Hot Wheels Unleashed combines arcade-style toys with simulation racing action

As a video game developer, Milestone is known for his motorsport simulations. Demanding motorsport simulators, such as the MotoGP and Ride series for race bikes, and the WRC license in the days of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

That doesn’t mean making an arcade racer like Hot wheels Released it was a vacation, or a joyous exercise in teamwork. Michele Caletti, the studio’s executive producer, saw the game as a vital opportunity to grow the 27-year-old studio’s business, in a way that sticking to the ultra-sim motorsports format simply couldn’t satisfy.

“We know that racing games are a niche and simulation games are a niche of the niche,” Caletti told Polygon in a prior interview. Hot wheels unleashedLaunch at the end of September. “The market for car racing games is quite crowded; Could you make a game at the level of, I don’t know, Gran Turismo? Technically speaking, yes. Should we go toe-to-toe with Gran Turismo? That doesn’t seem like a great idea. “

At first, it was a surprise to hear that Milestone had proposed the idea of ​​a Hot Wheels racing set to Mattel, rather than having Mattel come to the studio or parent company Koch Media, which bought Milestone in 2019. they have a long video game. story, but they last appeared in their own console video game (as opposed to an expansion for another) in 2013.

But just because the chassis is die-cast metal and the vehicles are driven largely by gravity doesn’t mean Hot Wheels isn’t a natural fit for Milestone. Once Mattel gave the green light to the launch of Caletti, Milestone brought its sporting values ​​to its toy line, in the same way that the studio would do for the Monster Energy Supercross series, Caletti said.

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“We understood that the license was never really treated with triple-A quality,” he offered, “so it was a question of connecting the dots. We love simulations, but that doesn’t mean we don’t like the arcade [racing]. “

The 1985 Audi Sport Quattro prepares to take a jump on a red plastic track

The Audi Sport Quattro is a legendary class ride in Hot wheels unleashed, for good reason. The toy is a favorite of executive producer Michele Caletti.
Image: Milestone / Koch Media

Some arcade racers, Caletti thought, can turn into a “scripted” experience: that their racing action is little more than a third-person camera traversing the track, almost on rails, with irrelevant traction, track surface, and braking. or strongly reduced as influence of the game. Kart racers, in particular, don’t really incorporate physics, which leads to a very homogenized experience, and probably one reason why no Hot Wheels sets in recent memory have stood out as Released.

“We developed the handling system based on actual physics,” Caletti said, although in its final form, it is not as strict as the physics and handling in Walk 4, of course. “Then, [we were] bending the physics to be able to do some kinds of drifts, loops, jumps, landings, without bouncing your way madly or not being able to complete the loop. ”

In my time with Hot wheels unleashedI’ve found that you have to really, deliberately try to stop in the middle of a looping loop to get out of it. But the fact that you can – and that you can get off the track entirely and spend the rest of the event just exploring the surrounding environment – speaks to Milestone’s goal of making this a legitimate racer, one that isn’t stuck on a track. . or some lanes within it.

This kind of quasi-realism also explains why Hot wheels unleashed It doesn’t have the traditional weapons of a kart racer to sabotage other competitors or give your own vehicle super powers. It uses a boost (and in higher difficulties, it will use it almost constantly), but that is mainly because its application, only at high speed, can be easily expressed in an environment where physics has the last word. Additionally, players recharge their impulses by drifting, which is another physics-based act that Milestone managed to link to a traditional arcade racing tool.

“The momentum goes way beyond what goes faster,” Caletti said. “It can save your career. You drift, put the car on its side, and activate the boost, which compensates for the way the car tries to go. [wide] of the [corner exit]. “

A 1970s-style Hot Wheels racer with gold flake paint takes a long jump

A peeling green paint job is a perfect match for the fabulous Twin Mill from the 1970s.
Image: Milestone / Koch Media

None of this suggests that Caletti and her colleagues brought a wacky, gear-headed point of view to a toy game. Caletti said that many of the designers have their own Hot Wheels collections, and he has around 100 for himself. His 11-year-old daughter has the same number.

That helped when it came time to represent all the different materials and surfaces that make up a Hot Wheels car or track with virtuous authenticity. “We asked ourselves, should we make these cars to look like full-size cars, or toy cars, or video games, cartoon cars?” Caletti remembered. “And the point was, no one was making them in the most obvious way, that is, like the ones you can buy at toy stores, right?”

Hot wheels unleashed released with a fleet of around 60 vehicles, all based on real Hot Wheels toys and listed by their series and year of release. Caletti’s own 1985 Audi Sport Quattro (a diecast toy, not the actual rally racing legend) was part of the first batch of cars Milestone put together to release to Mattel, and it’s in game over, with a rating and legendary attributes to match. . If the car rolls over, you can see its matte gray undercarriage, with Mattel trademark outline and other writing; again, it is exactly like the toy in real life.

And maybe those little details explain why Milestone’s commitment to realism and authenticity, even for a number of toy brokers, made the studio the only one that could offer something like Released. Sim-style physics and arcade-like cars and tracks give fans a racing experience that they had truly only imagined – being behind the wheel of their Rodger Dodger, Rip Rod, or Motosaurus, and taking that full throttle loop loop. .