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First Hands-On With Hot Wheels Unleashed 2’s New Campaign Mode, New Maps

After surprising everybody with the outstanding Hot Wheels Unleashed in 2021, developer Milestone is poised to take us back to the toy box all over again. We’ve previously had some time with Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 - Turbocharged back in June, but fresh from another rummage around this souped-up sequel, here our updated impressions of Hot Wheels Unleashed 2’s new career mode and some of its extremely promising new track environments.

Hot Wheels Unleashed 2’s solo action appears set up in a pretty similar fashion to the 2021 original – with a top-down city map filled with races and challenges to conquer – but this time around Milestone has injected a kid-friendly story about saving the city from a series of monsters alongside it. This new story-driven campaign mode features a team of original characters, including two young adults with extravagant haircuts, a wacky professor, and – the most crucial ingredient of any kids cartoon – a talkative robot.

While I have to concede that previous Hot Wheels animated projects like Hot Wheels: World Race and Hot Wheels: AcceleRacers happened deep within the window where my own childhood Hot Wheels obsession had been paused – but before my own kids came along – I’m obviously aware that this new play mode has been put together with children very much in mind.

However, even though I know I probably won’t get much mileage out of this addition personally, what I can say is that I’ve been left properly impressed by some of the fresh tracks we didn’t get to race on in our first hands-on back in June – especially in the new arcade map. I had a suspicion based on the initial screenshots that I’d dig this new Hot Wheels environment and, at this point, I’m definitely a fan.

Arcade in Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 is a huge, three-level map linked with two pairs of travelators. Stools and arcade machines loom large like skyscrapers, and the whole place is bathed in the glow of neon. This place has it all – air hockey tables, pinball, racing cabinets, basketball, dance games, you name it. There’s even a quaint little tabletop area filled with boxes of board games (which handily explains the random Jenga blocks scattered across all three floors). It has a ton of atmosphere too, as it’s far from a silent place; it’s a symphony of bleeps, bloops, and attract mode noises. Overall, it’s really a very strong map, and I cannot wait to start building custom tracks inside of it to really explore and exploit every corner of it. There are so many surfaces to use, gaps to find, and arcade machines to race under, over, around, through, and even directly across. Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 does seem to have a very good assortment of maps, including a dinosaur museum and a great gas station and diner, but I think this one in particular could be quite special.

Stools and arcade machines loom large like skyscrapers.

Arguably, one of the strongest features about the new arcade map is that it seems like it’ll help Hot Wheels Unleashed maintain its broad appeal to racing fans of all ages. Even though the new story mode accompanying the campaign this time around is very much oriented towards younger players, this arcade map in particular is a total throwback environment geared towards delighting older players. Kids today would be lucky to ever set foot in an arcade as strong as the one depicted in Hot Wheels Unleashed 2, but those of us who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s should be quite familiar with it. It’s been a terrific little toy-sized time machine.

Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 - Turbocharged arrives this time next month, on October 19, 2023. For those of you who like to live your lives at least... 20 feet, 7 inches at a time,* know that since our last preview it’s been confirmed Fast & Furious Hot Wheels cars are officially coming this time around. The Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat isn’t particularly iconic compared to some of the most famous cars in the series but, considering Mattel has made dozens and dozens of different Fast & Furious die cast cars since 2013, hopefully Milestone will be able to include some of the more memorable rides in later updates.

Luke is a Senior Editor on the IGN reviews team. You can chat to him on Twitter @MrLukeReilly.

*That's a 1/64 scale quarter mile. I think. I don't write for a living because I'm good at maths.

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