“Small cars, big fun!”
There are two types of racing games: the ones that aim to emulate a real driving experience and try to come as close to being a simulation as possible, and the arcade racing games which let go of all rules and just aim for 100% fun. Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 – Turbocharged is definitely the latter and possibly one of the best the genre has to offer.
We all know the Hot Wheels brand, whether we’ve played with them in our childhood or not. The tiny metal cars have become iconic toys, as are the bright orange road pieces that you could use to build ridiculous tracks. This game proudly brings them both into an amazingly fun videogame.
But I’m a bit sceptical of a sequel. What would they add that doesn’t just fit into a DLC of the previous game? That’s what we’ll try to find out in this review.
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series X | Review code provided by PLAION, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on X!
My grin was equally big when playing
Things I liked!
- Small Cars, Big Fun | Fun. It’s such a simple and short word, yet it’s so important. Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 earns the adjective with flying colors. You’ll be racing down angled slopes, driving over boost pads to pick up extra speed before a looping, and then shifting into a magnetic strip that has you racing upside down. There are so many fun twists and turns in every level that keep you on your toes.
- Car upgrades | One big frustration in the first game, were some of the traps that slow you down. Giant spiders spitting webs at you could mean the difference between beating a time attack or coming a few seconds close. Now you can buy simple upgrades that nullify these traps, though when they become trivial you’ll wonder why they are still in here.
- Lots of Cars | There are well over a hundred different cars to collect, with new free and paid ones being added all the time. It’s exciting going into the store and seeing if there is one that you like and if its stats are good or not.
- Jumping | You can now use the Y button to jump, and it’s a game-changer. When you don’t have the upgrade yet to ignore spiderwebs, simply jump over them. Is there a group of cars right in front of you battling it out? Jump over them. They also added a sideways bash, but this is rarely effective enough to push an opponent off the track.
- Track building | You won’t see me spending hours in making custom content, but I love testing out user-made tracks. When you play the online multiplayer, you’ll be doing so in upvoted tracks by other players and they can come up with some pretty cool ideas. It provides near endless possibilities and definitely adds to the longevity of the game.
- Local Split-screen Multiplayer | When an arcade racing game doesn’t include a local split-screen option, it automatically loses a few points in my book. So you’ll be happy to hear that Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 provides! There’s nothing as fun as having friends over for drinks and games and hanging out on the couch. I kept the first game installed for just this reason, and now HWU2 replaces it as my go-to multiplayer title to play with friends.
- It looks great! | The game looks fantastic, with the cars actually looking like their real toy counterparts thanks to the great use of lighting and textures. You can even spot some fingerprints on cars if you zoom in when playing around with the photomode.
“You’ll be so high, you’ll be flying!”
Neither good nor bad
- Wheel Spin | You can earn wheel spins by completing certain challenges and these can rewards you with money, upgrade items or rare cars. It’s a good idea and worked well in the Forza Horizon games, but it feels a lot less satisfying here because the animations look cheap and sluggish and the chances of getting something valuable appear to be much lower.
- The Music | A lot of the music from the first game has been repurposed and it was one of my major complaints back then as well. The sound loops repeat too often and are unimaginative and I can even swear I’ve heard some of them in other games, making me doubt if these were just bought from an asset library. If they bought some licensed pop music, it could have gone a long way.
“That’s a big Rawr!”
Things I disliked!
- The forced story | One new thing they added, is an animated story in between races explaining why you’re playing against the shrunken monsters. But it’s tacky (not in a good way) and doesn’t really add anything.
- Jumping | Wait. Didn’t you list this as a positive earlier? I did, but I absolutely hate how there are certain tracks that force you to jump over a ledge or angle your car just right. It requires saving up some of your boost, and you may have to spend several attempts at getting over a hurdle as you see your opponents pass you by. Similarly, there is a specific track item that magnetically launches you into the air, but the needle you have to land through is so hard to reach, that it can often become a frustration where you want to quit out of the race altogether. Just look at the acrobatics needed to get to the other side of this:
- Not as much content | I played Hot Wheels Unleashed for around 80 hours, but I’ve only spent around 18 with the sequel and have already completed all the goals in the single-player campaign. I can’t help but feel that there isn’t as much incentive to keep playing this time around. On the plus side, it’s also not as grindy, and you’ll have a much easier time collecting all the cars from the shop.
- Splash Screens | I’ve mostly played this on the Xbox Series X, which meant I had almost no loading times. But somehow the game insists on adding a Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 splash screen in between everything you do. Loading up a level, picking a different car, spinning the wheel. It’s annoying and feels like a relic from a different time.
How long did I play the review before publishing? 18 hours
How long to beat the story? 8 hours
How many Achievements did I earn before publishing? 39 out of 43
How long to achieve 1000G | Around 30 hours (winning 100 races & drifting are grindy)
You’ll love this game if you like these | Hot Wheels Unleashed, Forza Horizon 5, Hydro Thunder
If you’d like to see Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 – Turbocharged in action, we’ve got you covered:
88/100 ⭐ | Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 – Turbocharged promises near-endless fun, especially in multiplayer showdowns. Still, it rides in the slipstream of its predecessor, more akin to a turbocharged DLC than a groundbreaking sequel.
Robby lives and breathes video games. When he’s not playing them, he’s talking about them on social media or convincing other people to pick up a controller themselves. He’s online so often, he could practically list the internet as his legal domicile. Belgian games-industry know-it-all.