Friday, October 29, 2021

Hot Wheels Unleashed (Multi) Review

The end of the month approaches, but SuperPhillip Central is just warming up with our schedule of reviews to round out October. Consider these treats ahead of Halloween! Next up to receive the review treatment is Hot Wheels Unleashed!

Some assembly still required.

Licensed games are like a Blind Box: Do you ever really know what you're going to get? There was a time--and forgive me for dating myself here--where a licensed game was an immediate red flag. The era of LJN gave me some mild trauma back in the day. Since then, however, licensed games have gotten better and the quality has improved considerably. That's been the case as well with Hot Wheels games. Now, a new Hot Wheels game has revved up its miniature engines and roared onto all major platforms with Hot Wheels Unleashed. Is this licensed racer worthy of your collection?

Starting off in your Hot Wheels Unleashed career, you are gifted three Blind Boxes. These contain a trio of almost totally random vehicles. I say "almost totally" because it seems that you're given a generally balanced vehicle, a super speedy vehicle, and a vehicle that isn't really worth racing in. It's just that the specific vehicles in each category are random. Other vehicles in Hot Wheels Unleashed are earned through regular play, earning coins to purchase more Blind Boxes, vehicles in the shop, and through play in the single-player mode.

Unleash your wild side with some riveting races.

Speaking of which, Hot Wheels Unleashed's main single player mode is called Hot Wheels City Rumble. It's an assortment of races and time trials along an overhead city map. When one event has been completed, new paths around that event open up. Thus, you can get around the city map in multiple ways. Many paths lead to dead ends, but these dead ends house wonderful rewards like Blind Boxes and new vehicles. Completing events also rewards you with a bevy of coins, gears, and other goodies. Coins are used to purchase Blind Boxes and new vehicles in the in-game shop, which regularly rotates its selection of five purchasable vehicles, while gears are used to upgrade your collected vehicles.

Unleash your inner sightseer inside the Hot Wheels City Rumble mode.

Unfortunately, Hot Wheels City Rumble, while structurally sound, is a bit of a repetitive experience. It basically only offers three event types: basic races, time trials, and boss races. Basic and boss races are essentially the same, only with the latter requiring you to cross the finish line in first place as opposed to simply making it on the podium. Each event has two goals to it, one regular goal to complete the event, and a harder Unleashed goal. Time trials pose the stiffest challenge in City Rumble, but even with the difficulty set to Easy in the mode, the AI does get a bit difficult in later races within City Rumble. It's a far too frustrating experience racing against AI that is higher than the Easy difficulty, which speaks to how imbalanced the difficulties truly seem to be.

Hot Wheels Unleashed offers a great sense of speed while revving down the toy tracks that have been assembled through the game's six unique, sprawling environments. The track designs twist, turn, showcase loop-de-loops, obstacles like barriers and giant spiders that spit webs onto the track that slow you down, as well as feature magnetic strips that allow the vehicles racing on them to turn upside down and defy gravity with ease. In this sense, Unleashed sort of reminded me of F-Zero X in the design. Of course, falling off the track--all too easy due to the not-always-precise physics--doesn't result in an immediate destruction of your vehicle like in F-Zero. Instead, you just hold down the top face button to reset your vehicle to the track. 

Unleash your inner daredevil with some death-defying jumps.

Racing around as your Hot Wheels vehicle of choice is a lot of fun, even with the occasional way your car might react adversely and bizarrely to jumps, boosts, or hitting walls. Drifting is encouraged on turns and quite easy to do. The action fills up a boost meter to be--well, unleashed during straightaways and to make those last second passes against the competition to hopefully cross the finish line in first place. 

Unleash your inner F-Zero pilot by racing on some gravity-defying tracks.

Outside of the single player offerings available, Hot Wheels Unleashed supports online play. However, lobbies show a problem with the game's economy. It's not easy to earn coins after City Rumble has been completed. You only earn the reward for clearing an event once, outside of the coins received for participating in the race. That means the next best way to earn coins to purchase Blind Boxes is to play online. Thus, you'll get a lot of people either selecting super short races or simply sitting at the starting line to grind for coins. The latter works because once first place crosses the finish line, a quick 30 second timer counts down, signaling the end of the race once the timer hits zero. 

Blind Boxes cost 500 coins apiece, and they are already very frugal with the rewards they give you. Too often I received repeats of vehicles I already owned, thus I'd either sell the duplicates for coins or grind them into gears to be used to upgrade vehicles. Since races only offer around 70 coins to first place regardless of the length of the track (and some of the game tracks are lengthier affairs than I would prefer), it gives players the incentive to always choose the shorter races if they wish to grind for coins. Needless to say, it's quite a grind.

Unleash your inner collector with an assortment of Hot Wheels vehicles to add to your repertoire.

Furthermore, despite the Hot Wheels Unleashed offering a remarkably robust track creator, which wouldn't surprise me if the same creator was used by the developer to make all the tracks in the game, tracks that are created can only be raced on either locally in time trials or you have to hope your track will show up in the random lottery of tracks in online lobbies. Seeing as you get a choice of six random tracks online (three from the game and three created from a totally random assortment of published tracks), the likelihood that your track will show up much less be chosen to play on seems a bit farfetched. Thus, it lessens the motivation to make your own track, despite how cool but albeit unwieldy to utilize it is.

While making tracks isn't as wonderful or glamorous as it could be currently, the ability to customize your own vehicles with a bevy of creation options via the Livery Editor stole the show for me in Hot Wheels Unleashed. You can create a massive number of liveries, share them online, and pretty much ride in style with them. Almost every vehicle, save for licensed ones a la Superman and such, can be painted over with a combination of recolors, stickers, decals, and more. I proudly raced my SuperPhillip-themed Exotique Legendary vehicle in City Rumble and then took her online to show it off to the masses. It's a glorious and cool feature that I look forward to using more in the future.



Finally, unleash your inner artiste, creating your own custom tracks and liveries, and then share them online!

And, yes, I see myself returning to Hot Wheels Unleashed in the future, for sure. With more updates to the track editor, more single player content, better coin and Blind Box economy, more vehicles and track environments included, and improvements to the online racing experience, I can imagine a much better game. As of now, Hot Wheels Unleashed features enough quality under the hood to make for an entertaining racer, but not enough to make it a "must buy" at this point in time. Don't misunderstand--this is still one of the better, if not THE best Hot Wheels game available to date. It's simply spinning its wheels a little too much for this particular gamer.

[SPC Says: B-]

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