Monday, March 4, 2024

Developer: Stormfront Studios Publisher: EA Release: Genre: Racing

If you are of a certain age Hot Wheels were a part of your childhood. As a child you could not own a car but a mini replica with some cool decals was a nice substitute. And how many of us tried to put together the elaborate race tracks only to have your car fly off into a wall at the first turn? Eventually I stopped trying to mimic the box and make my own Frankenstein creations that did not fare any better but I digress. Hot Wheels Turbo Racing is the first 3d console game to try and capture the magic and largely succeeds. It has a few flaws but as a first effort is largely great.

Hot Wheels Turbo Racing is an arcade racing experience through and through and very similar to Midway’s Rush series. Both games throw realism out the window as you launch hundreds of feet in the air among wild courses designed for fun most of all. In this case however Hot Wheels takes it a step further with tracks that twist and turn in ways not humanly possible as well as giving you a degree of control once airborne not seen before. This is to facilitate the game’s wild stunts which in turn give you the turbo in the game’s title. The goal of every race is to beat your opponents by any means possible, be it out drive them, knocking them off the road or causing them to explode in a fiery wreck.

The handling is very loose as this is not a game that wants to challenge you to stay in a lane. This is probably the most control I have ever seen in a racing game. It is necessary as there are an insane number of tricks to pull off, somewhere around fifty in total. The tricks are extremely simple to pull off, requiring simple turns of the analog stick or combination with the R button and genuinely fun to nail during a race. The game is extremely generous at awarding boost for the simplest actions as it is necessary to keep up. It is obvious the designers are proud of the trick system as there is a mode dedicated to it.

The track design is inconsistent and that is mostly down to the trick system ironically. The loose control practically screams for wide open courses. But to make sure you do not go flying out of bounds executing tricks they are largely straightforward. There are occasional branches and secret paths but for the most part you are on a narrow track. It forces confrontation especially due to the rubber banding but their grueling length makes them tiring. The various cups make it worse; each race is six laps and by lap three I wanted it to be over. When you are blazing through a loop de loop or flipping upside down it is thrilling. But the game recycles them multiple times per course. Shorter more focused tracks would have been better.

Because of its free form mechanics Hot Wheels Turbo Racing is very accessible to players of all skill levels. There is rubber banding but it is not so egregious that it feels impossible to break away from the AI. The generous turbo mechanic makes it easy to recover after a wreck. At lower difficulty levels the rubber banding works in your favor, allowing you to catch up even with horrible performance. You will have to work to unlock the Twinmill Cup let alone win it. But that is a challenge for those that want it. With its huge variety of modes there is more than enough ways to enjoy the game’s content regardless of your driving skill. Speaking of content…

Hot Wheels Turbo Racing 002 Hot Wheels Turbo Racing 003

Compared to its contemporaries Hot Wheels Turbo Racing is packed with content. Initially you have a selection of twenty cars and six tracks. Through thorough exploration of each track and winning each cup you can unlock a further twenty. The game does an excellent job providing a wide range of cars in its vehicle selection. They range from the most popular street cars to stealth vehicles and vans. It is like the Gran Turismo of Hot Wheels! In addition there are five more tracks bringing the total to eleven. At a time when most racing games were content with three courses and maybe eight cars the developers deserve props for making this a full package.

In Closing

I really like Hot Wheels Turbo Racing. I approached this one with trepidation back in the day. Even though I like Hot Wheels it was still a licensed game and we know how that goes. But EA and Stormfront Studios did an awesome job taking advantage of this license to create a solid racer that stands out amongst a full crowd.

7 out of 10

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