The original Hot Wheels Unleashed inspired very deep emotions within me. On my tiny YouTube channel, the video that has by far the most hits is a recording of me playing a pre-release version of the original Hot Wheels Unleashed and howling a terrible stream of profanity every time the game thwarts my efforts to win a race. For the record, the second-most popular video on my channel is a livestream of me once again hurling bitter curse words at Hot Wheels Unleashed - this time the Batman DLC. It's not like I set out to create amusingly profane videos. It's just that Hot Wheels Unleashed's formula of toys-meets-racing gently touched something deep inside my gamer soul, and then began jamming it with a red-hot poker. I was passionate about Hot Wheels Unleashed, to the point where parents were writing me emails like "Chill out, dude. Kids' game."
But Hot Wheels Unleashed was well beyond any kids' game I've ever played. With AAA graphics and tight arcade controls, Hot Wheels Unleashed was the Barbie Movie of toy games; something that elevated the experience well beyond any reasonable expectations. With players collecting and racing an amazing array of historic Hot Wheels cars around amazingly constructed fantasy tracks, the game activated every childhood pleasure center in my brain, triggering an obsession that lasted well into the game's post-release morass of user-created tracks and multiplayer hijinks.
I was mad excited when I found out that Milestone was once again hopping onto the plastic tracks for another round, and for the most part, I've been enjoying my time with Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged. But, for whatever reason, I've been cursing at it less. Does this mean that this sequel is a lesser game? Not necessarily, but many of the original's jagged edges have been smoothed out, leaving me in a much less frustrated - but also slightly less passionate - place. I would become infuriated with Hot Wheels Unleashed for it's difficulty spikes, but I did give the game a 9.5, so how mad was I really?
Don't get me wrong, I've been having a blast with Hot Wheels Unleashed 2, but I do note that there is a definite decrease in the difficulty here, as though the folks at Milestone heard my river of verbal bile and decided to have a little pity on me (and the forty-years-younger-than-me target audience). This time around, I am crushing my way through the story mode on standard difficulty, and the only race type that is inspiring old-school Hot Wheels levels of rage is the new "Drift Master" event. Drift Master has players zipping around curvy tracks, building up a multiplier and trying to score insanely high drift scores without touching any obstacles or the side of the track. It's great fun, but also made me want to hurl my controller at the wall until I finally figured out that I was better off approaching this event with a slower car. Fast cars lead to a lot of slamming into the walls, no matter how good you think you are at drifting.
The Drift event - joyously infuriating as it is - represents one of the major improvements of Hot Wheels 2 over it's predecessor. While the Quick Race and Time Trial events are still present, they have been bolstered with several new event types, including Elimination races, Waypoint races, Drift races, and some very cool enhanced boss fight races, which have you racing against a constantly accelerating timer to knockdown obstacles placed on the track. It seems that Milestone heard players' requests for new game types, and answered with a bounty of goodness.
To help players make good choices, Milestone designed specific cars that are good for each of these events. Cars are now designated with "types", and while you can take any car into any challenge in the game's campaign mode, some are just better at certain stuff than others. You might want to take a "Drifter" car into those Drift Master events, for example. Off-Road cars are better on tracks that will see you skidding through grass, and Rocket cars are fantastic at Time Trials. Additionally, the roster includes motorcycles and ATVs, which can be pulled into any event.
All vehicles in the game, regardless of their classification, have a few new moves up their sleeves. The right trigger is now dedicated to drifting, which feels great once you get the hang of it. There is also a new jump move, allowing players to hop over obstacles (and right off the track if you don't time it right). And multiplayer games are about to become much more chaotic due to the fact that cars can now slam sideways into each other, which opens up all sorts of avenues to mischief.
The map-based campaign has a new Saturday morning cartoon-ish story that accompanies it, which - while well made - is imminently skippable for anyone over the age of 11. Like the last game, there are secret paths on the map that only open up under certain circumstances, and the same occasional irritating chokepoints that insist that players complete certain events before moving onto the rest of the map (I'm looking at you, Drift Master).
Players earn coins for completing events, which can be used to buy cars in the newly redesigned store. There is usually a fair variety of classic vehicles new and old in there to chose from, and you can swap out the cars on offer by spending a few coins if you don't want to wait for the store refresh that happens every few hours. Though the game doesn't regularly deliver cars as a reward for playing, players can still pick up new goodies at a pretty steady clip. I quickly settled on a few favorites that I built up through the game's cool new skill-based progression system to use for most of the game. However, it's also wise to leave a few cars in their unaltered original state, as the game occasionally calls on the player to use something a little more basic.
The tracks and events in the campaign are again ridiculously cool, whizzing through backyard barbecues and dinosaur museums, zooming up walls and across ceilings, and swirling through loop-de-loops high above the ground. The sense of vertigo I get if I don't focus on the road directly in front of me makes me wish for a version of this game in VR. What the hell, let's go for it.
Unleashed 2 again comes with a track building interface which seems slightly simplified for folks like me that struggle with concepts like "creativity" and "gravity". Though I don't spend much time in this mode, I am regularly victimized by it in multiplayer, so it's good to know how it all works. I also dipped into the livery design tool for a bit, before retreating in dissatisfaction with my own skills. I'm satisfied with the coolness the game provides out of the box, thank you.
So yes, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged ups the ante in just about every way possible from the first title. Even though it makes me swear less, I must admit that it seems as though Milestone carefully examined every aspect of the original game, and then improved upon it. And really, my obsession with the first game was a once-in-a-lifetime video game freakout. I can't hold the obviously great sequel responsible for my eventually calming down about the original. I'm still having a blast with the game, and the newly smoothed-out difficulty is much better for my blood pressure.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Howdy. My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids. During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories. I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 and PS VR2 to my headset collection. I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.
My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then. I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep. Currently, I play on Xbox Series X, Series S, PS5, PS4, PS VR2, Quest 2, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, (RIP Stadia) and a super sweet gaming PC built by John Yan. While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.
When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect. I also co-host the Chronologically Podcast, where we review every film from various filmmakers in order, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts.
Follow me on Twitter @eric_hauter, and check out my YouTube channel here.View Profile