based on Mattel's famous line of toy cars. The Playground Games' Hot WheelsExpansion for the Australian-based Forza Horizon 3 is a favourite of mine.

Of course, when I saw the Milestone logo, a developer that's no stranger to racing games, my fears were somewhat allayed. Italian developer, Milestone S.r.l. has been producing motor racing games since the 90s covering everything from WRC Rallyto MotoGP. Of late Milestone has been more focused on motorcycle racing sims, but the outfit definitely has the chops to take on the iconic Hot Wheelsfranchise.

The Hot Wheels Unleashedpreview build only had the quick race mode available to play in single-player or local split-screen multiplayer. There was still a good selection of tracks and circuits as well as over thirty cars to try out.

Whilst Forza Horizons 3 has the Hot Wheels track and cars scaled up to real-life proportions, Hot Wheels Unleashed keeps them toy-sized. The result is an arcade racer that brings back memories of the Micro Machines games of the early '90s.

The miniature circuits are set up in and around everyday places ranging from a college dorm to a skyscraper construction site. They feature the familiar orange track, slightly wider for cars to race on and pass each other, as well as a special magnetic track that lets cars drive inverted.

The tracks have boost zones, obstacles and even spiders that trap cars with their webs. There are death-defying jumps, unfenced sections and even a dinosaur mouthed tunnel that'll close to obstruct the track.

The circuits are ridiculously fast and unforgiving. One false move and you can go from first place to the back of the pack. This wasn't too a problem in the preview as the AI seem quite well balanced, with the other cars making similar mistakes, and getting cause out by the hazards, causing a bit of on-track carnage, anyway.

The game's visuals seem to be shaping up nicely with the track having a realistic plasticky look and the cars being meticulously detailed. The game, even at this early stage looks a treat.

Whilst playing the game, my five-year-old spotted what I was up to. He scurried away only to return with a selection of Hot Wheels cars that are playable in the game. The preview featured thirty-three Hot Wheels cars accurately modelled from their real-life counterparts. In true Hot Wheels style, they range from turbo-charged garbage trucks to sleek futuristic racing cars. The selection screen states the car name, the series of the model and the year released.

Each car has its own stats. Some also offer a boost bar and others a boost from the start. All the cars are really quick, though some favour drifting around corners and others straight lines. The car handling and physics, even when defying gravity, are spot on.

Even though you are racing fanciful toy cars around a miniature plastic track, the developer has taken the game very seriously. The racing feels good, offering a very polished and responsive arcade experience.

The inclusion of split-screen local multiplayer is very welcome. We don't see enough of this. I can see the game becoming a couch competition favourite.

I was pleasantly surprised with the preview of Hot Wheels Unleashed. The game doesn't come across at all like the cynical Hot Wheelscash-ins we've had in the past. This feels like a proper arcade racing game with thrilling circuits and some great cars.

Hot Wheels Unleashed is slated for release in September 2021 on PlayStation 4 - 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and Windows PC.

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