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Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged review: a die-cast delight

The player drives toward an octopus boss in Hot Wheels Unleashed 2.
Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged
MSRP $50.00
“Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged enhances the original's formula is every possible way.”
Pros
  • New abilities enhance racing
  • Fun Waypoint mode
  • Lots of satisfying progression
  • Great editing tools
Cons
  • Terrible Creature Rampage story
  • Hot Wheels spin is uncomfortable

As I raced through a dinosaur exhibit at a museum as a Hot Wheels monster truck, I realized that the racing game was made for five-year-old me. As a kid, I owned tons of Hot Wheels; looking back, it was a way my dad tried to share his love of cars with me. I played Milestone’s 2021 sleeper hit Hot Wheels Unleashed and thought it recaptured some of that childhood nostalgia. That feeling didn’t hit me in full force until I played this improved sequel, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged.

Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 isn’t the most complex or challenging racer. It has a nonsensical story mode and some gambling-like presentation when unlocking cars that I don’t love in a game made for kids. Still, a few key additions go a long way toward making a faster, more fun racing game for kids (and kids at heart).

Refined racing

Milestone’s Hot Wheels racing games are pretty straightforward arcade racers where the main goal is to boost, drift, and outdrive opponents to get first place. This is recontextualized in various modes, from the standard three-lap races to the Elimination mode that knocks out the players in the last two places in timed intervals. Boosting and drifting in Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 is key to success and as exhilarating as it was in its predecessor.

A motorcycle makes a gigantic leap in Hot Wheels Unleashed 2.
Milestone

It’ll be hard to return to the first Hot Wheels Unleashed after playing this follow-up. The sequel improves the boost-based, arcade-like racing by giving players more ways to spend that boost meter. I could now spend a bit of it to jump or quickly do a lateral dash of my car to the side. While the jump got me over large gaps, and the lateral dash let me knock some other racers off course, they also added more movement utility to the game.

It’s easier to course-correct and get back on the track without completely resetting my car’s position now, as the vehicles are still pretty frail and can be bashed off course. I could now jump over the edge of the track or use the lateral dash to adjust my positioning in midair. I always needed some boost meter to pull off these moves, so it encouraged me to drift a lot and care more about my Hot Wheels’ type of boost meter and how much boost energy they had left.

This sequel isn’t just recapturing nostalgia again …

A boost-based racer will be much more entertaining for children than a simulator like Forza Motorsport, but even I felt the intrinsic, childlike joy that “car go fast” can elicit. Thankfully, Milestone also created a thorough sandbox in which to enjoy this refined racing. More outdoorsy maps have been added, and more races or parts of races take place off-road. The locations were smartly chosen to tap into that childlike theming, like the backyard or the aforementioned dinosaur museum, bolstering the wonder of racing through massive places as a small toy.

Meanwhile, the new Waypoint mode also let me race around from point to point completely off-road on these maps. If I were playing this game at five years old, this would be my favorite mode as I could not care about the timer and explore uninterrupted thanks to the new movement mechanics. It looks great too, capturing the plastic look of the tracks and car and juxtaposing those with more realistic environments. This sequel isn’t just recapturing nostalgia again; it’s offering new places to explore and ways to move around them.

Plenty of progression

Track and car editors also return, giving comprehensive tools to let players build and customize their own Hot Wheels experience. I doubt most kids will have the time or patience to make decent tracks of their own, but the ability to browse and play with community-made cars and courses should give a near-endless amount of content to enjoy. Even if someone chooses not to engage with the online features, the single-player experience Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 provides is comprehensive.

Thankfully, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 only features paid DLC and is devoid of currency microtransactions …

It’s possible to access Quick Play race, Time Attack, Drift Master, Elimination, and Waypoint modes individually, but these race types are all used throughout the Hot Wheels Creature Rampage campaign mode. Developer Milestone tells a story about Hot Wheels racers working with a scientist and robot to take down escaped monsters. It’s not exactly for adults. Most of its comic-book cutscenes are painfully written; characters will switch their characterization from line to line, and every scenario always ends with everyone laughing.

Thankfully, I could mostly ignore these aimed-at-kids cutscenes and enjoy Creature Rampage as a series of challenges with primary and bonus objectives. Completing these and a variety of smaller Unleashed Missions rewarded me with things like customization items, experience, skill points, Hot Wheels Spin tokens, and currency. The skill points let me refine specific abilities, like becoming immune to certain track obstacles; the game was satisfying, rewarding me for using my favorite Hot Wheels.

The player drives toward an octopus boss in Hot Wheels Unleashed 2.
Milestone

Meanwhile, the currency is used to purchase new Hot Wheels, which now includes the likes of motorcycles, ATVs, and monster trucks. I’m less fond of Hot Wheels Spin, as I don’t like that its rewards are doled out through a slot machine-like mechanic in a game aimed at children. Thankfully, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 only features paid DLC and is devoid of currency microtransactions at release, unlike this year’s Lego 2K Drive.

Even after pulling all of those layers of progression back, there’s still a racing game experience that just feels inherently fun, realizing what I imagined my Hot Wheels were doing while I played with them as a kid. While all those Hot Wheels are given away or stored in a tote box somewhere in my parents’ attic nowadays, playing Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged made it feel like I was playing with them again.

Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged was tested on PS5.

Tomas Franzese
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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