A couple of years ago I had reviewed Hot Wheels Unleashed on Boiling Steam. In it I had noted how the game relived my childhood memories of collecting toy cars and race tracks. It’s a great game, for sure, and the successor, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 - Turbocharged, does the same thing, except it does it even better.
So, in case you’re not familiar: Hot Wheels is a toy car brand from Mattel that was introduced in the late 60s. While some of the plastic molds that they make are based on real-life cars, most of them are more fantasy-like in design. And the brand became a massive hit, at least here in the United States. Mattel would then go on to license their franchise to game developers and movie producers. The Hot Wheels Unleased series is just one of many video games that use Hot Wheels cars and environments. And just like they did with the first game, they nailed it spot on with the successor.
As you might have expected, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 - Turbocharged is a racing game, using toy cars that drive in an arcade-y style. The world around you is massive, since your car is tiny. Drive around the race track in someone’s backyard, a mini-golf course, the Wild West, a dinosaur museum, and other environments as you try to compete for first place.
Hot Wheels 2 takes the formula of the first game and expands upon it. Everything that you liked from the original is carried over: the graphics, the race tracks, the physics, boosting on the track, vehicle customization, dubstep music, the ability to make your own race track, you name it. But the second game brings more to the table, with more cars, new environments, new terrain to race across, new game modes, better customization of cars, and more. In addition, some new gameplay mechanics are introduced: strafing and jumping. You can strafe to the left or right to get out of harm’s way, or to push your opponent off track. You can jump up to two times to cross a gap in the track, or to help you find a shortcut. While there’s still no weapons in this game, at least the pushing of other opponents makes the game a little more fun.
Lots of Cars and Car Customization⌗
You can race on the track with more than just standard vehicles: you can also use motorbikes, ATVs, and monster trucks. Some of these vehicles will be better at off-road racing. Others will be able to handle the corners of the track better with more precise drifting. Some are more rare than others. The great thing is, all of these vehicles can have their stats upgraded. Vehicles have the following attributes:
- braking power
These stats can be upgraded by having enough upgrade kits. So, the vehicle will start off as Stock. One upgrade kit will upgrade the car to Powered, increasing the speed, acceleration, and braking power. Two upgrade kits will upgrade the car to Ultimate, again increasing the speed, acceleration, and braking power. The boost gauge will also increase.
As you upgrade your vehicle, you can also select individual components to upgrade as well, but they come at a cost. For example, the “Maximum Grip” attribute will increase the handling of the car while drifting, at the expense of the boost gauge gain being reduced while drifting. My personal favorite vehicle is the “Bone Shaker Unleashed”. Every stat is just about max, and it drifts very well.
Campaign with a Purpose⌗
The campaign is also back in this game, except there’s a little more backbone to the story with the addition of cutscenes and actually having a purpose for racing on the track: to protect the city from attack from the invading creatures. Frankly there wasn’t much else added to the table in terms of general progression in the campaign. There’s an event you have to clear, such as a race with other cars, a race against the clock, an elimination-style race, reaching a series of checkpoints within a certain amount of time, or to see how well you can drift across the track without hitting the wall. You do well, you get one star. Do exceptionally well, you get two stars. EXP is earned, and when enough EXP is gained, you level up, earning more upgrade kits or in-game currency to buy more vehicles.
After a series of events are cleared, you’ll face the “boss” for that area. You race around the track, hitting a target to reset the gauge. This gauge fills up over time, and if you don’t hit a target within a certain amount of time, the game is over. In my opinion these boss tracks are a bit lackluster. It’s basically just a race where you hit targets. The boss doesn’t actually try to attack you or throw traps in your way. I felt like this game mode could have used a little more spice to make them more interesting.
Since the game hasn’t officially released yet, I didn’t expect to play against anyone online. But I actually did. I found myself racing against 9 other players. Finished in 3rd. The cool thing is, there’s cross-platform multiplayer between PC and consoles (albeit for the Switch), and I didn’t encounter that many issues playing via Wi-Fi on my Steam Deck.
You can search for a quick race, or find a specific match. You can also host your own private lobby if you have someone else to join you. Great thing is, the local split-screen feature from the original game is still here, so, if you want to have your friends over or play this game with your kids, that’s certainly an option.
While I do like the addition of the elimination race mode, I’m not fond of the drifting game mode. Your goal is to drift around the track, racking up your score before you cross the finish line. The longer you can avoid hitting the wall, the more your score will multiply. While I suppose this sort of mode can help you with your drifting skills, I found it a bit frustrating. All too often I hit the wall while going around a corner, thus resetting my score multiplier. It made it a chore just getting one star for it.
Game difficulty – like the original, the “Normal” difficulty can feel a little too easy at times. Sometimes I find myself way ahead of the pack, and this can make the race boring. But “Hard” spikes it a little too much. It can make races frustrating, because if you make just one mistake, you can find yourself eating the dust from your opponents, with no way to catch up with them. I wish there was an in-between difficulty from “Normal” and “Hard” so it would provide a challenge, but not make it frustratingly difficult either.
Works Great on Deck⌗
The game runs out of the box. However, I do recommend using GE-Proton, since video playback is missing with vanilla Proton. The strange thing with GE-Proton (using 8-19 at the time of writing this) though, is while the first cutscene in the story mode plays just fine, the remaining cutscenes don’t. It’s just a black screen with no audio. You’ll just have to skip the videos for now. Otherwise, the game runs fantastically on Deck.
I get a pretty solid 60 FPS on ultra settings with the resolution set to 1024 x 576, TDP limit set to 8 W, and max GPU clock speed set to 800 MHz. For 40 FPS, you can tone it down to 6 W/600 MHz respectively.
I should note the game installs EAC, but fortunately, the game still runs just fine.
A Great Game Made Even Better⌗
I really liked the first Hot Wheels Unleashed game. Hot Wheels 2 provides the same great gameplay, with the added bonus of new cars to choose from, new environments, a somewhat enhanced story mode, an elimination-style race mode, being able to shove other cars off track, jumping over obstacles, and more. The track and livery editor, while they were already good in the first, got even more love with more customization, new modules, stickers…the list goes on.
I do wish weapons had been added. I also found that the campaign, while it was slightly enhanced from the original, was somewhat lackluster, particularly the boss fights. Difficulty options for CPU opponents shift between too easy to too difficult, and the drifting mode is just annoying.
That being said, I definitely think the game is worth your while, especially if you enjoyed the original. The game works great on Deck, there’s cross-platform multiplayer, and I think the new features added to the game are great additions.
- same great gameplay as the original with new cars, modes, tracks, campaign mode, mechanics, etc.
- cars can have their stats upgraded
- works great on Deck
- cross-platform multiplayer, in addition to local split-screen
- drifting mode isn’t fun
- boss tracks in campaign mode aren’t very interesting
- the campaign mode, while being better than the original, is still somewhat lackluster
Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 - Turbocharged will be available on Steam October 19th for $50.
Review key provided by Tinsley PR.