Hot Wheels Unleashed hands-on preview: Beat That

Milestone and Mattel are looking to deliver the premium toy car racing experience with Hot Wheels Unleashed.


Hot Wheels is one of the cornerstone names in the world of children’s toys and collectibles. Entertaining generations, Mattel’s brand of toy cars continues to be quite popular to this day. Hot Wheels has also had no shortage of video game adaptations, with several developers taking a crack at the license over the years. A new iteration is on the way, as Hot Wheels Unleashed is in development at Milestone. I had the chance to play an early build of Hot Wheels Unleashed and was pretty hopeful after what I saw.

Keep the fire alive

Hot Wheels Unleashed is an arcade racer, with speed boosts, terrain hazards, and other components that will impact races. One thing that I immediately found really cool when jumping in is that the cars you’re racing are actual Hot Wheels. Not the cars that the toys are based off of, but the toys themselves. The plastic and metal material is present, there’s scratches, and every car is without a driver.

The cars are also supposed to be to scale with your standard Hot Wheels toys. The levels in the game are made up of the tracks that you would buy from a store and assemble at home. There’s grand courses that are bursting with detail, alternate pathways, thematic decoration, and it’s all sitting on a living room table, or in a garage. As a kid that was a massive Hot Wheels fan, it’s so neat that Hot Wheels Unleashed is trying to recreate the feeling of playing with the toy cars.

Burning rubber

One of the biggest draws of Hot Wheels as a product is the various amount of cars there are to discover and collect, with each being unique from the next. Hot Wheels Unleashed is looking to recreate this in a couple of ways. First, each car is supposed to have a distinct feel when players get behind the wheel, a concept not too foreign to the racing genre. There’s different car types that players can use, which will bring their own dynamic to races.

Developer Milestone is also introducing car rarities in Hot Wheels Unleashed. Players will start out with common-tier cars, but will have the opportunity to unlock extremely rare vehicles down the road. The lower tier cars are slower and have easier handling, while higher tier cars are the fastest in the game, and also demand veteran skill to handle. Handling, acceleration, braking power, and speed are all statistics assigned to each car in the game. This is also reflective of the collecting and trading nature of the Hot Wheels toys in the real world.

Hot Wheels Unleashed also features a track-building mode, which allows players to put together those iconic orange tracks to build their own Hot Wheels course. I wasn’t able to play this section during my preview of the game, so I can’t speak much to it. In fact, my time with Hot Wheels Unleashed was limited to Quick Race. While I didn't get a chance to check out X and Y features, the game plans to include them in the final version.

Unleashing creativity

Hot Wheels Unleashed is shaping up to be a very faithful adaptation of the iconic toy brand. With a rich history of cars and tracks, developer Milestone is looking to deliver an abundance of content for fans of the property. Hot Wheels Unleashed races onto physical and digital store shelves on September 30, 2021.

These impressions are based on a digital Steam code provided by the publisher. Hot Wheels Unleashed launches on September 30 for Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, and PC. 

News Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Scream nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

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