Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X
October 19, 2023
If you asked me to describe Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged in one word it would be fast. Coming off the back of the 2021 game Hot Wheels Unleased, there is obviously a reason developer Milestone added “turbo” to this sequel’s title! The competitive arcade-style racing game taps right into the nostalgia as players race model vehicles from Mattel’s Hot Wheels toy line over tracks that are just as small as the cars themselves. Hot Wheels fans will get to experience the feeling of actually driving in a Hot Wheels vehicle through environments that give off Honey I Shrunk The Kids and Grounded vibes.
There are a few ways you can have fun in Turbocharged, one being the story campaign. This occurs around a world map that highlights the game’s five new environments – Arcade, Backyard, Wild West Mini Golf Course, Gas Sytation and a Dinosaur Museum. Between racing through these locations, the game introduces its narrative which focuses on the Hot Wheels racing team racers Darla and Robert and the eccentric Professor Tanabe. The Professor’s new shrink/enlarge machine crashes causing scary, small creatures to be enlarged to scary, big creatures that escape his lab. The solution? Shrink the creatures and the racing team so that the latter can defeat them safely and stop them from causing havoc. The narrative occurs via 90s morning cartoon-style cutscenes at the start of some races on the world map and I found them annoyingly cheesy and unnecessary. Thankfully there aren’t too many of these scenes and you can skip them if you really want to escape them.
Once I got past the cringey cutscenes, the tracks themselves were a lot of fun; Milestone do an amazing job of creating environments that make you feel teeny tiny like zipping past the open mouth of a massive T-Rex, cutting through grass shards double the size of your vehicle, and whizzing around arcade games that sparkle loudly over you. Adding to the fun is the tracks themselves, which always have some sort of boost to drive through or obstacle to avoid. Boosts are everywhere in Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged, this game really does want you to go as fast as you possibly can by encouraging speed at most opportunities.
The game’s “boost” feature lets you double the speed of your vehicle by using energy from your boost meter; this is filled up by drifting around corners, showing that the game also encourages its players to have reckless fun! Besides drifts and boosts, two new stunts have been added to the Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged roster; these include jump and lateral dash. Jump comes in handy to avoid obstacles that when hit (like barriers) will slow you down, whilst the lateral dash is best used when you want to boot other players out of the way.
Whilst you are enjoying these new environments you’ll also get to experience, via the game’s third-person perspective, the many different Hot Wheels cars that you can inhabit during your play. You start with seven vehicles, my favourite being the Rodger Dodger, a black muscle car with stats that are good for drifting and accelerating. Speed-wise, however, it falls short, so I did use a number of my skill points to increase its get-up-and-go! Skill points are given when you complete a track and you receive more if you beat the secondary objective, which is usually finishing 1st. Not only can you add more power to your vehicles, but you can also visually customise them via the game’s Livery Editor. This mechanic was available in the previous game, but what has been added is the Sticker Editor, where you can create your own decals.
Turbocharged also offers a number of gaming modes that players can experience via the main menu. These include Quick Race, Waypoints, Time Attack and the new kids on the block – Elimination and Drift Master. Elimination will kick off players who are falling behind in a race leaving the fastest player standing whilst Drift Master focuses on the player racking up high scores by drifting and not touching any obstacles or the track’s sides. The game also has a split-screen mode which worked without issues on my PS5. My best mate I played with hasn’t touched a controller since the 90s and I really wanted to see how Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged felt to a newcomer. Unfortunately, the game was pretty punishing, even on easy, so newcomers to the genre, or young kids, may struggle to get a handle on the game’s intense gameplay.
Though the tracks were fun to spin around on for a few rounds, I became bored of them during time trails which break up the competetive racing on the world map. It seems that Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged relies heavily on speed to entertain its audience rather than spending more time making the tracks unique. For those who get motion sickness, like myself, the constant need to drift around corners made me feel a bit sick, something I never usually encounter with racing games.
“…zipping past the open mouth of a massive T-Rex, cutting through grass shards double the size of your vehicle…”
Due to the above, an aspect of the game that I was super excited about was the track creator. This meant that I could create my own, exciting racing experience without dozens of continuous curves. The creator lets you pick any of the game’s environments as a template to create your own circuit. You can pick between curvy or straight tracks, obstacles and track boosts. I didn’t last too long in this creator, however, as trying to move my first few tracks into place became more frustrating than fun. I therefore decided to focus more on the racing side of things rather than the race-creating side of things. The game also gives you the option to share your creations with online players and I saw a number of really cool-looking tracks. However, accessing these tracks wasn’t as easy or intuitive as I would have thought. Little things like this added up and unfortunately made the game not the spectacle it otherwise could have been.
- Tracks are super fun to zip around
- Cool to play as actual Hot Wheels released cars
- Split-screen mode works well
- Offers creative ways to customise your vehicles
- The "narrative" of the game is cheesy
- Track creator is janky
- Tracks can get a bit boring if repeated
- People who suffer from motion sickness may not have the smoothest ride
Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged is a fun, nostalgic hit of fast-paced racing goodness that offers players a number of ways to have a good time. However, if you look a little closer, you can see that some of the game’s paint is peeling due to the janky nature of its gameplay elements and its over-reliance on player speed rather than quality tracks. Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged is full of charm but fans of racing games may feel that this isn’t enough for them to stick around and get turbocharged with Hot Wheels cars.