Developer: Beyond Games
Release Date: 11/2002
Remember, as a kid, that extensive Hot Wheels collection you were so proud of? Remember how you’d always pretend like they could perform amazing jumps and how you’d pit two pimped-out cruisers against each other in a fictitious battle for supremacy? Remember that one special car that seemed like it could coast for miles at just the slightest push? Well, I do. So when I caught the impressive video preview of the game some months back, which illustrated in crazy detail the possibilities of a Hot Wheels game complete with unbelievably fast cars, impossible jumping acrobatics, and oversized-armaments, I knew I had to play the game. And, as luck would have it, here I am, reviewing it. And while my hopeful expectations for the absurdly-protractedly-titled Hot Wheels Velocity X Maximum Justice were not entirely met, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it doesn’t suck nearly as much as I feared it would.
You’ll play the role of Max Justice in the game’s main story mode as he attempts to track down the criminal gang members who are responsible for stealing his father’s formula for a secret prototypical kind of fuel that allows for twice the speed with none of the detrimental repercussions that usually plague performance-boosting implements. This speed-inducing formula is known as Velocity X, hence the game’s subtitle.
There are numerous modes of play in Hot Wheels Velocity X, all of which I will touch on a little later. But the focal point of the experience is found within the Adventure mode. Adventure mode is essentially a set of missions, each with their own unique objectives. These objectives include such things as getting to a designated area within the time limit, destroying a set number of enemy vehicles, racing, or playing chicken with rival gang members, among other things. The story will unfurl via short cut scenes that are interspersed between missions, these cutscenes depict Max and his robot-pal talking it up with a host of different characters directly related to the previous or upcoming stage.
As you are briefed on each mission you’ll be given the opportunity to select from myriad types of cars, all of which have their own unique set of attributes as they relate to speed, armor, traction, and stunt ability. And a new vehicle will be unlocked with each mission you successfully complete. These cars range drastically in their appearance, fulfilling nostalgic expectations of incredibly distinctive Hot Wheels designs. And they also perform differently depending on their unique set of attributes. There are so many to choose from that it won’t be hard to find a car that is perfectly suited to your tastes. The physics that the developers used for controlling these cars is a little on the loosey-goosey side (particularly when using the handbrake), making for lots of unforeseen bumps and collisions. But luckily, smacking into the sides of walls does not slow you down that much. Speed is very much a focus in Velocity X.
Aside from the obligatory focus on speed, you’ll also be able to battle it out with other cars in a Twisted Metal style of play. The weapons that each car can eventually equip include things like explosive barrels that can be tossed at your opponents, laser cannons, a sonic boom that clears the area of enemies, sticky magnet mines, and an atom blaster. Each opposing vehicle has a health-meter attached to it so that you can tell just how much damage you’ve done to it or how much damage you need to inflict. The combat element isn’t entirely realistic or deep, the semi-self-targeting ensures that you need only point the direction of your car towards and opponent and hit the trigger button to successfully lay waste to your opponents.
To further indulge the imagination of Hot Wheels fans, there is an included stunt system that allows you to easily pull off mid-air flips, and spins – think Rumble Racing. The left analog stick causes the car to rotate and the L/R1 buttons are used for corkscrew rolls. If you hit L1 or R1 while not airborne your car will instantly more a few feet to either side, which not only looks cool but also comes in handy for maneuvering around obstacles at the last moment. Stunts aren’t really necessary to complete objectives or progress in any way – in fact, they do have a tendency to slow you down a bit if they aren’t properly executed – but you are given a certain amount of points based on how tricky your stunts are, which has to count for something.
The levels you’ll drive around in are intelligently laid out and feature all sorts of pulse-pounding diversions like jump ramps, loops, quarter-pipes that give way to walls that you can drive on MIB-style, and multiple paths of progression. Scattered throughout will be various items and power-ups that you’ll want to keep an eye out for. Like time expansions, which add 10 seconds to your allotted amount of time. Weapon power-ups to give you more options when it comes time to blast a few baddies. And armor repair icons that replenish your health.
Adventure mode aside you can also expect a handful of other modes including Challenge mode which pits you in an assortment of situations not unlike that of the Adventure mode, but without the cool story. Drag Race mode is just as the name implies. Battle mode is a free-for-all demolition derby between you and enemy vehicles. There is a free-roaming Joyride mode that allows you to explore any level you’ve unlocked without the added time restraints. And there are also two multiplayer modes of play: Drag Race and Battle, both of which are identical to the aforementioned single player modes but with human opponents.
In terms of graphical amenities, there isn’t a whole lot of impressive visual niceties to make the game stand out in contrast to other PS2 titles. The car designs are totally cool, and they are rendered in sufficient detail, but the backgrounds and the surrounding objects tend to be on the bland side, due in part to their generic and drab texture quality. But the sheer scope and size of the game’s many levels do somewhat make up for the below-par texture quality, and there isn’t any draw-in issues, which is nice. The camera system isn’t the best, more often than not you are able to get a good view of the action, but when it comes time to drive through loops the camera is situated at such an angle that it is hard to see any oncoming obstacles or power-ups – not a huge deal though since loops aren’t that frequent.
While the graphics are pretty much adequate, the audio presentation is decidedly lacking. The so-called “roar” from the engines sounds about impressive as a low-powered egg-beater. And to make matters worse, the sounds are recycled for each and every car – albeit with slight pitch alterations. When you crash you get what sounds more like a bent out of shape tin-can than it does twisted metal.
But despite Velocity X’s lackluster a/v presentation the fact remains: it is fun to play. And at the end of the day that is what really matters. Perhaps my affinity for all things Hot Wheels slightly clouded my judgment on the overall score, but I am confident that anyone who enjoys a good racer along the same lines as the simple-yet-entertaining Rumble Racing will get more than a few kicks out of Hot Wheels Velocity X Maximum Justice.