As a 90s kid who is also a boy, I grew up with Hot Wheels in my toy box. I’m also a big fan of yesteryear’s more colorful racing games, which include classics like Mario Kart and Micro Machines. When Hot Wheels got the first Hot Wheels Unleashed iteration, I gave it a go and fell in love. Now, there’s a sequel, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged.
Game Name: Hot Wheels Unleashed 2
Platform(s): PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Switch
Release Date: October 19, 2023
Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 picks up pretty easily where the first game left off in terms of mechanics and how to drive. If you liked the mechanics of the first Hot Wheels Unleashed game, you’ll feel right at home. The controls feel tighter this time around, however, which means that if you flip your car, it’s now definitely your fault, and you have to learn to control better.
Different cars come with different stats, and each car can be both upgraded and customized. The key is to potentially find a good balance in initial stats and then use the upgrade function to try to help with things like boosting and acceleration. You earn tokens that can be used to add special upgrades to vehicles and help upgrade skills with a pretty easy-to-use Skill System. I highly recommend getting the ones at the bottom that make you immune to specific obstacles. You’ll thank me later.
Additionally, you earn a ton of gold coins that can be used in various ways, including vehicle management upgrades. But, if you’re like me, they’re likely to be mostly used to buy new cars from the constantly revolving shop. The first game in the franchise offered some licensed cars but relegated the majority of them to the DLC packs with DC Comics, Scooby Doo, and Looney Tunes.
But this game comes out the gate with some great classic Hot Wheels cars, as well as some awesome licensed ones built into the game. During my playthrough for this review, I picked up a Snoopy on his dog house car, KITT from Knight Rider, and the incredibly well-balanced Delorean Time Machine from Back to the Future. That latter drives like a dream and has special animation when you boost.
This game is all about that drift. As a racer, you want to slide your way to earn more boost and time your tricks right. You never know what you’re going to run into, and you just might have to literally jump through hoops. The game also offers a way to muscle your way into a win with a lateral dash. This can be used for both midair course corrections and aggressively bumping your opponents to throw them off their groove.
Presentation and Graphics
The tracks are all incredibly well-designed and make you feel like you’ve shrunken down in a relatively realistic setting. The cars look right out of an actual package, too. While the majority of menus and user interface, as well as the Story Mode, rocks a more cartoony feel, the game takes a pretty solidly realistic approach during races and for car customization. During the Story mode, it’s told through a series of comic book-style panels that were likely an aesthetic choice to keep animation costs low and focus on the actual gameplay. I’m OK with that, honestly.
As mentioned, the story mode is called the Hot Wheels Creature Rampage and tells a story through comic book-style panels that feel at home in an early 2000s Saturday morning cartoon. It tells a story that feels like we jumped into an already running adventure, not unlike jumping into a cartoon mid-season. The Hot Wheels Racing Team, led by a scientist, has to solve a problem started by that same scientist. As the name of the story mode alludes, he accidentally created creatures, and they’re rampaging all over the city.
However, he can shrink them briefly and have the racing team defeat them in miniature form. Even the characters question the flimsiness of the logic. It’s a silly story that borders on the weird story aside. The story mode itself offers a wide array of race types, boss battles, and tons of loot and goodies for customization and upgrades. It’ll take easily 8 hours if you race everything perfectly.
The gameplay in Creature Rampage is incredibly challenging, even on just a Medium difficulty. You’ve got two challenges per race. One progresses the story forward to open up more stages, while one is more of a harder challenge to truly “complete” that stage. Then, you’ll eventually have to come to a boss level, which is one of the creatures. They’re based on the real-world sets you can find in the real world without spending an arm and leg. The Octopus, for instance, is the first stage, and you have to hit gears on the track that cause damage to it. The boss battles are surprisingly fun as an additional game type.
It’s a racing game, which means there is already a ton of replay value built right into it. Not only can you race in the story mode and single-player quick modes, but there is a fully robust online multiplayer mode as well. There’s even a couch mode to play with a friend right next to you. But I assume a significant part of replayability comes in earning the 140 base cars that come with the game. Earning coins through racing can get you cars in the shop.
A vast majority of the cars can also be customized with liveries. For the more artistically inclined, you can design entire paint jobs and customized versions of your favorite cars, as well as share them with the public to let them enjoy your work, too. Sadly, you can’t at liveries to licensed cars, so my Delorean remains silver-gray instead of whatever abomination I would have given it.
Just like with the liveries, there’s a complete track builder in Unleashed 2. As you play through the story mode, you earn new sceneries and parts to use in the Track Builder and the ability to share what you’ve made with others.
Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 is a fantastic update to the first game. While it removes features like customizing your room, it adds plenty of gameplay features this time around. The developers, Milestone, have a pretty hardcore history with racing games. So, if you’re looking for an entertaining racing game, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged is made with real heart. Additionally, if you’re a fan of the Burnout series, then Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 should be on your radar. With the boost and lateral dash abilities, it feels like a spiritual successor to Burnout. While you can’t “takedown” other cars or see slow-motion destruction, it still feels like the same specific type of racing category.
Milestone returns for another spin with Hot Wheels Unleashed – Turbocharged, which is just as fun and challenging as the first game. Only this time, there are tighter controls, so now you can’t blame the game for your mishaps. For fans of Hot Wheels, there are plenty of cars and liveries to slap on them, and you won’t even need to take them out of the box. Yep, it’s like being a kid all over again, and that’s what it’s all about.