Designed more for collectors than racing fans, Hot Wheels Unleashed is a soulless take on the toy line that isn’t worth the initial investment.
The first thing Hot Wheels Unleashed showcases as it loads up is a loot box. Before racing, players have to open several boxes to unlock a set of initial vehicles, earning an achievement entitled “First One’s Free” for their trouble. These bold choices reveal exactly what kind of game Hot Wheels Unleashed is before a single tiny rubber tire meets the plastic road. While developer Milestone provides a refined racing experience, the priority in the full game lies in car collection and endless progression. It’s a fitting attitude when it comes to tackling a popular line of toys, but that’s cold comfort to anyone hoping to just blaze through a few sets of tracks at a steady pace.
Most who play Hot Wheels Unleashed will end up starting with the game’s City Rumble campaign, a Smash Bros. World of Light-esque board game menu full of races and time attack challenges. It’s the only way to unlock all the racetracks for local multiplayer and the primary way to generate currency for upgrading and accruing new vehicles. While it works fine as a way to dole out race after race, the City Rumble mode features a barebones presentation, explaining both its mechanics and its monster-themed boss battles via tiny bits of text that pop up in brief spurts. There’s no narration, no graphical flourish between events, and no stop to a soundtrack filled with the type of music that warms up a crowd before a press conference.