Hot Wheels is finally here, the first expansion to the absolutely awesome Forza Horizon 5.
This is a game that has taken up more of my gaming life than I would have believed possible, spending hours on end tearing around the countryside, winning all of the races (but not The Eliminator) to partaking in the Festival Playlist Weekly Challenges that pop up every week.
Now though the time has come to expand the available tracks and cars on offer with the launch of the Hot Wheels Expansion. Set (apparently) over 50 miles above the rest of Mexico, the promise is for the fastest, most spectacular expansion to Forza Horizon since the last one. Let’s strap on our racing bootees and find out what’s going on.
The story is my usual port of call this early in a review, and while there is a kind of narrative kicking around it is pretty slight. Basically, it appears that Hot Wheels has come to Mexico, built a swooping track in the sky out of the iconic blue and orange track, created full size versions of some of the most classic vehicles from their stable, and then turned us loose in what can only be described as a wonderland.
It’s the scale of the Hot Wheels expansion which is the first thing to hit you, with an impressive verticality to be seen, and a truly breathtaking turn of speed as you belt around the tracks. There is a bit of a story with Hailie talking us through the history of the Hot Wheels franchise, and awarding us various cars for completing the chapters, but mostly it’s about going fast. Still, it’ll certainly educate you a little.
Presentation wise and Hot Wheels is almost as good as the base game. I say almost as although there is a much improved sense of speed and spectacle, there are a couple of issues that pop up.
There’s no doubt that the look of the area is very stylish indeed, with swooping tracks and distinct biomes to be seen. In an interesting move, the track that the routes are built from come in different styles, ranging from rumble track which does what it says on the tin and causes non-off road vehicles to bounce around violently, right up to magnetic tack, which sticks the car to the surface for some truly outrageous manoeuvres, such as corkscrews and loop the loops. This isn’t even counting the parts with water running down it, the flume track, or the ice track that causes every slight steering adjustment to turn into a truly ridiculous slide. All in all, the presentation of how the Hot Wheels brand is delivered, how the tracks swoop and fly, and in terms of the new cars that have been added – and the way that they look – is all delivered in a top notch fashion as usual.
There is a wide variety of new cars to get to grips with too, both from the Hot Wheels brand and real world vehicles. The usual suspects from the Hot Wheels collection, like the Boneshaker and Twin Mill are still present and correct, but there are some remixes in there too, like the Baja Boneshaker, an off road version of the classic. It also includes some truly wild and wacky looking vehicles, such as the almost aeroplane looking 2JetZ and the plain weird Deora 2.
Real world cars are represented by some top notch machinery too, such as the all new Hennessey Venom F5, which is a hoot and a half to drive. I would advise a quick Google for this car to see it in real life, as it certainly doesn’t hang about; perfect for this expansion really. There are other real world cars to find as well, but I’ll leave it up to you to find those.
The actual racing events and PR stunts that you can take part in are also straight out of the Forza Horizon 5 playbook – albeit with a cool twist. As an example, the sprint, point to point races these days are the same as you may be used to, but when the Hot Wheels content gets included, they go absolutely crazy. It is very easy to become disorientated with the speed and the way the track swoops around, so much so that this expansion has actually a roll indicator in the centre of the screen; it ties in a new way of earning skill score to it too. You see, the longer you spend with your wheels not parallel to the ground (and in Hot Wheels that is about, ooh, 95% of the time) you earn skill score called G-Forza, and the indicator will help you to see which way is up.
So what else is new with the Hot Wheels expansion? Well, this time around you have to earn the right to race in the higher speed classes, sort of like you would need to do with the licence tests in Gran Turismo. As we begin, we are allowed to use only B Class vehicles, and there are various tasks that are set, both minor and major. Completing these tasks, by winning races on a set difficulty, or three starring PR stunts, unlocks medals, and when we have enough medals, we can take on the qualifier for the next stage in the chain, up to A Class, then S1 and so on. I for one have really enjoyed this newfound sense of structure, and have found working towards these qualifiers to be very satisfying indeed.
As an extra incentive, once you reach Elite level (which equates to being able to use S2 vehicles) there are extra weekly challenges unlocked as well, and so the spur is there to keep working towards a goal. Working isn’t really the word though, as these new activities are just as much fun as previously, and new accolades and the rewards they bring ensure you have a real sense of progression.
Now, before I get carried away, I have to report that there are a couple of niggles with the Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels expansion. First off and should you play in front bumper view, it makes it very hard to see where you are going in some of the more extreme tracks. When going into a loop, for instance, the view will literally show about five foot in front of the camera, making it hard to avoid other cars and so on. I daresay if you play in chase cam, it would be better, but I can’t drive in that view, so I’m left rubbing my lucky rabbit’s foot to hope there are no sudden turns or inconvenient cars.
There are also some glitches that happen when fast travelling, particularly to a part of the track that is elevated. The car kind of bounces, like the vertical hold has gone, as it tries to find the level of the track. Not a gamebreaker, but unsightly when it happens.
The last is the worst, however, as it always happens when you seem to be doing warp factor 9 on a racetrack. Sometimes – but not at all times – it’s like your car has hit the edge of a piece of track, even though there is nothing visible; it will bring the car either to a screeching halt, or cause you to wildly somersault through the skies. Either way, in the closing stages of a closely fought race, it’s pretty disastrous.
In conclusion, apart from little issues that you can learn to drive around, Hot Wheels is a worthy addition to the greatness that is Forza Horizon 5. Unlike the base game it isn’t perfect, but it is fun and the need to earn the right to drive the fastest of cars is most certainly a wicked test.
Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels is available from the Xbox Store