Hot Wheels: Unleashed – Hands-on Preview
It’s been a long time since we have seen someone try to take on the Mario Kart crown. There used to be a time when every second day there would be a contender getting knocked on his backside by the king of multiplayer-arcade racing. These days most devs have realised that taking on Mario and pals is a losing battle. But this year one of the biggest brands in the world is taking a shot at taking Mario’s crown, a brand so big that there would be very few people in western civilisation that haven’t heard of it. That brand is Hot Wheels and it is bringing every toy-based trick it can find to try and win you over to its side of the track.
I was lucky enough to get hands-on with a limited preview version of the game that features about 20 cars and 10 or so tracks. I couldn’t access the much-anticipated track building feature nor could I partake in any of the career modes so I can’t comment on that. What I can comment on is the racing. Put it simply, this is fun. A pick-up-and-play feeling that immediately put me in the mind of the classic Micro Machines titles, Hot Wheels: Unleashed is clearly aiming to be a party favourite among people of all skill levels.
The cars I could choose from ranged from classic Hot Wheels cars like a souped-up Charger or an F1 car to more crazy vehicles like a Skull shaped drag racer or a hot-dog van. Each car has a unique set of stats, one of two different types of turbo system and, somewhat amazingly, feel different to drive from each other. That in itself is a mighty achievement, having so many wacky cars all feel unique is something of a miracle. These differences cause a few little problems come race time, however. As there is no “class” system present it means that slow cars like tanks and trucks are in the same race as supercars and racers. There is an imbalance here that I imagine will be addressed in the career mode, but in quick play, it is a little bit of an issue.
The tracks I got to play on were universally excellent. All the tracks are designed with those classic orange roads that I used to use to create racing courses as a kid and they are not beholden to such things as physics and gravity. Loop-de-loops, leaps over giant spiders, sharp turns that hang over the edge of a skyscraper, it is all intense, all furious and a blast to play. When I think of what is going to come out once people have access to the track creator, well I must say the prospect excites me more than a little.
I did get to try some split-screen action as well and I can tell this is going to be a firm favourite in my house. Playing with my boys, there was yelling, gloating and cursing in equal measure, all the things you want to hear from a couch-multiplayer session. There were no noticeable slowdown or frame rate issues in split-screen either which is always nice to see. The AI racers are quite aggressive too. On more than one occasion a nudge from a competitor sent me spiralling out of control forcing me to reset to the track. Once again this reminds me of Micro Machines and the style of racing it used to offer.
In all my time with Hot Wheels: Unleashed has left me wanting more. There is a really solid arcade racing experience here and once the community gets hold of the track creator I can only imagine the types of tracks we will see. It feels like the best bits of Trackmania, Mario Kart and Micro Machines all rolled into one, creating a familiar, yet unique racer that is sure to keep players happy. I can’t wait to see what the full version has on offer and if it has a solid career mode, this one could be a real winner.
Hot Wheels: Unleashed is being released on every system known to man on the 30th of September this year.