Hot Wheels Unleashed is loads of fun | Hands-on preview

by on April 13, 2021

Milestone has been the leader in motocross racing simulation for a long time now, thanks to cornering the market with series like Ride, Moto GP, MXGP, and Monster Supercross. Their recent efforts have lit up the next-generation of gaming. However, they’ve turned their hand to arcade racing with the upcoming Hot Wheels Unleashed. We were given an exclusive hands-on with the game, and our early impressions are glowing. The handling is tight, the courses are crazy, and the cars on offer provide a welcoming throwback to the toys we played with as kids.

Hot Wheels Unleashed: Superb handling

The first thing noticeable about racing was how responsive the handling is. Milestone know exactly how to get it right, and they’ve done it again in Hot Wheels Unleashed. Although the calibre of control is second to none, there’s a much larger slice of fun thanks to the tracks and cars that feature. Whilst it has been some time since a great Micro Machines game existed, it filled me with happiness revisiting my youth racing with these cars. I was always a fan of Night Shifter. This car had everything: a neon orange chassis and wheels, a dynamic body, and the cool as hell Hot Wheels logo on the side.

Hot Wheels Unleashed Garage

Racing around the different tracks with Night Shifter offered a smooth experience. Whilst you have tight corners to manage and smooth straights, there were other challenges, too. Drift feels amazing, and by using it at the right time, getting around corners looks and feels great. There are speed boosts to hit, both on straights and on corners, offering moments to break away from the competition. Some tracks had spider webs to slow me down as well as the AI. Others had huge jumps that needed to be timed right or else flying off the course was a given. Finding ways to balance control and speed not only provided a sense of skill, but it also became an enjoyable part of the process.

Nitro blends thrill and chaos beautifully

Another cool element to racing was using Nitro. Building it up happens gradually as you race around each track. Once a square on the gauge is filled, the ability to fly past opponents becomes another weapon in your arsenal. Knowing when to use it for the best often comes with becoming familiar with the tracks. After a while, though, Nitro is the best tool at your disposal. Some cars might not have the best acceleration, but they aren’t as tricky to handle. Whilst this is an arcade racer, there’re many layers to taking on each race. Finding the right car isn’t as simple as picking the nicest looking, it’s about making sure the statistics work with the player’s play-style.

Hot Wheels Unleashed Crash

Hot Wheels Unleashed: Looking great

It’s also worth noting how good Hot Wheels Unleashed looks. It’s still in the pre-alpha stage, yet cars look fantastic. The lighting bouncing off the bonnet and the intricate designs of each car looks gorgeous. Tracks for the most part resemble the orange plastic courses like the toys, but the various obstacles along the way give each course a distinct look. Dragons, spiders, and the garage the game takes place in all have some lovely design choices. I cannot wait to spend more time exploring Hot Wheels Unleashed to find secret areas, new cars, and different tracks.

Despite being in such an early development stage, Hot Wheels Unleashed is wonderful. Fans of the toys are going to blow a gasket as they choose iconic cars to race with, such as Night Shift, Dragon Blaster, and Sharkruiser. As for the racing itself, Milestone has managed to utilise their experience to provide a fun experience that blends strategy and skill with some crazy tracks filled with surprises. I’ve missed this type of racer. It blends my love of the Hot Wheels toys and video games excellently. I’ve got a great feeling about this going forward, and I can’t wait to play more.