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'Hot Wheels Unleashed' game burns virtual rubber on plastic tracks

"Hot Wheels Unleashed" pits tiny racers against one another. Photo courtesy of Koch Media.
Posted at 2:25 PM, Dec 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-03 16:25:05-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Any kid who ever grabbed a Hot Wheels car as a child immediately let their mind drift to the fantasy realm of roaring engine, screeching tires and a blurred race to the finish line.

"Hot Wheels Unleashed" breathes nitrous oxide into such daydreams. It may not be comparable to the likes of "Forza Horizon 5," but it's a breezy palate cleanser more in tune with a "Mario Kart" feel.

Sticking with the toy theme in the manner of the realtime strategy series "Toy Soldiers," the game is fueled with little touches that make it seem as though an imaginative 10-year-old is behind the game design.

Drifting builds up a boost meter that lets you slam on the gas for spectacular speed bursts. Obstacles, such as a spider that slows you down with webbing, line the wild track sets, which also include loops, jumps and hairpin turns.

You can tinker with the products, opening blind boxes that unlock cars and liveries that let you deck out cars to match your whims.

The racing action is solid, if uninspiring, as a single-player experience, but truly catches ts momentum in multiplayer. Two-player local split-screen and 12-player online throwdowns task you to challenge others for bragging rights.

A racetrack editor allows you to play the part of a child at play with a toybox, mixing and matching parts to craft wild tracks that push your cars to the brink.

It would have been easy enough for the dev team at Milestone to have switched their ambition to cruise control and crank out a lackluster, imagination-free licensed game.

But the team behind "Hot Wheels Unleashed" bubbles with passion and attention to detail that shines through in the finished product.

Publisher provided review code.

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