Hot Wheels Unleashed: Great racing fun in the toy line’s universe

I don’t believe I’ve thought of Mattel’s Hot Wheels in years, however I’ll be circling around Sept. 30 this year. Hot Wheels Unleashed releases that day, and the arcade-style racer couldn’t remain in much better hands.

Milan-based Turning point, understood for hardcore, accredited racing simulations like Beast Energy Supercross 4 and the MotoGP franchise, gets a chance to extend its legs artistically with the die-cast collectible cars and trucks, and they do not squander the minute one bit. A weekend with a sneak peek develop of Hot Wheels Unleashed revealed me thrilling, healthy racing action, once again and once again and once again. It’s not just a roll-out of kart-racing tropes and power-ups in a Hot Wheels chassis. There’s enough irregularity on the track, in the automobiles, and landscapes surrounding everything to make Hot Wheels seem like it has a canon, and you, the chauffeur, belong to it.

The tracks, obviously, are a second-grader’s dream come to life. Once again, instead of sewing together unjustified corkscrews and ferris-wheel sized loops for visual result just, the tracks I raced carried out such things with some type of difficulty or benefit in mind. The momentum in the corkscrews, for instance, brings you into the corner rather of far from it — which’s typically where the track does not have a guardrail. A substantial loop may lead into an increase pad, increasing your momentum (and offering a lot more with a tactical usage of turbo increase). It may likewise spit you into a vulnerable barrette turn, sending your toy off the track and toppling into the surrounding meta-environment.

The settings themselves figure considerably into Hot Wheels Unleashed’s winning visual. What I saw had 3 various environments — somebody’s basement, a college structure, a high-rise building under building and construction — and after that a number of pre-built courses wending through it. Some course sections zipped briefly throughout bare flooring or somebody’s desk prior to rejoining the plastic track, for instance. In the basement, a spider is a track hazard, and its web becomes a kind of blue-shell equalizer knocking out the race leader. In the campus setting, I fell out of the “Applied Gravity” track, and rather than respawn on it, I just raced around on the flooring, underneath stool legs and out into the library. I did fall from one part of the track to another a couple of times, but I don’t think it gave me a shortcut advantage. Still, kart-racing perfectionists will inevitably be on the lookout for such things.

Image: Milestone/Mattel

All this supplements a vehicle fleet that showed 33 cars in the preview build, with more than 60 promised at launch. The cars have variable handling, speed, and acceleration, and then usually some thumb on the scale to either moderate out raw power or to help the Total Disposal (a huge garbage packer) stay in contention. Drag racers like the Rodger Dodger, identified by their huge engine headers and cut-out hoods, have a clutch-popping start that wasn’t really explained, but took advantage of their acceleration. In exchange, they don’t have much of a turbo boost. Meanwhile the Bump Around — literally a bumper car — has one, very long, variable turbo boost that can be used to fend off the low-slung Twin Mill or the futuristic Exotique, both of which have speed and handling ratings of 5 out of 6.

Milestone says it’s constructed the in-world cars at 1:1 scale — which explains why your cumulative drifting distance is, delightfully, measured in inches. Their virtuoso detailing nails the surfaces, from the matte gray die-cast chrome of the exhaust manifolds to the pearlescent and metallic flake paint jobs common to 1970s and 1980s racers. I probably haven’t bought a Hot Wheels since I visited my grandmother in 1984, but the vehicle garage properly calls out each model’s year and series. Most were from the previous decade, and a few had platinum or other upgraded versions.

More to the point, in several rip-snorting hours with Hot Wheels Unleashed, I never felt totally out of it with any car, nor did I feel totally in it with the best ones. Track hazards were subtle and dangerous enough to keep me from steering on auto-pilot, even with the fastest cars at maximum handling. There were plenty of crack-ups that involved physics more sophisticated than just downforce and drift — several had me grinding a guardrail, skateboard style prior to falling into the M.C. Escher-like abyss of the Skyscraper environment.

But even respawning twice, I still pulled off a third place with the Roller Toaster (an old-timey van with a couple slices of King Thin on its back). It has a 1 of 6 speed rating, however the longest boost in the fleet. I believe it’s great; kids will most likely select a preferred on appearances, and it’s excellent that whatever it is, it can compete. And the more challenge-oriented grownups will attempt to ace whatever with the unconventional flights.

Hot Wheels Unleashed releases Sept. 30, for Nintendo Change, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.