Review: Hot Wheels Unleashed – Fat hard!

Hot Wheels! Do we remember them? Those little toy cars that you can buy separately, but also as sets with fully customizable bright orange race tracks? Yes, those Hot Wheels. From now on you can get to work with the race cars again, but virtually.

Hot Wheels Unleashed is a brand new Hot Wheels racing game. It's been a while since we received a real Hot Wheels game from my head. The last time we saw them was as DLC for Microsoft's Forza Horizon 3. And now, after a long wait, fans of the toy cars can finally get back to work with a full-fledged Hot Wheels game. The game is developed by Milestone , best known for its many Motor Racing titles such as Ride 4 , MXGP and MotoGP.

Don't be fooled by the childish look of the game. Hot Wheels Unleashed has more to hide under the hood than you might think. We were also positively surprised by the many accelerations that Unleashed entails. Of course we explain in detail what you can expect from this arcade racer. Ready? Clutch up, and gas!

Hot Wheels, fat hard!

As a child I was always enthusiastic about the Hot Wheels. Every now and then new cars and race tracks appeared. Of course, the power with Hot Wheels is not so much in the individual tracks, but in combining as many packages as possible to create insane racetracks. If you could, you also took a piece of the counter and used other objects to keep the cars within the track. For many young children, including myself, the cool Hot Wheels racetracks were one of my creative expressions, in addition to the countless LEGO creations of course.

It's no different in Hot Wheels Unleashed. Everything I just described, and what's so awesome about Hot Wheels, is also in the latest game! A lot of cars, a lot of race track parts and the combination of race tracks and the environment. It's all there and you can even make your own race track and then race on it. There are even adjustments to the environments to make it more aesthetically pleasing. A lick of paint on the wall or an attribute more or less, do whatever.

Gas up!

Hot Wheels Unleashed seems very simple and superficial for the first two hours. There are few play modes and the campaign is not very exciting. It only consists of two types of races. Time Attack and a standard versus race. In Time Attack there are 2 goals to complete where the first goal is enough to advance to the next race. The second goal is a bit more difficult and requires a slightly smarter use of your resources, or job knowledge. The versus races are exactly what you should expect. You race against other cars and here too you have two goals. A podium finish is enough, but of course your ultimate goal is always to be the first to cross that finish line.

In the Campaign you unlock certain rewards after every race, such as in-game money to buy cars or surprise boxes. You also earn parts to upgrade cars to a higher degree and cosmetic adjustments to your profile and environments. Good to know: Cars and surprise boxes can only be bought with in-game money. No microtransactions! A surprise box contains a random car, but it may already be one you already have. If you want to buy a specific car you have to be patient. There are 4 cars offered per 4 hours of gameplay. The offer only changes after 4 hours.

You also have separate races that you can do and a multiplayer mode to compete with other players online or locally. All pretty standard so, but the real complexity is a bit hidden.

Deeper than you think

The cool thing about Hot wheels Unleashed is that every car drives completely differently. First, every car has its own statistics. These are divided into speed, braking, acceleration and steering. There is also a boost in the form of nitro, which also differs per car. Cars can be upgraded to a maximum Legendary level. Each level gives you more points for selected stats, but you may have to give up boost for that. So it depends a bit on what kind of race track you have. Can you use a lot of boost in straight pieces? Then it might be useful to use a car with a lot of boost balls.

Choosing a car can therefore be a strategic move for a certain race, but, for example, the relevant rarity of one specific car can also be a strategic choice.

Invisible stats!

Car statistics are not the only reason why every car drives differently. The shape of the car also plays a very significant role. In fact, this is probably one of the few racing games I've ever played where the looks of your car play a significant role in the handling of the car!

For example, you have very high cars with a dinosaur appearance, or a van with a hamburger on the roof. These tall cars are much more likely to tip over in a sharp turn that you are trying to carve into with too much speed. Very low cars such as the Hot Wheels that resemble (futuristic) Formula 1 cars, for example, do not suffer from this at all. These do not or hardly tilt.

Choosing your car not only helps you in road holding, but also with the other traffic on the road. A car with a low front wing, such as the Furmule 1 similar cars mentioned earlier, are ideal for popping up a vehicle in front by scooping it from behind with your front wing. It may cost you some speed, but it will cost you at least one spot in the race!

Wheels off the floor

Let's go one step further. It is possible to finish races by going off the track. Some races require you to pass checkpoints to stay in the race, but not all of them. In addition, there are several ways to get a head start by taking an abbreviation somewhere. The aforementioned boost mode comes in handy here.

As soon as you take a hill with some speed, your wheels will go off the floor and if you use your boost at this moment, your car is a spaceship for a while. At this point you control your car in the air a bit like in Rocket League. With enough boost, you can skip entire sections of the track and land on a different section of the track, or fly completely over a hurdle. The great thing is that the game doesn't explain anything to you about this at all.

Attention for details

Hot Wheels Unleashed is therefore much deeper than you would expect and this is also reflected in the graphical area. First off, the game just looks really, really good. But that doesn't scare us that much. This is what Ride 4 looks like on the Playstation 5! What we are impressed with is the level of detail in the game. Everything looks almost lifelike. You can clearly see that the cars consist of different types of material. You see wax is plastic, you see what iron is. You see the degree of finish of the cars as they would be in real life. For example, you can see the prints left by the molds, but you also see some finger marks here and there. This gives Hot Wheels Unleashed a realistic look. Like it was really taken out of someone's toy box.

As soon as you open the photo mode you suddenly see much more detail than you can see during the fast races. You can see the fingerprints on the race tracks, but also air bubbles under the stickers, for example. We all know them. Those cursed stickers that were not straight or without bubbles brightened up our single-colored toys.


Hot Wheels Unleashed is a lot of fun to play. The game is also much deeper than you might think. You are also left all alone to discover all the secrets and possibilities. Just like before! Unfortunately, there are few options in terms of race modes, but luckily the game makes a lot of good in terms of adjustments.

You can create your own race tracks and you can make them as crazy and chaotic as you want. There is a good chance that the result will be very cool, because that is all possible with Hot Wheels. If you don't agree with the look of your cars, you can also change the whole look of your cars. With over 60 cars, despite the limited race modes, you'll have enough fun with Hot Wheels Unleashed.

With an accessible entry and invisible, yet profound complexity, this racing game is perfect for young Hot Wheels fans, but also for someone like me, with a full-time job that has fond memories of the orange racetracks.

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