On the face of it the Hot Wheels brand is highly fitting for the video game scene. There’s a huge variety in the roster of cars for one, but then the massively customisable pieces of track easily lend themselves to some crazy circuit racing. When combined with the sheer speed that these cars hurtle around at, it’s ripe for racing action. Hot Wheels Unleashed plays on these moments pretty well, able to deliver up some intense arcade racing which will more than suit fans of the brand. But there are issues too, and these hold this Hot Wheels offering back from really being let off the leash.
Hot Wheels cleverly captures the wildest of imaginations and puts them right along side sports car aficionados in perfect tandem. Hot Wheels Unleashed is the latest attempt at making a feasible arcade racer with the all too familiar toy line.
Hot Wheels Unleashed grabs you in an enveloping hug of nostalgia from the moment you first rev your engines on the iconic twisting orange track. The genius thing the Milanese studio have done is to present the Hot Wheels cars not as altered approximations or larger vehicles stylised to resemble the toys. They have presented them as toys, little cars driving around giant real-life environments, with a sense of scale and enormity that recalls the world inhabited by Woody and co in Toy Story.
Each and every race does however play out pretty similar, no matter whether winning conditions are attached to a completion of a specific number of laps, as a point-to-point race or via the aged old time attack style. They all put you behind the wheel of a car of your choosing, left to nail a starting countdown and then sent off to race, drift, and boost your way to glory.
Cars can be customized to look however you want from a color scheme. So if you pull a car that’s got an ugly base color, you can either go customize it yourself, or you can choose from a healthy selection of player created customizations available simply by pressing a button and applying it.
The heft and power of the PS5 really makes the cars and tracks sing. Just to double down, these look like toys – right down to the seams and edges or materials used to make them and the moulded Hot Wheels details on the undercarriage. You can clearly make out where metal meets plastic, and see them get chipped as they batter into each other during races. My breath was taken away when I spotted that you can actually see fingerprints on the cars. How cool is that?
On the whole, Hot Wheels Unleashed is a decent effort at bringing the iconic brand into the video game scene for real. It’s able to deliver a wide variety of cars and tracks to gamers in a way that is fast and frantic, seeing it occasionally verge on being a really great arcade racer. Physics issues and little minor annoyances stop this from reaching the very highest step of that podium, but if you’re a Hot Wheels fan, Unleashed is well worth a visit – and should continue to grow with the promise of a huge amount of post-launch content.