Hot Wheels Unleashed Preview and hands-on gameplay

Put the pedal to the... plastic?

Hot Wheels Unleashed heads to PC and consoles in late September, and Stevivor’s been lucky enough to go hands-on with the title as part of a special preview opportunity.

While the title has a host of modes and features, we were limited to the quick race mode alongside a handful of cars and tracks. We opted for the College Campus mapset and went with what we considered to be average cars.

Unleashed is a cart racer with crazy Hot Wheels vehicles and tracks set against every day landscapes. In the case of the College Campus, loop-de-loops and the like were framed by a backdrop of classrooms and a library complete with shelves full of scholarly tomes… not that you really have the chance to appreciate your surroundings. From the minute you step on the gas, you’ll be busy dodging roadblocks, weaving around other vehicles, drifting around corners and aiming for all-important speed- and nitro-building track strips. On easy tracks you’ll find barriers on either side of the course, but on hard difficulty, you’ll find that you can quite easily fly from the track and literally go from first to last place as your car is reset upon the track.

Developer Milestone has said that cars will start off as “Common” rarity drops, allowing players the chance to get a good feel of what each can do; two races in, I had a pretty firm grasp. Drifting feels similar to the likes of a Mario Kart; while an after-drift boost doesn’t apply, a dedicated nitro button more than makes up for that. On easy, I found myself in first place against my AI opponents before the end of my first of three laps. On hard, I was second until midway through the second lap, only to drop off to last place by falling off the course almost immediately afterward. I somehow managed to get back up to second in the third lap alone, meaning there’s some fairly aggressive rubber-banding going on, even with Milestone saying hard “is a real challenge for players that like to fight until the last seconds of a race.”

Each race provided incentives to continue — while Gears, Unleashed‘s in-game currency, meant nothing to my actual preview experience they’ll go along way in the game proper, allowing players the chance to upgrade their cars to Rare or even Legendary capabilities. A fourth rarity, Super Treasure Hunt, will also be on offer, though Milestone didn’t detail how that occured.

Split screen mode was on offer for the preview, but we sadly didn’t take advantage of the opportunity. Additionally, modes like the Hot Wheels City Rumble (aka Career), Time Attack, a Track Builder, Livery Editor and multiplayer for up to 12-players will also be on offer in the final build of the title. On release day, Unleashed will also offer up more than 60 vehicles and over 40 tracks. Better still, Milestone has confirmed that Hot Wheels Unleashed is microtransaction-free and all items are obtained by in-game currency earned through racing.

Simple and straight-foward, Unleashed was a joy to play in preview and I expect it’ll be chaotic and enjoyable with friends as well.

Hot Wheels Unleashed heads to Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S & X, PS4, PS5 and Switch on 30 September. You can check out our hands-on gameplay below.

Hot Wheels Unleashed

30 September 2021
PC PS4 PS5 Switch Xbox One Xbox Series S & X

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.