A few weeks ago, if you would have told me that one of my most anticipated games of 2021 would be a Hot Wheels game, I probably would have laughed. It’s been years since I even thought about Hot Wheels let alone got excited about them. But since getting hands-on with the preview build of Hot Wheels Unleashed slated for release on September 27th, I can’t stop thinking about it.
I used to love playing with Hot Wheels as a kid. Granted my parents could never afford all the cool tracks and unique sets they advertised between Saturday morning cartoons, but we made do with old paper towel rolls and vacuum cleaner accessories. And it almost seems like the developers of Hot Wheels Unleashed had similar childhoods. While the preview-build only included nine out of the 40+ planned tracks, many of them utilized the environment like how we would when playing with actual Hot Wheels.
But these are not your everyday tracks thrown together by eight-year-olds. You won’t find loops and corkscrews for the sake of looking cool. Every turn, every jump, every loop, they all have a purpose to their placement.
Hot Wheels Unleashed is being developed by Milestone, the Italian developers based out of Milan better known for their Ride and MotoGP franchises. Their pedigree is written all over this game. Speed boosts and hazards are all placed strategically throughout the tracks. The Speed Boost meters are easy to fill thanks to the Burnout-styled drifting, but because of how each track is laid out using these boosts correctly can be the difference between first place and last.
And that may be one of the biggest defining factors that differentiate Hot Wheels Unleashed from other toy car racing games. This is not a kart racer. This is an actual arcade racer with real strategy and real racing tactics. You just, happen to be racing ridiculously detailed toy cars.
The meticulous details included in each of the 33 cars featured in the preview build are a sight to behold. Milestone went out of their way to show that these are actual Hot Wheels toy cars you’re racing and not souped-up cars based on the toy models. You can see the clear difference between the die-cast metal bodies, the aluminum exposed engine parts, and the plastic windows. You can even see the scratches on the paint job after each race.
While having over sixty cars planned at launch, a few of the 33 in the preview build were repeat models with different stats so I’m not sure exactly how many different car models will be in the final game. Another feature that stood out was that no matter what stats each car has, the game is balanced to allow every car to be a contender.
Even with the Sharkruiser™ which only has a speed rating of 2 out of 6, I consistently placed even after getting hit by several hazards. Kids playing this game will be able to choose cars, not based on stats, but based on which ones look the coolest, which is perfect for a game based on racing toy cars.
While the preview did allow access to the Quick Race and Split Screen options, it did lock out the Home, and Track Builder tabs. Quick side note, I am so grateful that a Split Screen option is included in Hot Wheels Unleashed. This is a feature that just isn’t utilized enough in games these days.
Even though I only got to play for a few hours, I had an incredible time. I can’t wait to see just what kind of tools and abilities the Track Builder will yield. There is also supposed to be a career mode, online multiplayer (up to 12 players), and over 40 official tracks. If you enjoy arcade racers or just want a trip down memory lane, then Hot Wheels Unleashed will Lead the Way onto the PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/s, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC on September 27th, 2021.