Hot Wheels Unleashed review: your eight-year-old will adore this game

Hot Wheels Unleashed is everything a child could want from a video game, even if they aren't into cars.

A Hot Wheels model flying above a race track

by Ryan Gilmore |

Ask the average child to create a racing game and there's a fair chance they'd create something along the lines of Hot Wheels Unleashed. Full of vibrant colours? Check. Loud, exciting music? Check. Short, carnage-filled races involving upside-down driving and ramps? Check. A massive dinosaur? Check. The list goes on.

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Hot Wheels Unleashed is the latest in a long line of Hot Wheels racing games, a series that has been a mixed bag, to say the least. We've been testing the game to see if it can appeal to both children and adults.

Is the car selection good?

A toaster-shaped van on an orange track
©Photo: Mattel

It's certainly varied. How many other games can you lock wheels with the Batmobile while driving a toaster-shaped van aptly named the Roller Toaster?

The game includes 68 cars at launch ranging from classic Hot Wheels favourites like the Rip Rod and Twin Mill right through to the ridiculous Street Weiner and Motosaurus (a hot dog car and dinosaur car respectively).

There are licenced cars in the game too. The Audi R8 Spyder, Honda S2000 and even Koenigsegg Jesko make an appearance while a fully licensed Batmobile, Ninja Turtle van and Back to the Future Delorean are also featured. All in all, a fantastic selection of cars that are guaranteed to provide hours of fun.

Will children enjoy playing it?

It's the perfect game for children. The races are short, chaotic and don't require an awful lot of skill to be competitive. Set the competition to the easiest setting and it won't be too long before first place becomes more of a right than a task. Some of the more intricate races may test their patience, but for the most part, they'll be having too much fun to care.

The driving controls are fairly easy to understand, it's all very arcadey with brake-to-drift mechanics and no reason to not mash the accelerator at any given chance. The drifting reminds me of Mario Kart's but offers a little more steering control, you can even use the boost button to turn a drift into a proper powerslide. The controls may be basic, but they're great fun too.

More irritating however are the menu controls. To go back you need to hold down a button and this gets a little tiresome after a while.

What about adults?

A series of Hot Wheels racing on an orange track
©Photo: Mattel

And as weird as it sounds coming from an arcade game designed for kids, but each car has unique and interesting handling characteristics. The in-game Fiat 500 felt like a nippy front-wheel drive hatchback while heavier trucks felt cumbersome and understeered through corners. It may not be the same depth as iRacing or even Forza Horizon, but it will keep an avid racer entertained.

The detail of the cars will also appeal to any fan of racing games. In keeping the cars scaled-down to 1:64 models they look just like real Hot Wheels cars. The detail is exquisite, right down to the small moulding marks. They look just like proper Hot Wheels models which makes immersion even better. And while racing you'll notice that as you hit things, small flecks of paint will rub away and scratches will appear, just like a slightly dog-eared Hot Wheels car that litter a child's bedroom.

The tracks too are amazingly detailed. Not only are they visually stunning with outstanding lighting and graphics, but the maps are genuinely interesting and the tracks are varied and really enjoyable to race on.

What other features are there?

The track builder allows players to make whatever track they can imagine. The orange tracks familiar to any Hot Wheels fans are infinitely malleable and can be manipulated to spin, twist and fall in almost any configuration. I'll be honest though and say you'll need a fair bit of patience as it's quite the learning curve.

The custom decal maker is much the same. Fantastic once you've mastered it, but it takes time to get there. It reminds me of the decal maker in Forza Horizon 4, albeit a simplified version.

Much easier to use is the respray feature. This allows you to change the colour of your car (alongside window tints, interior, chassis and wheel colour) and the quality here is outstanding. There's the usual metal-flake paint alongside enamel and matte finishes. It's really easy to use and is an easy way to customise your car collection.

Verdict

The Bone Shaker mid-drift
©Photo: Mattel

Hot Wheels Unleashed is an amazing racing game no matter how old you are. It balances being easy enough for a nine-year to play it without throwing a tantrum with some surprisingly detailed handling physics that will keep any racing fan engaged.

The overall finish is spectacular and it's guaranteed to keep you playing for longer than you'll care to admit. There are a few niggles and complex features to master, but overall it's a fun and entertaining racing game, even if you don't like cars.

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

Consoles to play it on

How we tested it?

As a keen gamer I leapt at the chance to try the new Hot Wheels game. During the numerous hours I played the game I tried as many different features as possible to get as broad of an experience as I could. I tested it on the Xbox One.

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