HOT WHEELS. LEADING THE WAY!!!!! Petrol heads and gear heads rejoice, it’s a wonderful time for all of us game who like games about vehicles that go vroom…
In the last year, we’ve had not one but two games trying to bring back the schoolboy memories of racing toy cars about crazy orange looped tracks. In this article, I’ll be having a look at the ups and downs (and loop the loops….) of both Hot wheels Unleashed and the recently released Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels DLC.
Who finishes in first place?
In P1, alphabetically anyway, Hot Wheels Unleashed. Unleashed was released on the 30th of September 2021 on all major systems and quickly became a hit with reviewers and fans. Even from the first trailers that were released, the game caught my eye and was something I was keen to try but maybe not considered an essential purchase.
Once I finally got around to picking up the game, most of my initial thoughts were confirmed, what I wasn’t expecting was the unbelievable attention to detail in the car models and even the tracks that have been created by developer Milestone. Alongside this, the arcade handling is easy to learn yet hard to master and the timing of power slides only seems to feel better the longer I play the game. Controlling your vehicle correctly while mid-air will also lead to getting quicker times across most tracks.
In P2, sits the first Forza Horizon 5 DLC, which also happens to be of the variety of Hot Wheels. Dropping on July 19 2022, available on Xbox consoles and PC, it’s a paid expansion to the extremely popular Horizon series of games. Just in case, this isn’t included in Gamepass (unlike the base game), and it costs £14.99 on its own or £26.99 for a bundle that will also get you access to the second DLC that’s due at a later unannounced date.
The game features a fantastic intro sequence (like most Horizon games do), that’ll see you slingshot into the sky to explore the new map on offer. Once you’re up in the sky, you’ll speed past snowy mountain tops and lava-filled volcanos and have massive toy dragons roar at you as you speed by. It makes quite the impression quickly.
This is all backed up by the rock-solid handling and impressive visual featured in the base Horizon game, which impressed so much at the time of release, that it won TWMs first game of the year award for 2021.
Both games offer impressive visuals, with a slightly different take on their subject matter. Unleashed has the same sort of feeling as some of the recent Lego movies, will them nailing the feeling of a miniature world brought to real life.
Car models are amazing matches for their toy counterparts and even seeing them get scraped and beat up during races hammers home the way toys get chipped as they get older and have been played with more. Horizon feels quite the opposite, more like your toys have been enlarged to fit with the real world, again the cars and tracks are recreated impeccably with a fine eye given to the details.
Overall the first race goes to Horizon 5 as it’s a more impressive world that’s on offer, don’t however discount the visual fidelity of Unleashed.
Over on the handling side of things, Unleashed and Horizon Hot Wheels really couldn’t be any more different. One is strictly arcade with the other more heavily based on real-world physics. Neither is done badly, and both offer class-leading action in their own styles. This one is too close to call and will depend on what a player is looking for when it comes to their playstyle.
So far I have Horzion Hot Wheels with a narrow lead over its opponent, can it keep this going forward into the first corner of the day?
Track choice in both games is wonderful. The created tracks in Unleashed are a trip down memory lane to my childhood and then multiplied by 10. When you think of a track that will take you all over your living room, bedroom or garage, that’s what you’ve been given to race on. Curves and twists and loop de loops fill each race and I’ve been all smiles during every race. Although there are only 6 levels per se, the tracks on each level can have massive variations and options like magnetic track mean that you can race from the floor to the ceiling. These variations feel the maps feel fresh and if you do ever get bored you can even make your own in the track editor.
Horizon takes a slightly different approach, it’s an additional open world map set in the sky above the base game’s playable area. Verticality really is the name of the game and that means you’ll often end up staring at the sky. When you are not, however, the game has some impressive views and different biomes to experience. It also features magnetic track sections to help you make your way round and icy sections of tracks that have little to no grip and my personal favourite are the water flume sections. These can really get you travelling at speed, especially in some of the cars that are made available once you progress further in the Hot Wheels Academy.
You can also create your own tracks to race here, but I’d say personally the track editor in Unleashed is a little more accessible for most, you can easily get a track made there and get roaring around in your favourite car, but Forza takes a little more knowhow to make this work. As there are many really talented players out there I can only wait to see what gets made as more play the game but so far, it’s not been much joy for me at least.
We’re mostly through the race and Forza is keeping its bonnet in the first place, whats Hot Wheels; Unleashed got left under the hood to come back with?
It features a car collection that’s full of joy but with a possibly worrying and frustrating system that holds it back. Cars are available from a selection that changes every few hours of gameplay. Outside of this, the only other option is to purchase blind boxes (using in-game currency), which can lead to the same car repeatedly. It looks like it set up to me a micro currency windfall for developers and I worry that one day the game could be updated to take advantage of this, but for now at least this isn’t the case. It’s also a little light in terms of gameplay changes with only races and time trials available.
DLC has been dropping at a steady rate for the game and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vehicles have been some of my favourites so far.
The section of cars on the Horizon Hot Wheels includes everything from the main game alongside a small number of Hot Wheels inspired cars. I’d have liked to have seen more added to flesh out the toy car feel but it seems to be in line with the last Lego DLC (for Horizon 4) which again only had a handful of cars making use of the change of setting.
Where Horizon does push ahead, is in the variety of different races on offer, even featuring a story mode selection of races giving you a brief history of Hot Wheels.
Overall both racers are great fun and offer plenty of value. If pushed to pick my favourite, Horizon would get the nod. Nevertheless, gaming is about picking what plays best for you, so if you can pick up both and enjoy two of the best racing experiences you can play right now.