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Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 Hands-On Preview – TheFantasyTimes

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By Nikita Gambhir

Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 Hands-On Preview



My debut in toy car racing is not going as smoothly as I had hoped. I underestimated the complexity of the game and thought I could simply hold down the drift button to execute incredibly long drifts around the track. However, I find myself struggling to navigate the corners, and every time I catch up to my AI-controlled opponents, they skillfully knock me off the track with perfectly timed lateral dashes. Meanwhile, I am left bouncing around amidst traffic cones, boxes, and other obstacles. It’s safe to say that my first few races in Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 have been quite disastrous, resembling a car crash. However, it was during this challenging period that I experienced a breakthrough by utilizing one of the new mechanics introduced in this iteration of the game.

After being forcefully pushed off the glossy track by a monster truck, I go with the momentum of my car and loop back towards a point further down the track. Approaching the barriered edge of the track at high speed, I utilize the remaining boost juice to perform a jump, followed by a double-jump over the barrier, allowing me to get back on track while leaving the dastardly monster truck behind. This marked the beginning of my comeback in the Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 hands-on experience, which eventually led to an exhilarating victory in the new Elimination mode, where the last racer gets eliminated at intervals, similar to a battle royale.

As a fan of kart racers, it didn’t take me long to adapt to the game’s mechanics, such as drifting and slipstreaming (staying close behind a racer to build up the boost bar for a well-planned overtake). I also quickly grasped the new abilities, including jumping, double-jumping, and lateral dashing. The drifting and slipstreaming mechanics were integral to the success of the first Hot Wheels Unleashed game, and they remain just as satisfying and effective in this sequel. Utilizing these techniques strategically allows for a thrilling race experience, where you can maintain high speeds throughout the entire race, despite the fact that you are controlling tiny toy cars in human-sized environments.

Among the new mechanics, the jump feature stands out as a particularly exciting addition. During my brief 40-minute gameplay session, I found myself in several situations where I was about to fall into a hole or get pushed off the track, but the jump ability saved me. This ability also offers the opportunity to cut corners and gain an advantage over opponents by landing ahead of them after a jump. It reminds me of the crucial role jumping plays in my past experiences with Rocket League, where it was a vital component.

The lateral dashes bring a newfound aggression to the sequel. While the impact of bumping into opponents is not as dramatic as, for example, Donkey Kong colliding with Princess Peach, it still has the potential to knock a rival into an obstacle or onto the wrong side of a track barrier. Additionally, the game’s physics-based interactions allow for turbo-boosting through lightweight cars ahead, sending them flying over my car as I speed past them. The developers at Milestone have informed me that the environments in Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 are more interactive this time around, enabling players to manipulate physics-based objects and use them against their rivals.

The game features 50 tracks divided into five new environments, each offering a unique racing experience. During my gameplay session, I had the opportunity to explore the ‘Backyard’ and ‘Mini Golf Course’ environments. While they may not be as visually vibrant as those found in other whimsical racing games, they still present plenty of jumps, falls, and hazards to navigate, including giant balls dropped from the sky and track barriers that can be jumped over for a speed boost. The inclusion of quad-bikes indicates a greater emphasis on off-road racing in this sequel.

Although the tracks may not possess the fantastical and imaginative qualities typically associated with kart-like racing games, they still demand intense focus and strategy. There are few moments where you are not meticulously planning your boosts or timing your drifts for upcoming corners. Despite the game’s toy-like presentation, the racing experience is more akin to the breathlessness and intensity of Wipeout rather than the playful nature of Crash Team Racing. This can be attributed to the developer’s background in realistic, fast-paced racing simulations, which adds a significant level of realism and excitement to the gameplay.

Milestone has emphasized that the in-game economy is strictly confined to the game itself. While cosmetic microtransactions are likely to be present, all unlocks, perks, and progression can be obtained solely through gameplay, which is a reassuring aspect. From what I understand, the single-player campaign will serve as a means to unlock a wide range of content and introduce colorful characters, which should inject some personality into the game. There is an abundance of content yet to be explored, and it all sounds promising. However, it was disappointing to learn that, similar to the original game, split-screen multiplayer will be limited to two players only. Nevertheless, the online multiplayer is expected to be a major selling point, and with the addition of new mechanics, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 has the potential to surpass its predecessor and emerge victorious in the racing game genre.

In conclusion, my initial struggles in Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 have paved the way for exciting breakthroughs and thrilling victories. The game’s mechanics, both familiar and new, offer an exhilarating and strategic racing experience. The diverse environments provide plenty of challenges and opportunities for creative gameplay. With an in-game economy that rewards players for their efforts and a promising online multiplayer component, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 has the potential to build upon the success of its predecessor and become a dominant force in the racing game genre.

My toy car racing debut isn’t off to the best start. Stuck in the simplistic Mario Kart mindset of thinking I can just hold the drift button to pull off unthinkably long permadrifts all over the track, I’m fluffing every corner, and every time I finally catch up to my AI-controlled rivals, they bully me off the track with perfectly timed lateral dashes, which fill up their boost bars while leaving me bouncing around in an oblivion of traffic cones, boxes, and other off-track objects.

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It’s apt to say that my first few races in Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 were a bit of a *boo-dumb* car crash, but it was during this adversity that I had my first big breakthrough, utilising one of the new mechanics in this iteration of the game to get back on track. Shunted off the glossy track by a monster truck, I go with the momentum of my car to loop back towards a point further down the track.


Careening at high speed towards the barriered edge of the track, I use whatever little boost juice I have remaining to jump then double-jump the barrier to get back on track, conveniently leaving the dastardly monster truck in my slipstream.

That was the beginning of my resurgence in the Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 hands-on, which eventually culminated in a thrilling victory in the new Elimination mode, where at intervals whoever’s last gets eliminated from the race—battle royale style. As a fan of kart racers, it only took me only a few races to get into the groove of things here, quickly picking up the game’s core mechanics of drifting and slipstreaming (staying right behind a racer ahead of you to build your boost bar then plan an overtake), as well as new ones such as the jump, double-jump, and lateral dash.

starting a race in hot wheels unleashed 2 turbocharged

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The drifting and slipstreaming were a key part of what made the first Hot Wheels Unleashed a hit, and they’re just as satisfying and effective here. Use these things strategically and smartly, and you can pretty much spend the whole race going at what feels like 160mph (though it’s more likely something like 40mph, given that you’re playing as tiny toy cars dwarfed by their human-sized environments).

Of the new mechanics, the jump in particular adds a really cool layer, and during my swift 40 minutes with the game I squeezed in several scenarios where I was about to plummet into a hole or was shunted off the track, then used the jump to recover. You can use that jump to cut corners of the tracks too, as well as get that extra bit of air when coming down off a jump so that you land ahead of rather than behind your opponents. It’s a neat addition that gives me flashbacks to my Silver League glory days of Rocket League, where jumping was such a vital component.

The lateral dashes give the sequel some newfound aggression. While the results of bumping your opponents are nowhere near as drastic as, say, Donkey Kong slamming into Princess Peach to send her tailspinning, they’re still enough to bump a rival into an obstacle, or onto the wrong side of that crucial track barrier. Beyond that, all aggression is strictly physics-based; I had a blast turbo-boosting myself through the lightweight cars ahead of me, sending them hurtling over my bonnet as I sped through them, and I’m told by the devs at Milestone that the environments are more interactive this time round, so you can knock physics-based objects around and into your rivals (though I didn’t get to dabble in this myself).

Racing along dirt road in hot wheels unleashed 2 turbocharged

Upon release, the game will feature 50 tracks split across five ‘environments,’ all of which are new to the sequel. I got to play around in the ‘Backyard’ and ‘Mini Golf Course’ environments, and while they’re not as vibrant as those found in other wacky racers out there, there are still plenty of jumps, falls, and hazards to watch out for, such as giant balls being dropped from the sky, or barriers that pop up out of the track (which you can jump over for a speed boost). I’m also told that there will be much more off-road focus in this entry, which explains the inclusion of quad-bikes.

Beyond the ‘you’re small and everything’s big’ quirk, these tracks aren’t as fantastical and imaginative as you might be used to from other kart-like racing games, but that’s not too much of an issue, as your focus will very much be on the race itself. There are few moments where you’re not hyperfocusing to stack boosts or planning to time your drift for the massive looping corner you see up ahead. The breathlessness and intensity of the race itself, despite the dinky presentation, is more Wipeout than Crash Team Racing, and that’s owed to the developer’s heritage in realistic fast-paced racing simulations. There’s some serious horsepower knocking around under the hood here.

Milestone have stressed that the in-game economy is strictly in-game, so while there are likely to be cosmetic microtransactions as with the previous game, all unlocks, perks, and progression are attained through simply playing the game, which is great to hear. As I understand, much of this will be unlocked through the single-player campaign, which will introduce all kinds of colourful characters, so it’ll be interesting to see how the devs imbue the game with a bit of personality.

Getting some air in hot wheels unleashed 2 turbocharged

There’s a lot of content here, much of which I haven’t seen yet, and it all sounds great, though I was a bit disappointed to hear that, as with the original game, split-screen will be limited to just two players, because this would’ve been a perfect ‘beers on the sofa’ party game. Now I think about it, I can’t recall when I last played a ‘fun racer’ type game without four-player split-screen; it feels endemic to the genre.

But hey, who has real shoulder-rubbing friends these days anyway, right? Clearly, a big selling point here will be the online multiplayer, and with its tastefully added new mechanics, there’s no reason why Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 shouldn’t build up momentum in the slipstream of its predecessor, boost up beside it, bump it off the track, then speed off to victory.

NEXT: 10 Best Kart Racing Games, Ranked

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