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My initial impression of this game was that it felt almost instantly like an arcade racing game. The controls are very friendly and even massive mistakes can easily be made up on the games courses as the speeds that these cars reach is quite impressive. The control scheme is done quite well and the small comfortable GameCube controller has a nice feel to it when steering and activating the power slide or the nitro boost. This coupled with the games smooth flowing gameplay made playing the first several races almost a little too easy.
Although there are more than enough quirky budget racing titles available for today's gaming platforms, few of these games have provided the level of consistency found in the Hot Wheels franchise. Multiple publishers and developers have tried their hand at the series, but despite this constant changing of the guard, the Hot Wheels games have always focused on simplistic, arcade-style racing gameplay, which has worked pretty well for the series. The latest developer to create a Hot Wheels game is Climax Studios, and its offering is Hot Wheels World Race for the GameCube and PlayStation 2. World Race takes the series in a more futuristic direction, drawing inspiration from titles like F-Zero and the Extreme-G series. However, aside from its futuristic direction, World Race sticks pretty close to the basic arcade racing formula the series has used for years, which works both in the game's favor and against it.
Hot Wheels is set in a futuristic environment, following closely (and a little suspiciously) in the vein of F-Zero. Each stage has a specific theme, such as an Egyptian motif. Racers also encounter nitro boosters and “Hot Wheels” on the track that increase your nitro meter or unlock shortcuts respectively. Nitro bursts are used by pressing the R button, although Nitro is used up quickly and usually must be conserved more for jump stunts than for boosts to your standings in the race.
The game looks a lot like F Zero, but looks are where the similarities end. Hot Wheels: World Race is just your average racer, but it does include a song by Smash Mouth at the beginning. The game is somewhat easy and the average 8 year-old should be able to win consistently after a couple hours of practice with the controls. But, that same 8 year-old risks boredom with Hot Wheels: World Race. The game feels very canned. It is an uninspired title that will collect more dust than is played. This is too bad because Hot Wheels is such a classic property. The futuristic storyline does not flatter the Hot Wheels name.
Hot Wheels: World Race is meant to be a simple game for kids. Using the Hot Wheels license, it's clear that THQ has aimed this at the 12-and-under set. Trying to be both big and loud and easy to pick up, Hot Wheels: World Race makes some odd decisions. The racing has some interesting courses and a simplified trick system, but the tricks become old way too quick and the control is too quirky and difficult to be a lot of fun. Courses require memorization and little to no strategy or creativity.