Hot Wheels Unleashed preview – My childhood is a video game now

When I was younger, all I wanted to do was play with my Hot Wheels cars and my Transformers. While I still do play with the latter, it was the Hot Wheels toys that started my love for cars; remote-controlled cars, real-life cars, and of course, toy cars. So when I was offered a chance to check out a preview of the upcoming Hot Wheels Unleashed for the PC, I jumped at the chance. The ability to play with those lovable toy cars in a video game? Yep, it sounds like something I’d enjoy.

It’s only fitting that while I haven’t owned a Mattel Hot Wheels toy in years, every time I make a trek to the food market, I’d look at them while waiting to be rung up. I haven’t owned a Hot Wheels toy in decades, yet I remember them fondly from my younger years. Now that there’s a game about them (not counting the Forza Horizon 3 DLC), I don’t need to purchase the toys. I got this game instead.

Hot Wheels Unleashed Preview - The Loop-de-Loop
hot wheels unleashed gameplay is all about the loops

As this is a preview, I could only access the quick start and split-screen offerings for the game. While the full game will also include a track editor so you can create your own tracks. Sadly, no one in my family wanted to play with me, quick race it was. Once I jumped into a quick race, I had the option of choosing from many sweet-looking yet bizarre cars. Cars like a tank,  cars that looked like dinosaurs, or the Street Wiener, to describe a few. It was just the thing to cause my inner child to make an appearance, and I couldn’t resist looking through all of the cars. The Hot Wheels Unleashed preview build gave me access to 33 cars, while the full game will have 60 total cars to pick from.

When it comes to the cars, as much as you may want to choose them based on their looks because they look just like actual toy cars, that’s not recommended. Each car has specific stats, which dictate how the car performs in-game. It’s not just the stats but also an included boost ability that differs depending on the car. You either go all-in with the best-performing car, compromise on the looks and performance, or though all caution to the wind and pick the Street Wiener car. Eh, it’s a cutesy racing game – pick what you want and have fun.

Hot Wheels Unleashed Preview - The Street WienerYes, it’s called the Street Wiener

Hot Wheels Unleashed also gives you a 360-degree look at all the cars. At first, I didn’t think that was possible, but I noticed the cars would rotate when I pushed the analog stick on my controller. A very nice touch if I say so.

The tracks are both something you’d expect to find in a children’s room or scattered throughout your living room, full of twists, jumps, horizontal sections, and even loop-de-loops. The first time I encountered a loop, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I loved it. Some of the tracks were ground-based, others took place in the sky, and missing a ramp meant you stuck plummeting for a few seconds while waiting to respawn. It’s also a terrible way to lose your position — especially if you’re winning.  There were also obstacles on the tracks, such as a giant spider that shoots down webs that would lock you down in place for several seconds. One track even has you starting in the mouth of a dinosaur, and that was really freaking fun. Sorry, my inner child is back again, and he won’t stop; he likes this game.

Hot Wheels Unleashed Preview - Spider on the track
Hot Wheels Unleashed Preview Spider on the track

Despite the cutesy nature of the game, Hot Wheels Unleashed feels and plays like a proper arcade racer. I didn’t expect this game to be as much fun as it is, and honestly, I’m glad that it is. We’ve lost many great arcade racing games throughout the years — *ahemFZeroahem*. Replaced with games, they are more than just an arcade racer despite being great in their own ways. Here, with Hot Wheels Unleashed, I’m playing with a childhood friend, racing around tracks that my 6-year-old self concocted in his sleep, and it is glorious. I’ve spent 5 hours with this game so far, and I still haven’t gotten tired of it. And this is just the preview; I’m looking forward to the full game when it releases later this year.

Check out 15 minutes of Hot Wheels Unleased gameplay below.

Hot Wheels Unleashed releases on September 30th, 2021, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Switch, and PC.