STAFF REVIEW of Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged (Xbox One)

Wednesday, November 8, 2023.
by Chad Goodmurphy

Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged Box art Just shy of two years ago, Milestone released what would go on to become its fastest and best selling title yet. We’re talking about Hot Wheels Unleashed, which has sold more than two million copies to this date, having reached and likely surpassed that total last spring. As such, it’s become the developer’s most important IP, having passed the likes of MXGP and Monster Energy Supercross to obtain that nomination.

Now, the toy car racing is back, through the release of the first sequel, that being Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged. It’s a continuation of the first game that fans will thoroughly enjoy, but it doesn’t change things up too much. To see the true upgrades you’ll mostly need to look under the hood.

Upon installing and opening Turbocharged, you’ll be greeted with the option to play its ‘campaign’ mode, as well as free play, multiplayer and track editing modes. The crux of the game lies in its campaign, which is the lengthiest and most content packed option available, but there will surely be those who are only interested in the multiplayer aspect.

This time around we’re presented with a story, which is unfortunately pretty forgettable. Told through the use of motion comics, it’s about a scientist who unfortunately unleashes monsters throughout the nearby world. To stop them, he enlists the help of two young people – a red haired lass and her friend – and gives them a tool that will let them shrink both themselves and the monsters. This way, they can do battle using Hot Wheels cars.

Needless to say, it’s a bit out there and lacks depth, but it at least shows effort. I applaud the developers for trying to give their campaign mode a narrative, even if it didn’t necessarily need one. I would’ve been fine driving cars across a map, and taking out creatures like a yeti without it, but their effort deserves some commendation.

Like before, this mode is presented as an overworld map, wherein players must complete a number of events. Completing one opens up the next, and occasional secondary paths also appear, often requiring you to complete specific challenge goals or providing you with one or two more races to do. It’s a large map, too, and one that contains different regions, though none of the ones from the original game have carried forward into this sequel.

This time around, the environments you’ll be racing through include a diner, its exterior and its ventilation system; an elaborate outdoor mini-golf course that just so happens to be themed on the Wild West; a multi-floor indoor arcade complete with lots of games and pinball machines, and a backyard. These environments are better than what came before them, though, so don’t be worried.

The map of events leads you through these different regions, within its main and secondary pathways. Your goal is to finish one event, then the next, and so forth. These events take the form of time trials, where you’re attempting to beat both the base and special goal times; traditional races against numerous other, computer controlled drivers; drift challenges, where scoring points is key and traditional elimination races, wherein the last one to survive wins.

Although the event types are pretty traditional and unoriginal, outside of the bosses – which we’ll get to later – they’re fun and action-packed, much like those found within the first game. It’s also nice to see that the developers have listened to their fans, as things like the ability to jump, difficulty options and the ability to dash against opponents, though the latter is pretty unnecessary. There are also vehicle types, ranging from swift to heavy, with balanced in-between. I mostly stuck with the same bike whenever possible, but some events made me change it up and pick something different, including a particular type.

You’ll also find that the developers have updated the ways in which one can upgrade their many toy cars. Now, it’s possible to use tokens to unlock specific perks, like the ability to ignore annoyances like spiderwebs, wooden barriers and the like. You can equip six at a time, allowing for personal choice and of course, there are also approximately 130 vehicles to win, purchase and upgrade. This includes some returning favourites, as well as newcomers. You’ll notice bikes, ATVs and heavier vehicles that aren’t as well suited for racing as their swifter opponents. These vehicles comprise five different types, including the ones mentioned above and a couple of others.

You’ll notice that I used the word win above. That’s because, much like in Forza Horizon, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged has a spinning wheel. Through it, it’s possible to earn additional credits (which is mostly all I ever won), as well as special edition vehicles that don’t seem to be available elsewhere. I lucked out and won a couple at the end, but the majority of my 10-15 spins resulted in several hundred credits each. I liked this addition, though, because – I mean – who doesn’t like spinning a wheel and seeing what results? Perhaps it’s the gambling in my lineage, but it’s fun and – thankfully – doesn’t cost anything real. I’m too cheap to play real slots, but take my grandpa to the casino whenever he asks.

One of the main goals of this game is to collect all of the vehicles, but it’ll take you quite a while. First you’ll need to earn enough credits, which will take more than just beating the campaign once, and then you’ll have to hope that each one you need appears in the store, which resets after a certain period of time or can be nudged with a bit of a bribe. It’s possible to buy duplicates, though, so be warned and make sure to look to see if it says you already own something before you buy it.

Collecting Hot Wheels is nearly the same as it was in the first game, but you’ll also find that your efforts will unlock a number of other things, including profile banners for behind your gamertag. If you don’t play online, these won’t interest you much at all. Speaking of online, I must admit that playing racing games online has never held much appeal for me. After all, you usually have people who go out of their way to crash into others, making the experience frustrating and wholly unfair because it’s not based on skill. I did, however, play online. Surprisingly, it was hard to find more than one other person – who was playing on PC, meaning crossplay is available – to race against. The online arena was surprisingly quiet. Hopefully that will change.

Before we move on, I remembered that I said we’d talk about the bosses. Well, now is as good a time as any. The bosses, themselves, are creatures you’d find in a 1950s monster movie. Battling them involves racing along a track and hitting targets before a meter fills up. If you don’t manage to hit a target in time, you’ll be hit and killed, thus it’s important to hit all of the many (around 30) targets needed to kill a boss. Some also involve jumping, so be warned.

At the start of a boss race, it’s possible to miss a target and still make it to the next one. However, as you progress, that will become more and more difficult. The meter starts to fill up faster, making you have to rush more and more. As such, I recommend turning around and going back to hit any you miss so that the meter depletes and starts anew.

These aren’t particularly riveting, original or remarkably special boss battles, but they’re something different. They add some tension to the experience as you battle the always-increasing meter, but won’t be remembered long term.

Last up is the track builder, which is quite involved and will be a big draw for those who like to make their own courses. The game features quite a few, but it’s nice to be able to make your own and share them with the community. That is, if you’re into such things. I’ve never been very creative, or enjoyed creating things, but I do like trying others’ creations. This isn’t limited to the courses, either, because there’s also a livery editor that allows players to create and share their own liveries for each car. Some of them are a lot nicer than the base ones.

The track builder isn’t restricted by anything, either, as it provides you with everything found in the base game. You’ll unlock more and more pieces, boost items and the like as you play through the campaign, making it important to complete if you’re going to be the next best track builder.

All of the above is tied together by fun and fast-paced racing, which you really need to pay attention to. It’s easy to go off track and have to reset, although this frustration was more occasional than it was in the first game. There’s always a good sense of speed, though, and jumping adds a welcomed new ability to the fold. It’s especially helpful in the last type of events, which task you with going from one blue checkpoint to the next, and often require you to jump over curbs or things of that ilk. You’re timed as to how quickly you reach all seventeen, or so, and must do so within the allotted time goals. Otherwise you’ll have to start anew. Don’t expect the jumping to be perfect, though, because it sometimes works better than it does at other times. There were a few moments where I had to back up and retry my jumps.

Visually, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged isn’t much different from its predecessor. It’s a pretty nice looking game, with better looking environments than before, and Hot Wheels models that are very close to lifelike, but it’s never been the best-looking racer out there. It makes up for this slight decrease in visual fidelity by way of a blazing sense of speed and some challenging gameplay, which is too easy on easy but sometimes too difficult on medium. The first game got a bit too challenging with its restrictive goals and occasionally frustrating AI, though, so it’s nice they added the difficulty modes.

As far as the audio goes, it’s a mixed bag. The base game sounds nice, and has quality sound effects befitting the on-screen action. However, the electronic music that accompanies it all can become quite grating.

If you’re looking for a good, fast, racer then Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged should be on your list. This is especially true for those who enjoyed the first game, because this is mostly more of the same with some select improvements and additions. It’s still not the best or tightest racer around, but it’s good fun. Its slight control issues and occasional bouts of frustration are more easily overlooked this time around, too, partially thanks to a new difficulty system which makes the game much more accessible.

**Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series S**

Overall: 7.8 / 10
Gameplay: 7.8 / 10
Visuals: 7.3 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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