STAFF REVIEW of Hot Wheels Unleashed (Xbox One)

Monday, September 27, 2021.
by Heather Webster

Hot Wheels Unleashed Box art Have you ever played with Hot Wheels on that classic orange plastic track, launching your favorite car and wishing that you were behind the wheel experiencing every aspect? Your wait is over because it has arrived! You’re going to need to clear your schedule because Hot Wheels Unleashed is the kind of game that you can play for extended periods of time. It is exactly what we dreamed about as kids playing with those 1/64 scale die-cast imitation cars. You even begin the game on a city map, just like the rugs we played on back in the day in our rooms. The City Rumble opens onto a map with medallions showing the location of races. The first few races start you out on relatively easy tracks, providing a space to become accustomed to your Hot Wheels cars and the overall gameplay. From there the tracks become more challenging with forked tracks, loops and even the big red T-rex from the iconic Hot Wheels T-Rex Rampage play set.

Play levels in City Rumble to unlock awesome rewards such as blind boxes, new cars, gears (for upgrading) and customizable pieces to decorate your basement. There are so many different items that you unlock as you play the game that it becomes addictive, including profile backgrounds, tags and profile cards. It’s pretty great that as you unlock more rewards you gain more track pieces for your custom track builder as well.

One of the coolest features of this game is the ability to create your own tracks. The track builder is an incredible track laboratory that had the undivided attention of the developers for more than two years. When they were done developing it, the track builder system was then the basis for the track creation for the rest of the game, making it feel like you are one of the developers. You have your choice of the same six settings the main game is played in, as well as a specially designed wide open track room. Now you can build your very own track design, and there literally isn’t a thing you can’t do to these track pieces. You can choose to build a circuit or a course, though I especially love the T-rex head as a starting point. After you have positioned the start, you can then create the body of your track. The possibilities are endless, so take a few moments to become accustomed to the view and controls as you manipulate the track. After you’ve built a track be sure to validate and share it to the community for anyone else to race on and enjoy, that way it can be downloaded and played by the community. I had a hard time with the point of view for the track builder, but as I continued to build I did get used to it the more time I spent with it. I really can’t say enough about this track builder. There is so much to be said but it’s better if you experience it for yourself.

The graphics in Hot Wheels Unleashed are certainly appealing to the eye. From the map in City Rumble to the races themselves, it really makes you feel like you’re driving the toy cars on real Hot Wheels tracks. Giving it more of that feel, if you pay attention to your surroundings a little bit as you travel through the track you will notice that you are actually in each setting with the track interacting with objects in the space, like when driving through the ventilation system in the room. As for the soundtrack, I found it lackluster, so I turned down the general game volume and turned on my personal playlist while still enjoying the sound effects.

If you are less of a builder and more of a race-only type of player, there are lots of options for you as well. You can play offline multiplayer in splitscreen, or online with up to 12 of your buddies or the community in public or private lobbies, but keep in mind that your competitors are only allowed through same brand of system that you are playing on. You can search through the library of tracks built by the community or download your favorite ones and race against your friends on them as well, so there's virtually infinite tracks to race on.

When it comes to the actual racing, Hot Wheels Unleashed checks most of my main racing game must haves. Obviously, with the crazy fun and fast tracks, time trials complete with a time goal to beat as well as a quicker finish time that is called the Unleashed goal. Gain speed from the start by timing your launch perfectly and drift around those wicked corners to refill your boost meter. This really got my heart pumping, and I could really feel myself driving! Punch the boost to make epic jumps and use your Right Stick to steer your vehicle as if it had magically become an airplane to maneuver your car for the perfect landing to keep your speed and stay ahead of the pack. Sometimes you might even need to complete an epic flip over a gap and still time it to be able to not crash. It was awesome!

Every vehicle has a rarity level based on how difficult it is to find, which slightly increases its attributes. It brings me back to when I used to hunt down the newest batch of blind boxes at the nearest toy store in hopes of finding the rare and legendary cars. Once you have those cars and you have collected enough gears, you can upgrade your cars' rarity, boosting its performance on the track.

Overall, I loved Hot Wheels Unleashed both for its gameplay and its ability to bring me back to my childhood by bringing my dream tracks to fruition in the track builder. I can easily recommend Hot Wheels Unleashed to pretty much everyone who even once got the joy of playing with Hot Wheels 1/64 scale die-cast imitation cars. The livery editor is a cool addition as well; I mean sometimes you just need to have an all-purple multi-texture paintjob in your car collection, which is exactly what my wife did. I was really surprised when I discovered that my wife was just as excited about this game as I was. In previous racing games she would only race with me for maybe an hour tops. Hot Wheels Unleashed on the other hand had her racing with me for a couple more hours at a time. I personally spent the better part of two days simply playing, not just for the review, but out of pure enjoyment, as I had a ton of fun and will continue to play it for a long time to come, trying out the community made tracks.

Is Hot Wheels Unleashed the best game of the year for racing games so far? In my humble opinion, it blows other racing games out of the water on sheer fun and entertainment, or should I say, right off the bright orange track! Make sure you check Hot Wheels Unleashed out on release day, as there will be DLC available with even more than the 66 initial available cars, 40 tracks and much more, including Season Passes.

**Hot Wheels Unleashed was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series S**

Overall: 9.5 / 10
Gameplay: 9.9 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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