Italian-based game studio Milestone is back with their second release of the Hot Wheels series, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged. We had early access to this toy-sized arcade racer, so come with us as we explore what it has to offer!
With enough customization to keep even the most hardcore artists happy, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 is just as much about creating your own fleet of Hot Wheels cars as it is about racing them. With 130 cars available at release, there is no doubt that Milestone knows how to keep their player base creating for months to come.
Unleashed 2 builds confidently on the solid base of the first game. New mechanics include the lateral dash, the single, and the double jump. These three new features aid in sabotaging opponents and reaching new heights on certain maps.
A brand-new skill tree grade system adds to the depth of each car’s usability. The upgrade tree allows you to build cars exactly to your liking or to suit one of the five brand-new environments perfectly.
The livery editor is what caught our attention the most, with a Forza Horizon-style interface and menu. Included in the editor is a detailed shape editor and logo placement tool, perfect for precise livery creation. Track creation has also received a revamp alongside the addition of hundreds of new track parts.
Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged Gameplay
The relatability to the first Unleashed game will be a common comparison, as there are a lot of similarities. However, the new additions of the lateral dash and the two jump mechanics create a much more strategic racing environment compared to the first game.
With the two new classes of vehicles, ATVs and motorbikes, racing is more varied and competitive than ever. All driveable vehicles are categorized into six classes:
- Rocket: Straight-line high-speed performance
- Balanced: Perfectly balanced between speed and handling
- Swift: Streetcars and bikes are known for their agility and acceleration
- Drifter: Muscle cars that specialize in huge drifts
- Off-Road: Quadbikes and jeeps feature in this new category, perfect for those tracks that utilize the grass or dirt floor.
- Heavy Duty: Includes vans, trucks and monster trucks. Immune to certain obstacles and they weigh a ton.
The story mode has its moments of brilliance, but unfortunately, it falls into the same trap as the first game. Repetitive side missions and track recycling make it harder to play in longer sessions.
The story is told through comic-style cutscenes instead of regular animated cutscenes. There is certainly a lot of potential here, but the story is not particularly captivating and leaves quite a lot to be desired.
The culmination of each section of the story mode is a ‘Boss Fight’. Those certainly have not taken inspiration from Elden Ring or Dark Souls. All of the showdowns are no harder than the events leading up to them.
Story mode is a great place for players to earn XP, coins, and items for track creation. Players are bombarded with cosmetic rewards after completing a range of missions within the career mode. The level of mission you qualify for depends on what level your car is.
New Game Mechanics
The use of the lateral dash is to quickly ‘dash’ directly to your left or right to knock opponents off the track, or into an obstacle. The dash requires a portion of your boost gauge to be used, so plan carefully ahead when to use it.
Jumping mechanics play as if they were added as a bit of an afterthought. This was an unwanted surprise purely due to the importance of the mechanic to the game. To jump, it drains a section of your boost gauge in an identical way to the dash.
Considering jumping is an essential aspect of some tracks, its inclusion seems lazy. A better induction of the mechanic would have been to have had it as its own gauge for the player to manage.
Hot Wheels have been in the minds and hearts of kids and adults all over the world for over fifty years. The graphical updates to Unleashed 2 really show the toy-like nature of the cars which relate perfectly to the brand’s real-world toys.
Not only do the cars look and sound exactly how they should, but the environments are varied and superbly designed. Whilst lacking perfect object interaction, players can hit golf balls around on the courses in the mini-golf stage but will be stopped abruptly by a piece of cutlery or a pepper shaker in the dining room map.
Customization of the livery editor materials is surprisingly accurate. For example, even on low graphics settings, it is clear to see what sections are plastic and which are glossy metal. Alongside this, the colour palette is consistent across all vehicles and materials.
Sticker, Livery and Track Editor
On offer for the more creative players is a built-in sticker and livery editor that has a lot of similarities to that of Forza Horizon 5.
Items for both of these features can be unlocked throughout the story mode. These three creative features are the gemstone in the crown of Hot Wheels Unleashed 2.
With a comprehensive field of customization, the livery and sticker editors allow you to change every aspect of your car. This starts from the base colour, all the way to the tyres. There are endless possibilities.
With the addition of the track editor, players can create and share their own track layouts. In the story mode, boss fights give one special item to the player to be used in the track editor if you beat them.
The ability to create exact replicas of famous Hot Wheels tracks is exactly what this feature is designed for, as well as recreating actual race circuits such as the first sector of Suzuka in Japan pictured below.
Some of the environments that are on offer in the track editor include interactive features. From dinosaurs to garden chairs, there are plenty of creative options available. One downside to the track editor, however, is the difficulty of building with a controller plugged in.
The competence of the AI is surprisingly good, but only in higher settings. If you have not upgraded your car in a while, you will genuinely struggle to win the career mode races. However, it does seem like all of the AI budget has gone into harder difficulties regardless.
On the two easiest settings, the AI seems almost incapable of staying on the tracks. Unfortunately, the incompetence of the AI also makes achievement grinding much easier than it should be.
Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 Review: Conclusion
Overall, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged is a fantastically pure and genuinely challenging arcade game. What made us fall in love with it is the charming toy car style that Hot Wheels is so famous for. Alongside that, the livery, sticker and track editors earn their keep for us with their creative flair.
Not only is the racing engaging, albeit rather repetitive after a while, but the creative freedom on offer is exceptional. With the addition of the livery and sticker editor, Unleashed 2 is a real wake-up call for similar titles such as Lego 2K Drive.
The AI needs adjusting, but regardless of that, it is not a game-breaking issue. The time trial events are sure to make your blood boil with irrefutable rage when you inevitably have to restart for the two-hundredth time, as shown in our early access live stream over on Twitch.
That being said, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged is a genuinely entertaining and challenging arcade racer with enough variety to keep even the most picky of players happy for many hours.
Are you curious to see how the first game compares? Check out our Hot Wheels Unleashed review!
Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged launches for PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X on October 19, 2023. Overtake was provided with a PC code for this review.
What are your thoughts on Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged? Let us know on Twitter @OverTake_gg or in the comments below!