Hot Wheels Unleashed: fun for the whole family

Moving from the carpet to the screen, Hot Wheels Unleashed is hours of fun no matter how old you are.

Hot Wheels racing on a track

by Ryan Gilmore |

It's a pretty safe bet that there is at least one Hot Wheels model in every child's bedroom. For more than 50 years these small, good value diecasts have been wheeled across living room floors as imaginary car chases, races and more have helped children explore their imagination.

We're testing the latest Hot Wheels video game (Unleashed) to see if it's any good for both children and adults.

At a glance

Imagine the most chaotic, jump-filled race you could imagine and then add in some orange tracks, ludicrously styled cars and a massive dinosaur. That is exactly what Hot Wheels Unleashed is. Available on PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One and Xbox Series X, it's the latest in a long line of Hot Wheels video games.

Just like with real Hot Wheels sets, the car list is varied, ranging from seriously quick real cars like the Audi R8 Spyder and Honda S2000 to the mad creations Hot Wheels is known for (Motosaurus and Sharkcruiser spring to mind). Rather interestingly, there are several pop culture cars including the Batmobile, Ninja Turtle van and even Snoopy.

What's most impressive about the game though is the graphics and attention to detail. The cars are kept in 1:64 scale just like in real life which means you get the moulding marks and textures of the real things. They also deform in the same way, little flecks of paint wear over time and scratches form during the races, again really impressive.

It shows how good the attention to detail has been. Then add in the stunning locations and amazing lighting and this game can rival some of the best racing games on the market.

Is it easy to play?

The game offers a difficulty selector which ranges from Easy to Extreme. On the lowest difficulty, even the youngest of racers will have competitive races which should reduce post-race tantrums dramatically. If you turn the difficulty up, even the most grizzled of racers will be battling for first place, great for making the game as inclusive as possible for skill level.

If you're at all worried the game will feel two-dimensional and a bit rubbish you're far from wrong. The handling physics may be simple and arcade-like but it's still very enjoyable. It's tap to drift handling mechanics as you'd get with arcade racers, but you do need to be aware of your entry position and speed which makes it both more immersive and a lot of fun to play.

It's a mixture between Mario Kart and Forza Horizon, the tap to drift mechanics are simple and easy to master, but every car does have different handling characteristics. For example, the heavier lorries in the game feel heavier and require earlier braking than the small, nimble sports cars.

What's not so good?

In fairness there are no weak aspects to the game, it's a very solid product overall. That being said some of the design-based features are clunky and a real learning curve. The track builder and livery creator will take a couple of attempts and a chunk of time to get your head around and will probably be frustrating for younger players. Once mastered however both features are solid and will add longevity to the game.

Verdict

Just like how everyone enjoys a quick game of Mario Kart, Hot Wheels Unleashed is so fast-paced and easy to master that it's great fun to play. The interesting car selection, graphics and crazy race tracks only sweeten the deal-making this a really endearing game.

Even if your children aren't interested in cars in the slightest, this racing game is sure to bring them hours of entertainment. It's a worthy gift this Christmas, just don't expect any peace and quiet while it's on.

4.5/5

Pros Cons
• Almost unlimited amounts of fun • Menu controls are a little clunky
• The perfect racing game for kids • Track builder and livery creator take some learning
• Stunning graphics

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