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Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 Turbocharged review: Not just for kids

Hot Wheels UnleashedImage: Plaion

At a glance

Expert’s Rating

Pros

Great driving experience and excellent controlLots of fun cars to collect and drivePerfect for both young and old

Cons

Very uneven difficulty levelSometimes the physics gets out of handA little more environments wouldn’t hurt

Our Verdict

When Hot Wheels Unleashed makes a comeback, much is the same, both on the surface and behind the toy wheel. However, finely tuned controls and a couple of new features enhance the already great driving experience, which together with imaginative and challenging tracks create a top-notch arcade racing game.

Best Prices Today: Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 Turbocharged Day One Edition

RetailerPriceSteam$49.99View DealPrice comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwideProductPricePrice comparison from Backmarket

I’m sitting in the driver’s seat of a large (but small) monster truck. Around me are a Koenigsegg, a toaster on wheels, something dinosaur-like, and an old Ford. The engine starts. I time the throttle just right and get full boost. The poor cars that get in my way fly away like bouncy balls, while I accelerate through a loop to complete a several meter-long jump over a coffee table.

Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 is fast, messy, and a lot of fun. But haven’t I played this before?

Milestone

Reboot or fresh start?

At first, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 can feel like a carbon copy of the first game. It’s toy cars in a wide variety of forms, with everything from real car models and pop culture celebrities rubbing shoulders with rocket-powered laser tanks. Add to that imaginative miniature tracks filled with loops, speed plates, and obstacles.

Together they create fast-paced, fun, and often challenging races that require full concentration to avoid ending up with a car upside down in a dusty corner. Just like its predecessor, then.

Not that this is a bad thing. The concept is still going strong thanks to the unique tracks. Courses where orange plastic roads, giant jumps, and imaginative obstacles mix with normal environments decorated with appropriate details like wooden planks, chairs and arcade machines, are reminiscent of the old classic Micro Machines games.

Milestone

A little car in a big, big world

Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 also makes better use of the full-sized environments than in the first game; like the Micro Machines series, they are more integrated into the racing this time around. Speeding around loops and orange gutters is all well and good, but there’s something special about dodging beer cans and slaloming between chair legs.

The environments in which the courses are set are large and full of furniture, decor, and other details that are woven into the races in different ways. In the museum, the track goes around a giant T-rex, while the escalators, ventilation, and arcade machines in the arcade make perfect racing tracks. There’s also a house with a living room, kitchen, garage, and backyard, a western-inspired miniature golf course, and an American diner and its car park. Being able to build your own courses with a simple tool also makes it clear how well thought out the environments are.

But even though the environments are bigger, more detailed, and better utilized in this second game, I miss the rooms of the previous one. Or rather, I miss the variety. Because as crazy as the courses are, there’s an unnecessary lack of variety when there are only five areas in which everything takes place.

Milestone

Jump at the top

Fortunately, it’s easy to forget that the backgrounds are often repetitive when the races themselves are so intense. Speeds are high and skid marks are few, instead drifting through the corners in a most delightful way with a perfect mix of full control and heart in the throat.

This sequel also has a couple of new game mechanics that actually affect the races a lot: The ability to upgrade and customize certain features of the cars, and a brand new jump button.

Jumping consumes some of the boost, and makes it possible to, for example, jump over obstacles and holes, jump to shortcuts, or jump over gaps in tight turns. It doesn’t sound too exciting, but it gives the driving a welcome extra depth – and makes the game stand out a little more from its predecessor.

Milestone

Wash your mouth out with soap

There’s simply a lot to like in Hot Wheels Unleashed 2. But then there’s the difficulty level. Just like its predecessor, some races are terribly frustrating and unfair. Sometimes because of a strangely high level of difficulty, sometimes because a single crash at the end of a perfect race can ruin everything. Luckily, the races aren’t particularly long, so it rarely hurts to tackle them over and over again.

Every now and then, however, there are cries of foul language directed at the mildly uneven level of difficulty, especially in the boss battles, where a single mistake often ruins the entire round.

At the same time, both the track design and the physics of the cars have been refined compared to its predecessor, so it’s not quite as common for simple collisions to have devastating consequences. But the fact that one tiny mistake at the wrong time can ruin an otherwise perfect race is no laughing matter. A limited rewind function would have gone a long way, although it would have also taken some of the tension out of the race.

Milestone

Shop, shop, shop for your happy face

But it’s actually not the cool races in fun environments that I like most about Hot Wheels Unleashed 2. It’s the toy cars, or the collection of them to be precise.

With over 130 vehicles in the base game, there are plenty of cool, fun, silly, and nostalgic cars and motorbikes to lust after. Since money is handed out freely in the campaign mode, there’s no need to compete in the same races over and over again or fill up a virtual wallet with real money.

However, there are already extra toy cars available for real money. And given the sheer amount of downloadable material released for its predecessor, the second installment is likely to be filled with one, two, two three expansion passes – but fortunately the base package is sufficiently well-stocked that they don’t feel like a chore.

Milestone

The gas at the bottom

Aside from the occasional game and series-based car, I’ve never had much interest in Hot Wheels. Yet I fell in love with the first Hot Wheels Unleashed because of the combination of fast-paced racing and the collection of toy versions of famous car models and fantasy creations.

Now that the second one is here, I’m still sitting with a smile on my face. A smile that is admittedly distorted into sheer anger every now and then, but not often enough for the game’s enjoyment to suffer. It must be said that this second installment doesn’t quite capture me in the same way as its predecessor, largely because the concept doesn’t feel as new and exciting this time around.

But with better track design, more balanced difficulty, and a couple of new game mechanics, this follow-up does enough to make the first feel limited. There’s certainly no shortage of good arcade racing games, but Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 stands out amongst the crowded field.

Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged

Tested: October 2023
Genre: Racing
Developer: Milestone
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Nintendo Switch, PC
Tested on: PlayStation 5
Size: 13.3 GB

This review was translated from Swedish to English and originally appeared on m3.se.

Best Prices Today: Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 Turbocharged Day One Edition

RetailerPriceSteam$49.99View DealPrice comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwideProductPricePrice comparison from Backmarket

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