Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 – Turbocharged is a follow-on from the original arcade racing game of 2021. Developed by Milestone SRL, the game will launch on October 19 on PC, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation. It has taken all the wonderful things about the first game, added some polish and improved some kinks. There are now way more vehicles, including motorbikes and ATVs, new locations to race, as well as a heap of other new additions to make this a worthy successor. The game runs superbly on both the Xbox One and Xbox Series X which this review focuses on.
The first thing that stands out for this sequel is the presence of a story. We are introduced to characters Robert, Darla, Professor Tanabe, and the robot XR046. Tanabe has been experimenting in shrinking and growing track pieces and has unfortunately unleashed five ghastly beasts. He talked Robert and Darla into being shrunk so they can drive Hot Wheels cars to defeat the bosses. We are told the story is aimed at kids, and I didn’t mind having a loose story to give me reason to keep completing races. However, my 6-year-old daughter was quick to comment while watching, ‘can we skip this so we can start racing?’
Once in-game, the iconic Hot Wheels cars and tracks are front and centre. The pristine level of detail of the Hot Wheels cars are back, only this time there are over 130 vehicles to unlock, drive and upgrade. Rarities of cars are there from the sequel, ranging from common and rare to legendary and even super treasure hunt which creates meaningful moments for the players, just like finding one in a brick-and-mortar store. They have gone one step further with upgrades and now there are three categories to vehicles – stock, powered and ultimate, and you can use upgrade kits to progress the cars through the tiers. The music is upbeat and appropriate to the high-speed racing. I am glad they improved on the first game’s music where if you boosted, the music would distort given how fast you were going. It was immersion breaking for me and it’s so good without it in Hot Wheels Unleashed 2.
In addition, each category has several skills that you can unlock and specialise that vehicle. While there is a plethora of vehicles you will unlock just by playing the game, like in the first Hot Wheels Unleashed, I had a couple of favourite vehicles that I focused on and steadily upgraded. The Rodger Dodger and Bone Shakers were my favourites from the first game and the first ones I upgraded in this game. Skill point perks are split into three groups – handling, boost and obstacles and depending on your category level you may be limited in how many perks you can use. As you get into powered and ultimate categories, skill perks will have a bonus but at a cost to something else. Like you may get more boost at a cost of speed, or better handling but you may not generate boost as quickly.
The next new thing to notice in Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 – Turbocharged is the new tracks. The familiar bright coloured tracks from the first game are back and look fantastic as ever with loop-the-loops, boosts and newly added jump mechanism. You can jump through hoops of fire or jump over gaps in the track and these costs boost power, so make sure you leave some in the tank when approaching jumps.
Five new environments have been added for us to drive through and explore at break-neck speed. There’s the arcade, backyard, gas station, a mini golf course, including golf balls that can slightly hinder your progress, and finally a dinosaur museum. In addition to the bright orange and blue tracks, new surfaces can be driven through including grass and sand that affects the driving capability of some of the vehicles.
Drifting and slipstreaming are back, and of course if you are driving super-fast, there’s always a chance you may flip over and need to spend time recovering the vehicle back into the track. Thankfully you don’t have to wait until you hit the ground and can recover back on track very fast. In addition to new jump mechanic, you can now shunt cars with lateral dash which helps you avoid obstacles or prevent them from overtaking you. This lateral dash move really comes into play in the new clash derby mode that sees you crashing into other players online to accumulate points. There’s also the new ‘grab the gears’ mode where you need to take gears off other players but shunting them.
The map in Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 – Turborcharged has evolved somewhat from the play board of the first game and is also guided more by the story cutscenes as well. Boss battles have a bit more meaning behind them as a result and you must race to hit several targets before a timer fills up which is the boss’ attack. If the timer fills up, you are destroyed in one hit, so you need to make sure you speed along the track to hit targets which will reset the timer and knock some hitpoints off the boss. You will occasionally earn a Hot Wheels Spin which are reminiscent of those in Forza Horizon, and my luck is just as bad in this game where I earn way more coins than I do cars. New cars can be purchased with in-game currency so you can keep adding to your ever-growing collection of awesome Hot Wheels cars.
Otherwise, you’ll face a mix of time attack, quick race, drift master, waypoints, and elimination race types. There are challenges roadblocks spread throughout the map like the first game, and there’s plenty of variety. However, as I experienced with the first game, it got repetitive for me after an hour or two of solid racing, especially if I was pushing hard to complete all objectives for each race. This suited my playtime in between work and the kids, so something to be mindful of if you’re looking for at a several-hours play session (what are those again?).
Overall, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 – Turbocharged is a fantastic and worthy successor and has all the right improvements to elevate the hectic racing events. New track locations, a tonne of new cars, new skill perks and new ways to drive all add up to a game that feels familiar but better than the first. It’s easy to jump in and play a race or two and feel that sense of accomplishment, and there’s plenty of event diversity on offer to keep you engaged.