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

As a video game developer, Milestone is known for its motorsport simulations. Challenging Motorsport Sims, like the MotoGP and Ride series for racing bikes and the WRC license back in Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 days.

That doesn’t mean liking an arcade racer Hot tires Unleashed was a vacation or a carefree team building exercise. Michele Caletti, executive producer of the studio, saw the game as an important opportunity to grow the 27-year-old studio’s business in ways that sticking to the ultra-sim motorsport format simply couldn’t satisfy.

“We know that racing games are a niche and that simulation games are a niche of the niche,” Caletti Polygon said in an interview in advance of Hot wheels unleashed‘s launch in late September. “The auto racing game market is pretty crowded; Could I make a Gran Turismo level game? Technically, yes. Should we compete against each other with Gran Turismo? That doesn’t sound like a good idea. “

At first it was a surprise to hear that Milestone had brought the idea of ​​a Hot Wheels racing game to Mattel instead of Mattel coming to the studio or parent company Koch Media, which bought Milestone in 2019. Mattel’s collector cars have a long video game history, but were last featured in their own console video game (as opposed to an expansion for another) in 2013.

But just because the chassis is made of die-cast metal and the vehicles are mostly gravity-powered doesn’t mean Hot Wheels are not suitable for Milestone. After Mattel lit Caletti’s pitch green, Milestone brought its motorsport values ​​to its toy line, just like the studio would for the Monster Energy Supercross series, Caletti said.

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

The 1985 Audi Sport Quattro is preparing to jump on a red plastic runway

The Audi Sport Quattro is a Legendary class car in Hot wheels unleashed, for good reason. The toy is one of Executive Producer Michele Caletti’s favorites.
Image: Milestone / Koch Media

Some arcade racers, according to Caletti, can limit themselves to a “prescribed” experience – that their racing action is little more than a third-person camera that snakes its way through the track almost on rails, with traction, track surface and braking either being irrelevant are or are greatly reduced as gameplay influences. Kart racers in particular don’t really integrate the physics, which makes for a very homogenized experience and is probably a reason why no Hot Wheels game has gotten as prominent as recently Unleashed.

“We developed the handling system based on the actual physics,” says Caletti, although in the finished form it is nowhere near as strict as the physics and handling in Ride 4, Of course. “So, [we were] bending the physics to do some kinds of drifts, loops, jumps, landings without jumping crazy or not finishing the loop. ”

In my time with Hot wheels unleashed“I’ve found that you really have to consciously try to stop in the middle of a loop to fall out. But the fact that you can, and that you can completely fall off the track and spend the rest of the event exploring the area, speaks in favor of Milestone’s goal of making this a legitimate racer who is not tied to any track or a few traces in it.

This kind of quasi-realism explains why Hot wheels unleashed does not have the traditional weapons of a kart racer to sabotage other competitors or add superpowers to your own drive. It uses a boost (and at the higher difficulty levels you’ll be using it almost all the time), but that’s mainly because its application – high speed only – is easy to express in an environment where physics has the final say. Additionally, players recharge their boosts by drifting, which is another physics-based act that Milestone was able to tie onto a traditional arcade racer tool.

“The thrust goes way beyond what can be done faster,” said Caletti. “It can save your race. You drift, you put the car aside and you turn on the booster, it compensates for the way the car is driven [wide] of [corner exit]. “

A 1970s-style Hot Wheels racer with gold flake paint makes a big leap

A peeling green paintwork goes perfectly with the fabulous twin mill of the 1970s.
Image: Milestone / Koch Media

None of this is meant to suggest that Caletti and his colleagues brought a crazy, top-heavy point of view to a game about toys. Caletti said a lot of the designers have their own Hot Wheels collections, and he has about 100 to himself. His 11 year old daughter has the same number.

That helped when it came to depicting all the different materials and surfaces that make up a Hot Wheels car or a racetrack with virtuoso authenticity. “We asked ourselves, should we build these cars to look like full-size cars or toy cars or cartoon-style video game cars?” Recalled Caletti. “And the point was, no one made them in the most obvious way – that is, like the ones you can buy in toy stores, right?”

Hot wheels unleashed launched with a fleet of around 60 vehicles, all based on real Hot Wheels toys and organized by series and year of release. Caletti’s own 1985 Audi Sport Quattro (a die-cast toy, not actual rally racing legend) was part of the first batch of cars Milestone put together to showcase Mattel, and it’s in the finished game – with a legendary one Scoring and corresponding attributes. When the car rolls over, you can see its matte gray chassis with the outlines of the Mattel branding and other lettering; Again, it’s just like the toy in real life.

And maybe that little detailing explains why Milestone’s dedication to realism and authenticity, even for a number of toy racers, made the studio the only company that could deliver something like this Unleashed. The sim-style physics and the arcade-like cars and tracks give fans a racing experience they really only imagined – actually sitting at the wheel of their Rodger Dodger, Rip Rod or Motosaurus and doing this loop-de-loop with the throttle wide open.

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