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Hot Wheels Battle Force 5

Score: 60%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Sidhe
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Racing (Arcade)

Graphics & Sound:

Part of me wants to give Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 the old, "Weak, but fans of the show/ kids will enjoy it" treatment. Then my inner child speaks up and reminds me that even for fans, Battle Force 5 isn't much fun.

If you've even seen the show, you already know Battle Force 5 isn't exactly Pixar-quality CG. What it lacks in "wow," it makes up for in style. This plays well on the Wii, which also lacks a visual "wow" factor. Both are seemingly made for each other and Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 is better for it. This is about as close to the show's visuals as the Wii is going to get, and it looks good. All of the characters and cars from the show are here, along with arenas and worlds pulled directly from the show. This, along with from-the-show quality audio and voicework, would make any fan happy, then comes the gameplay.


Gameplay:

Story is inconsequential for Hot Wheels Battle Force 5. All you really need to know is Earth is part of a multiverse inhabited by the Vandals (animals) and Sark (robots). Along with the humans who inhabit our Earth, the three races race around worlds searching for keys to unlock portals to new worlds. The premise is no goofier than Yu-Gi-Oh placing the fate of the world on card games, but it at least gives you some context for racing through different worlds and ramming other cars.

Battle Force 5 doesn't waste any time dropping you behind the wheel as Vert, the leader of the group, as he races through worlds rescuing the other members of the team, usually by racing their personal vehicles through one of the game's repetitive courses. Along the way, you can ram other racers and collect items, but nothing about the game is particularly challenging, at least outside the driving mechanics, which do nothing to utilize the Wii's controls.

All of the game's courses are built around the race-and-smash dynamic, both in the single player and multiplayer modes. Multiplayer at least offers the option of playing with someone (or three if you want to take turns), but does a little more than repeat the single player experience. Two players race to see who can get the key to the portal the most in five minutes. Consequently, five minutes is all the time you're likely to spend in the mode. There's no way to customize matches and, by extension of the shallow game dynamic, there isn't much to hold interest.


Difficulty:

Control is just bad. So bad, in fact, it manages to torpedo what would otherwise be an incredibly easy game. It's not a direct hit; the game is still easy. Items are left in plain view and there's a red line option available if you need help getting around the track.

You think with games like Mario Kart already available on the system, Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 would have a great place to start when developing its own scheme and layout. Instead of going for the sideways steering wheel setup, Battle Force 5 places all steering on the Nunchuck's analog stick, leaving the motion control for a very sloppy "slamming" mechanic. It's stiff, disorienting and just plain dull.


Game Mechanics:

Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 gets to the core of a mechanic found in nearly every game, things running into other things and making something happen. However, Battle Force 5 doesn't do much to try and go beyond the simple concept. Each car has its own unique abilities, though the game does nothing to leverage their abilities in any interesting ways. Sure your car can turn into a giant buzz saw, but you're still just running into things.

As awkward as Battle Force 5's mechanics come off, there's probably a really cool mechanic or two buried somewhere. The scheme is a mess, but might work were it designed with another game in mind. It would still require a lot of refinement, but it's not horrible by itself - it just doesn't work with Battle Force 5.

Again, I'm really tempted to pass Battle Force 5 off as a game only a fan would appreciate, but I can't. Even if you know a Battle Force 5 addict, skip out on Hot Wheels Battle Force 5.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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