Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged (PS5) review

We remember as kids setting up the Hot Wheels Octoblast and Shark Park race tracks every weekend, zipping the cars around at high speeds while avoiding the giant creatures. It always brought such joy to our younger selves back in the day, so it’s great to see that Milestone has captured the essence of that nostalgia and transferred it into the video game space with Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged.

A sequel to the well-received 2021 original game, Turbocharged features an all-new campaign, Creature Rampage, focusing on the iconic Hot Wheels monsters that have appeared in toy form over the years – sharks, octopuses and dinosaurs to name a few. You must race to get first place and prevent these brutes from destroying the city. With each track set in one of five new locations – Backyard, Mini Golf Course, Arcade, Gas Station Diner, and our favorite Dinosaur Museum – you’ll compete in a wide range of levels, from simple time trials to drift challenges, each of which puts your driving skills to the test. The test is in exciting and chaotic races.

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With the return of Unleashed’s fun core racing mechanics, we thought most of the changes for this sequel would be in vehicle and track customizations. However, we could not have been further from the target. Turbocharged tweaks its core components by adding a jump, double jump, and side dash, shaking things up dramatically. Jumps are mainly used to avoid obstacles such as gaps in the path, walls, and fire rings. However, it can also be used to strategically access tricky shortcuts, and gain the advantage over your opponents by cutting corners. Side dashes are used to outmaneuver your rivals as you use them to knock them off the track, causing them to spin, miss a checkpoint, or even plummet to their demise. These new mechanics bring that extra level of competitiveness that the original sorely lacked.

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Another huge improvement over the original is the new terrain and obstacles. The previous title suffered from the paths being too similar, with a strip of orange plastic burned into our retinas wherever we looked. This time, it’s even more varied, with grass, concrete and sand making up small sections of each track, requiring you to be on high alert as your car’s handling is severely affected when moving between different terrains. New obstacles also help make the tracks feel more unique, putting more emphasis on the creatures. You’ll avoid dragon fire, shark bites, and gorilla punches while racing. The obstacles in the original were often annoying, stopping fast-paced racing by killing momentum, and although returning obstacles remain unchanged, the addition of obstacle immunity skills for vehicles (found in the upgrade tree) does wonders to combat this issue.

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Split-screen and multiplayer return with the ability to play any of the base game modes from the campaign in a mixed mode playlist or private online lobby. You can vote on which track will be played next and join a party with friends. The redundant basements from the first installment won’t return, however, and have been redesigned as outdoor gathering stages, tasking you with hitting a bunch of checkpoints scattered throughout the environment in the quickest time. Once you complete the 12-15 hour campaign, you’ll unlock several new races with more challenging objectives, tempting you to come back for more.

We’ve criticized Unleashed for not encouraging use of the wide range of vehicles on offer, only being able to use one or two cars completely. Now with a much wider range of over 130 different vehicles (including licensed vehicles from fast and angry, Back to the futureAnd Knight riding) to choose from, it is good that this issue is addressed. Events now require that your car meet certain types and levels in order to compete. Types are pre-determined for each vehicle – Heavy, Off-Road, Balanced, Drifter, Speed, and Rocket. However, levels change as you use skill points to upgrade your vehicles, from Stock to Powered to Ultimate, with each level unlocking more abilities to outfit your journey. Each one adjusts to boosting, dealing with, or hindering immunity. This means that you are now able to obtain duplicate vehicles, each with slightly different stats to meet the entry requirements.

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When you’re not racing, you can access the garage to view and modify your vehicle collection, create and share skins and stickers to customize them, spend your hard-earned in-game currency in the shop, or create and share new tracks in the track editor. Loot chests were the main way to get cars in Unleashed and we can happily say they have no return in Turbocharged. Instead of replacing it with a store with inventory that rotates hourly and a wheel that spins daily, it’s now much easier to get the vehicles you want or need to use.

The stunning presentation from the original releases returns with excellently detailed environments and models. We can spend days staring at each toy car model or staring at a T-Rex at a dinosaur museum taking in every little detail. The music is equally great, with funky, upbeat tunes that match the emotions of the fast and chaotic race that follows. The level of polish is impressive, the frame rate is consistent throughout without any noticeable dips, and bugs and glitches were nowhere to be seen during the 25 hours we spent with the game.

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