Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged Review – 2 Hot 2 Wheels
On its face, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged is a continuation of the original game that doesn’t offer many drastic changes or additions. Underneath the surface, however, there are a ton of small improvements in both the gameplay and the content that make for a better experience overall.
The main campaign of Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged is a collection of racing events connected via an overworld map. This time around, these events are loosely tied together by a story about massive monsters invading the city. The two main heroes must shrink these monsters down and beat them by driving Hot Wheels. The story is told through short cutscenes that feature stills of the cartoon protagonists and a Saturday-morning-cartoon-style tone. It’s not particularly great–the dialogue is over the top and the jokes don’t land–but these cutscenes are pretty infrequent and short, so it’s a small part of the experience.
The racing itself is easily the most enjoyable part of the game, with major improvements to the feel. Each Hot Wheels vehicle is now given a class, like drifter, off-road, or rocket, which gives you a rough idea of how the vehicle controls. Drifters specialize in drifting, naturally, while rockets have the highest available speed, but lack in control. With some classes, like the Off-Road, you can tell their specialty just by looking at the vehicle; it’s nice to know at a glance what a standard looking car is good at without having to find out by racing. Each racing event is labeled with the class best suited for the track, giving you an idea of the best vehicle to pick without needing to run a practice lap first. For the most part, you aren’t forced to use the recommended vehicle class, so you can always pick your favorite Hot Wheel, regardless of the situation, which is a nice touch.
These recommendations can be very important, though, since many of the tracks now feature off-road sections, where you drive directly on the pavement, mini-golf turf, or carpet of the environment, which each has a drastically different level of traction compared to the plastic tracks. The five different environments–Gas Station, Mini-Golf, Museum, Arcade, and Backyard–are all utilized well, with many of the races using the regular environment, like a countertop inside the gas station, in the race. Each environment offers not only a different aesthetic, but different obstacles that can be used as part of the race track. This is especially true in the new Waypoints races, where you need to reach each checkpoint in an environment as fast as possible. These races typically feature little to no track, instead asking you to navigate the furniture and other obstacles already in the environment, which really highlights the detail in these environments. These races are also far different than other types, offering some variety, especially since the traction on the ground is very different from on the track.
Obstacles have been improved as well and far more are present than in the previous entry. These obstacles come in a couple different forms. Sometimes, these are miscellaneous objects like golf balls or wooden blocks that can be knocked away by boosting through them. There are also barriers that have to be jumped over, but those are noted by warning signs, so it doesn’t feel like you’re being tricked into crashing. There are also track hazards, like a massive bat that blows wind against you and a shark that closes its mouth over the track. None of these obstacles are too difficult to avoid, but that added dimension to the racing makes it feel more like Hot Wheels than just another arcade racer.
The racing itself has two major new additions that add a needed layer of complexity. The first is a jump, which requires a small amount of boost meter to use. Jumping is useful to avoid some obstacles, but certain tracks have sections where a jump is required to clear a gap in the track. Since these come up somewhat frequently, it requires you to manage your boost meter instead of just constantly using it to gain extra speed. The jumps typically have a few warning signs ahead of them, but if you miss the jump you will need to respawn, setting you back in the race. It’s enough of a punishment that it helps enforce the need to manage your boost without forcing you to restart the race, which feels like a good balance.
The second new move is a sideways dash, which can be used to bash into other racers, and it also requires a bit of boost. While this maneuver is never required during a race, it can be helpful to knock an opponent off a track, especially in an elimination race where the bottom racers are eliminated from the race at certain time intervals until only first place remains. The CPU racers will also take advantage of this move, adding another layer of difficulty.
Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged has a wider variety of Hot Wheels to collect and race with, including the introduction of ATVs and motorcycles. With the introduction of vehicle classes, each type of Hot Wheel has a distinct feel, making unlocking a new one more exciting. Each Hot Wheel can be upgraded, too. The overall level can be increased, which just gives a flat boost to stats across the board. There are also perks you can unlock and equip, but most of these come with a negative. For example, a perk might reduce your boost consumption, but it will also reduce the speed boost. While you can use these tradeoffs to tweak a vehicle to your playstyle, none of them feel particularly compelling or even necessary to succeed.
Despite there being more Hot Wheels to collect, actually collecting them feels worse. There are numerous challenges to complete, with each challenge offering a reward for turning it in. You complete one or two of these challenges in nearly every race in the campaign, but the vast majority of the rewards given are profile customization options. These include profile images, banners, tags, and backgrounds. These options don’t matter much, especially if you aren’t playing online, and the overwhelming number you receive really drives home just how uninteresting these unlocks are. Some of these challenges offer a prize wheel spin or a car, but these are infrequent.
Instead, Hot Wheels are unlocked by purchasing them with coins earned from completing races from a rotating shop. The shop can be refreshed whenever you want for a small amount of coins, but just picking vehicles out of the shop isn’t as exciting as being given one as a reward. Hot Wheels can also be obtained from a prize wheel spin, but there are also upgrade points and coins on the wheel, which are seemingly given out more frequently than vehicles. You also only get wheel spins every couple of profile levels or for a select few challenges, so the overall number of Hot Wheels you get from a spin can be counted on one hand by the time the campaign has been completed, which is disappointing. The shop has a small selection which refreshes on a timer–although you can pay a small amount of coins to refresh it sooner–but it frequently has duplicates in it. While being able to pick which Hot Wheels you get can be nice, there is something special about being rewarded with a vehicle you didn’t even know was in the game.
You can customize your Hot Wheels, with the option to change the paint color and material for a handful of different parts of each vehicle. You can also make stickers and place them over the outside of each car to create a unique personal style. These designs can be shared online and you can pull designs from there if you don’t want to do the work yourself. Each Hot Wheels vehicle already has its own personality and design, but being able to customize them is a nice touch.
The campaign includes several boss fights, with each featuring a monster like a scorpion or a yeti. These take form as a large creature on top of the starting line in the race, but don’t provide unique obstacles. Each boss race has targets on a track, with each broken target dealing damage. The boss has a meter that fills up over time that will end the race if it fills all the way, while hitting a board resets the meter. At the start of the race, you can miss a target and still make it to the next one, assuming you move quickly enough. As the race continues, the amount of time it takes the meter to fill gets shorter, forcing you to hit every board in your path. These boss races don’t do enough to differentiate themselves from each other, but there are only a handful.
Beating a boss unlocks that boss as a track piece for the track builder, which no longer requires you to spend coins to unlock new parts. Instead, the vast majority of track pieces are already available, letting you build whatever you want out of the gate. The tutorial doesn’t do the best job of letting you know how everything works in the builder, but it’s fairly easy to figure out and put together a simple track, although making more complicated tracks will take some practice.
The track builder seems to include every track piece used in the races in the campaign, so there aren’t any restrictions on the complexity of what you can build, making both building and racing on community tracks fun. Finding a community track is pretty simple, as there are recommended tabs, alongside a selection of the most liked tracks over a certain period of time. You can also filter by tags, environments, and even track names, making it easier to find a specific type of track. The overall sharing system is fairly simple and has enough filtering options to make it quick and easy to use.
Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged does make improvements over the original, but it is still largely the same game. The added depth to the racing itself is where it shines the most and the new vehicle classes provide a nice complexity and incentive to use a wider variety of Hot Wheels. The challenges and rewards are disappointing and the story doesn’t add much to the campaign, but most of your time will be spent burning plastic on orange tracks, which is still fun.
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