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Hot Wheels: World Race

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Climax Group
Media: GCD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Racing

Graphics & Sound:

With the fifth (and last) episode of Hot Wheel's series World Race on the shelves, the game Hot Wheels: World Race has also been released. This game has you taking on several tracks found on Highway 35 as well as many that weren't in the series.

Though the series was cel-shaded, the Hot Wheels game is not. That isn't to say though, that the graphics aren't something to oogle over. The car models are the best I have seen in a Hot Wheels game yet, and the tracks and landscape are fairly well done. Another graphical feature of the game is the use of clips from the series inserted in various locations (though not a lot). These cutscenes allow for the game to tie in very well to the show.

The music of World Race is high powered and really sets the mood. My experience with the game would have probably been a lot worse had I not had the energetic music in my ears -- not to mention Smashmouth's 'Hot' for the game's intro.

One problem I did have was the fact that no matter which car I chose, they all sounded the same. This was a little disappointing and it made me feel a little cheated -- but, of course, what are some of these cars supposed to sound like?


Gameplay:

You and five other racers will speed down tracks made of loops, jumps, tight turns and force fields as you partake in a challenge given to you by the genius Peter Tezla. This scientist has created 35 of the fastest and best cars in the world, and has brought together 35 people to compete in this series of races that take place in another dimension. That is the basis of Hot Wheels: World Race, both the series and the game.

You start the game off with only five cars -- one from each of the groups Tezla made. In the show each group had its benefits, but those advantages seem to have been erased for the game. For example, the Wave Rippers had no problems moving through water, while the Scorchers plowed over hot lava like it was normal asphalt. The other groups, the Dune Ratz, Street Breed and Road Beast each had their advantages as well, but like I said, those features don't appear in the game.

As you complete races in the League mode you unlock everything from new vehicles to tracks to gallery items (photo bios of each of the racers). Each car has its personal settings -- mostly the standard variations, top speed, breaking, handling etc. But in this version of the game I found the cars had a little less control than I saw in the PlayStation 2 game. I don't know if it was simply the difference in the controller configuration or if there was a difference in the code itself. Either way, I found I was falling way behind in races that I easily finished in first or second on the PS2.

This reminds me of a gripe I have. Unfortunately there is no way to see how far behind you are in the race. When you start falling in ranks and mess up a jump, it would be nice to have some idea of how far away from the pack you are. In most games this is done with a representation of the track or maybe some gauge showing you how close you are to the next car, but neither option appears in World Race.

As you race down a track -- or along a wall for that matter -- you can pick up rings. These rings are one of the ways that you build up your Nitrox2 tank. The other way to earn your boost is to land stunts while in the air. The only stunts allowed in World Race are the roll and the flip. These are performed with the D-pad. Once you have a full tank of Nitrox, it is a simple matter to hit the boost on a ramp and go soaring onto a platform positioned higher up and designed for shortcuts.

I briefly mentioned the League mode earlier. This consists of three difficulty settings: Rookie, Varian and Expert. In each level the AI seems to get tougher, and the qualifying requirements get ramped up some, thus making it harder to advance.

Other modes of play include Multiplayer, Time Trial, Quick Race and Challenge. Time Trial puts you against the clock and challenges you to see how fast you can complete a course, while Quick Race lets you choose an unlocked car and race in one of the opened tracks.

The multiplayer mode is you against (up to) three friends in a split screen race, while Challenge mode seems to be this game's version of a training session. Here you will proceed through five challenges. Each one shows you how to activate and perform different features in the game. This is where you learn how to do stunts, perform the power-slide, use your Nitrox and things like that.


Difficulty:

As you go through the different difficulty settings in League Mode, the ability to qualify for the next race gets tougher and tougher. Hot Wheels: World Race isn't the easiest game to go through. I found I was able to get into the Veteran setting without much problem, but when it came to the Expert level, I was out of my league (pun intended). I found this to be a good balance, as I am not typically a racing gamer and I know that I am not an expert at these games. So when I find the hardest setting a breeze, there is something wrong. Thankfully that wasn't the case with Hot Wheels.

Game Mechanics:

The controls of Hot Wheel: World Race are fairly simple to master. The A button is the accelerator, while the B button is the brake and the Left Shoulder button is the hand-brake (great for the power-slides). You activate your Nitrox2 with the Right Shoulder button. When in the air, you perform your stunts with the D-Pad. To roll you use the left and right buttons and to flip you use the up and down buttons. You want to make sure you vary your stunts though, because if they get stale then you won't get as much Nitrox - even if you land it perfectly.

World Race is a good solid racer. The control of the vehicles seem to be a little more loose than on the PlayStation 2, but if you can get past that, then you shouldn't have any problems having fun with this game. If you can't though -- then look for the PS2 version.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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