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Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged Is Revving Up To Its Name

We went hands-on with Hot Wheels Unleashed's sequel and it is, in every sense of its name, turbocharged with new features, vehicles, and moves.


2021's Hot Wheels Unleashed set the stage for a new era of Hot Wheels racing games. It wasn't just a racing game, but a celebration of the tiny toy cars that felt larger-than-life thanks to the game's physics-based racing and grandiose scale of its environments. Those pillars are what made Hot Wheels Unleashed feel distinct, and not just from Hot Wheels games of the past, but even among other contemporary arcade racing games. It's a distinction that developer Milestone seems to be doubling down on for its sequel Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged. Or, maybe rather, double jumping on?

In every sense of its name, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged is very much turbocharged, with new features, vehicle types, environments, and a set of new moves. During our 30 minutes of hands-on time with the demo, we zipped and drifted around some of its new environments and tried out some of the new moves, including a double jump, which allows you to jump over other cars, reach new areas, or strategically recover after falling off the track. Additionally, players can also perform a lateral drift, which lets drivers instantly move vehicles sideways like something out of Speed Racer, enabling you to bump other cars out of the way, instantly avoid obstacles, or, once again, help you from falling off the track (which can happen pretty often).

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Now Playing: Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged Gameplay

These new moves are a welcome improvement while still maintaining the feel of driving and drifting familiar to returning players. The original's race-drift-ramp rinse-repeat formula felt repetitive quickly to me, so the added variety feels more substantial than just a few new tricks and gives meaningful depth to its racing. In fact, the double jump felt very similar to Rocket League--another physics-based car game and one that nurtured a competitive scene. The devs told me that Rocket League was absolutely a point of inspiration, especially for its aerial gameplay, but their focus wasn't to match Rocket League's competitive skill ceiling. Instead, their intentions were to give players more creative freedom in how to race. Still, it's the creativity of the players that will inevitably define that skill ceiling, so it'll be exciting to see how players use these moves when the game releases.

Double jumps aren't the only way Turbocharged is adapting a more aerial approach. This game sees the introduction of modules that, when driving through them, cause your vehicle to defy gravity and drive on the ceiling or walls of the course like in Mario Kart 8. All these new additions, from vehicle maneuvers and modules, also broaden the set of tools that can be used when creating your own tracks.

Unfortunately during our hands-on time, we didn't get to see the new motorbikes or ATVs in action, but we did get some insight into how its new perk system will work for its 130+ vehicles. Every individual vehicle now has its own perk system you can tailor to your style, like being able to blast through obstacles such as traffic barriers without a problem, improving drifting or vehicle handling, etc. We were also informed how unlocking vehicles differs from the first game, too. Originally, cars were unlocked in a loot box-like manner using in-game currency. But instead of purchasing blindbox after blindbox and hoping for your desired car, Turbocharged now simulates an aisle in a toy store, where you can cycle through cars in their boxes to actually see what you're buying this time. The catch is that available cars are randomized every few hours, incentivizing you to frequently return and scope out what's new on the shelf.

Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged features a story mode with cutscenes, but that wasn't available to us during our hands-on time. That's a shame, as I wanted to see how it'll handle the heroic tale of toy cars (I want to see my heroic little cars do and say heroic things!).

Hot Wheels Unleashed managed to take the tiny toy cars we've all held in our hands and raced around our living room floors (sometimes deliberately smashing them into walls over-and-over, or was that just me?) and give them a sense of weight and life while still retaining that toy-like charm and wonder. Its follow-up appears to be sticking to everything it got right the first time around, but now with a hefty load of new features, variety, options, and some well-needed quality-of-life updates. Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged is expected to release October 19 on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5, and PC.

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