With over two million units sold, Hot Wheels Unleashed was a huge hit for Milestone, exceeding the Italian studio’s expectations. In the UK, it was even sold out on the day of release.
It came as no surprise, then, when Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 - Turbocharged was announced as a sequel.
Launching on consoles and PC later this year, Hot Wheels Unleased 2 expands the original with new game modes, environments, and a huge variety of vehicles. Ahead of its October release, RacingGames was invited to a preview event to play an early build of Milestone’s new toy racer.
One of the most immediately noticeable improvements in Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 is the environment design. Two out of the five locations were shown in the preview demo.
One was set in a backyard switching between tarmac and sand sections, which had a noticeable effect on vehicle handling. The other took place in a mini golf course, with each environment offering multiple track configurations filled with jumps, loops, and obstacles to avoid.
Compared to the original game, the tracks are more interactive. While this wasn’t showcased in the demo, Milestone explained how you can use environmental objects to take out opponents.
For example, smashing through windows will cause showers of glass to smash into opponents or you can knock cars off the track with giant golf balls. These dynamic environments were inspired by the criminally underrated Split/Second, but expect the destruction to be on a smaller scale.
A new quick dash ability also lets you shunt opponents out of the way and dodge obstacles with the left and right shoulder buttons for more tactical racing.
With only five environments, there may not be enough location variety at launch, but more will likely be added in post-launch DLC. An improved course editor will allow players to create their race tracks, but this wasn’t accessible in the demo.
Huge vehicle variety
One of the original game’s strengths was the vehicle variety. There was an eclectic mix of iconic Hot Wheels cars and licensed vehicles like the Batmobile, Back to the Future’s DeLorean, and the Party Wagon from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 introduces off-roaders to the vehicle roster including ATVs and rugged trucks, bringing the total vehicle count to over 130 at launch – more than double the original game’s selection at launch.
Bikes such as the Ducati 1199 Panigale superbike also debut in Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 for those who prefer racing on two wheels, though they look a bit jarring with no riders controlling them. Plenty of new licensed cars also feature such as the Bugatti Chiron.
Vehicles are now split into three classes: Casual, Rookie, and Pro, each offering noticeably different performance and handling. Compact cars are nippy, while trucks feel cumbersome to drive. Different terrains such as grass, sand and dirt also affect how the vehicles handle.
Bikes tend to understeer, but this can be rectified by tapping the brake to drift. No matter which vehicle you drive, drifting is the fastest way to get around corners as it also charges up your boost. It’s still possible to win an event without driving sideways, but it’s nowhere near as fun.
Like the first game, every event has you racing in grids of different vehicle types from sports cars to monster trucks. This could create some balancing issues, but Milestone says the team wanted to capture the chaos of playing with toy cars by mixing vehicles up.
Speaking of balancing, the AI difficulty may need tweaking in the final game. On medium difficulty, we consistently crossed the chequered flag miles ahead of the competition - Max Verstappen would be proud.
There’s also a new Skill System where you can buy perks to upgrade performance and handling. It’s a careful balancing act as equipping upgrades will increase some stats but decrease others such as acceleration and braking.
Happily, Milestone emphasised there won’t be any malicious microtransactions like in LEGO 2K Drive. You can only buy upgrades with in-game Skill Points.
New game modes
Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 also introduces several new game modes. Waypoint sees you pass through checkpoints in the fastest time. What elevates this mode is that you’re free to explore the environment and find the fastest route, using the new jump ability to find hidden shortcuts.
There’s also a new Elimination mode where the car in last place is eliminated every few seconds and a dedicated drift mode where points are rewarded for stylish sideways driving.
Online multiplayer is also being expanded with a new ranking system, cross-play on all platforms except for Nintendo Switch, and the ability to create a party of friends before joining lobbies – an option that was highly requested by the community according to Milestone.
Sadly, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2’s most intriguing new mode is still shrouded in secrecy. A new story campaign with original characters embarking on an adventure to save the city from destruction will expand the single-player, but it remains to be seen how it will be presented.
Hot Wheels isn’t known for its deep lore, so we’re not expecting it to match Braking Point 2’s production values and characterisation, but it could be a fun addition nonetheless that adds some personality.
Hot Wheels Unleashed made arcade racing fun and relevant again. The sequel looks set to take Milestone's popular toy racer to the next level with fun new game modes, more dynamic environments, and deeper racing mechanics.
With a new Micro Machines game nowhere in sight, Milestone could have another huge hit on its hands.
Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 - Turbocharged drifts onto PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam and Epic Games on 19 October 2023.
Players who pre-order the Legendary can start racing earlier with three days of early access from 16 October 2023.
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