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Did Hot Wheels Unleashed need a sequel less than two years after it launched? I’m not convinced, and after playing the game for a very, very brief 30 minute period, I had fun but I’m still left wondering whether there’s enough here to warrant another full-priced launch. That said, the concept of a CCG – collectible car game, of course – is an interesting one.
Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 – Turbocharged is aptly named because it very much does feel like a small iteration on the first game, with which developer Milestone found a winning, if slightly flawed, formula. At first glance, it looks like the same game – only when specific, small tweaks are pointed out does the evolution of the sequel become clear. In a sense, the game has been turbocharged.
When it comes to the racing, there are two new mechanics at play – jumping and dodging, also known as the lateral dash in-game. For the most part, neither ability will be particularly useful in your average race, or at least until you master how they work and can use them to their maximum potential. Tap the shoulder buttons to dash left or right – though you unfortunately cannot smash your competitors off the track like this – or press X/A to jump. The times these will be mandatory are few and far between, as most tracks are still geared towards standard racing, but it’s off the track where Turbocharged is making the most improvements.
There are three new modes on offer: Elimination, which eliminates the player in last place at regular intervals; Drift Master, which rewards the player with points based on how successfully they’ve drifted throughout any given lap; and Waypoints, which is a solo mode where the player must navigate to gates in a specific order without a minimap.
Waypoints is the mode the devs at the preview event were keenest to push, as it introduces an all-new way of playing the game. It requires thinking outside the box, as you must find the quickest way round an environment, rather than hurtling round at full pelt. It’s certainly different to the other offerings in Hot Wheels Unleashed 2, but how much sticking power it has is yet to be determined, as the one ‘track’ I played in Waypoints mode felt a little lifeless. As a result, the mode may only appeal to the small subset of players who will play specific levels on repeat, trying to beat their time.
However, for those players who got properly into the meat of the first game, there are now over 130 vehicles – and that includes new types, including motorbikes, ATVs, and monster trucks. Vehicles will also interact differently depending on the terrain they’re driving on, such as grass or sand. The rarity system has also been revamped to be similar to collecting Hot Wheels toys in real life: Common, Rare, Legendary, Secret, and Super Treasure Hunt. While scrolling through the vehicles on offer, the devs explained to me they want Secret and Super Treasure Hunt vehicles to feel like a momentous occasion, akin to finding a rare toy car in person.
Skills and perks are now a thing too, with three categories focused on different aspects of driving. Increase your vehicle level with upgrade kits to allow for more perks, and equip four of the same category to unlock a special perk. Perks have drawbacks alongside their bonuses though, so you must balance the pros with the cons to fit your driving style.
Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 – Turbocharged isn’t laying new foundations, and some may argue the minor additions here aren’t worthy of an entirely new sequel, but it’s obvious that existing fans of the first game will be enamoured with the next instalment. It looks as gorgeous as ever, and is still just as smooth to play, and with a renewed focus on online play with some new modes on that front too, Milestone is sticking to what works.