We remember as kids setting up our Hot Wheels Octoblast and Shark Park race tracks every weekend, launching cars round them at high speeds while avoiding the giant creatures. It always brought such joy to our young selves back in the day, and so it's great to see that Milestone has captured the essence of that nostalgia and converted it into the video game space with Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged.
A sequel to 2021's well-received original, Turbocharged features a whole new campaign, Creature Rampage, focusing on Hot Wheels' popular beasts that have appeared in toy form throughout the years — sharks, octopi, and dinosaurs to name but a few. You must race for pole position, preventing these brutes from destroying the city. With every track designed in one of five new locations — Backyard, Mini Golf Course, Arcade, Gas Station Diner, and our personal favourite the Dinosaur Museum — you'll be competing in a vast array of levels, from simple time trials to drifting challenges, each putting your driving skills to the test in thrilling and chaotic races.
With Unleashed's enjoyable core racing mechanics returning, we thought most of this sequel's changes would be in vehicle customisations and tracks. However, we couldn't have been further from the mark. Turbocharged modifies its core components with the addition of a jump, double jump, and sideways dash, switching things up drastically. The jumps are primarily used to avoid obstacles such as gaps in the track, walls, and rings of fire. However it can also be used to strategically access sneaky shortcuts, gaining the advantage over your opponents by cutting corners. The sideways dash is used to get a one-up on your competitors as you use it to bash them off course, causing them to spin out, miss a checkpoint, or even plummet to their demise. These new mechanics bring that additional level of competitiveness the original sorely lacked.
Another massive improvement over the original is the new terrains and obstacles. The previous title suffered from tracks being too samey, with the streak of orange plastic being burned into our retinas wherever we looked. This time around it's a lot more varied, with grass, concrete, and sand making up small parts of each track, requiring you to be on high alert as your vehicle's handling is heavily impacted when transitioning between the various terrains. Fresh obstacles also help tracks feel more unique, with a heavier focus on creatures. You’ll be avoiding dragon fire, shark bites, and gorilla punches while racing. The obstructions from the original often felt annoying, stopping the fast-paced racing by killing the momentum, and although returning obstacles remain unchanged, the addition of vehicles' obstacle immunity skills (found in the upgrade tree) does wonders to combat this issue.
Split-screen and Multiplayer return with the ability to play any of the core game modes from the campaign in a mix mode playlist or private lobby online. You're able to vote on which track to play next and queue up in a party with friends. The redundant Basements from the first instalment don't make a return, however, being redesigned into outdoor rally stages, tasking you with hitting a bunch of scattered checkpoints throughout the environment in the quickest time. Once finished with the 12-to-15-hour campaign, you'll unlock several new races with more challenging objectives, enticing you to return for more.
We criticised Unleashed for not encouraging use of the wide variety of vehicles on offer, being able to use just one or two cars for its entirety. Now with a much wider range of over 130 different vehicles (including licensed vehicles from Fast and Furious, Back to the Future, and Knight Rider) to choose from, it's a good thing this oversight has been addressed. Events now require your vehicle to meet certain types and tiers to compete. Types are pre-set for each vehicle — heavy duty, off-road, balanced, drifter, swift, and rocket. Tiers, however, change when using skill points to upgrade your vehicles, from Stock to Powered to Ultimate, each tier unlocking more abilities to equip to your ride. Each one adjusts boosting, handling, or obstacle immunity. This means that you're now able to obtain duplicate vehicles, each with slightly differing stats to meet entry requirements.
When not racing, you can access the Garage to view and edit your vehicle collection, create and share liveries and stickers to customise them, spend your hard earned in-game currency in the shop, or create and share new tracks in the Track Editor. Loot boxes were the main way of obtaining cars in Unleashed and we can gladly say they do not make a return in Turbocharged. Instead replaced by a shop with hourly rotating stock and a daily spin the wheel, it's now much easier to obtain the vehicles you want or need to use.
The sublime presentation from the original returns with excellently detailed environments and models. We could spend days gazing upon every toy car model or staring at the T-Rex in the dinosaur museum taking in every little detail. The music is equally fantastic, with funky, upbeat tunes matching the vibes of the fast, chaotic racing that ensues. The level of polish is surprising, frame rate is steady throughout with no noticeable drops, and bugs and glitches were nowhere to be seen during our 25 hours spent with the game.
Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged is a highly polished, fast-paced, fun, and robust racing sequel that builds upon its predecessor in all the right ways. Addressing almost all our criticisms of the previous title by adding impressive core mechanic modifications in the form of jumps, dashes, and new terrains, removing loot boxes, and adding obstacle immunity skills, Milestone has created a fantastic follow-up arcade racer to be reckoned with.