Micro Machines is back!
That is the exact phrase I used at the start of my preview piece back in January when Codemasters confirmed that Micro Machines was indeed returning. The usual drip-feed of information then followed from the developers: screenshots, trailers and something no game would be complete without – a delay to its intended release date. The dust has settled now though, and the game is finally here.
The Micro Machines series is a top-down arcade style racer that, back in the day, was praised for its local multiplayer and track design. Countless hours have been lost with players driving round on top of pool tables, dodging pieces of toast on the breakfast counter and skidding around ponds and puddles in the garden. You see, Micro Machines is based on the hugely popular collectible miniature car toys owned by Hasbro and the design of the tracks fit the whole miniature aesthetic perfectly, allowing players to drive round the tracks they wanted to drive round as a child, but without the parents taking all the fun away because you’re using baked beans as obstacles.
Micro Machines World Series handles very much like the older games, encouraging you to take corners at full speed and spin the back end out. There is a brake button but if you’re using it, you are playing the game wrong.
This is good news for the veterans then. Even better news is that the classic mode of trying to drive far enough ahead that your opponent disappears off the screen is back, just with a catchier title – Elimination. The bad news is this has been forced to the back of the pack, along with the standard racing, in favour of the new Battle mode.
Battle mode forces two teams of six to take part in objective-based gameplay; all the usual suspects are there from King of The Hill to Assault, with very little variation. This is where your choice of character becomes more important as each have their own unique loadout with distinctive abilities and an Ultimate attack that all fit in with their personalities. Exactly like Overwatch, shamefully so. It’s a cool idea, but I feel it doesn’t work as well as the standard racing that Micro Machines was created on.
The maps on offer follow the same appearance themes as the race tracks, but there aren’t that many of them. This issue however, isn’t just limited to Battle mode. For example, Race and Elimination share the same tracks, of which there are only ten at launch.
The design of the tracks is also a cause for concern. There are obstacles in keeping with the themes and that’s fine, but most tracks simply have a square-based shape with either a hairpin turn, a split path, or a simple chicane added in. There is very little variation in track length or shape and once you take away the level themes, these tracks quickly become very bland.
The bland design even extends to the pickups available during Races and Elimination events. To keep it more fair, character abilities are prohibited in these events, but pickups from previous games are back. There are only three of them though: a bomb to hit opponents behind, a pistol to slow opponents in front and the classic hammer to obliterate anyone directly in your path.
Winning any of these events earns experience points which in turn allows the player to level up. Each level the player increases earns them a loot box. Again, shamefully like Overwatch, but I’m a sucker for any sort of loot crate or robust unlockable system. These loot boxes have a whole host of unlockable items for the characters including dialogue lines and car skins. Loot boxes are also accrued at the end of online seasons depending on performance. Luckily though, it isn’t too hard to level up and you will have a steady stream of loot boxes coming your way.
One thing World Series nails down is once again the local multiplayer aspect. When it was first announced that the series was coming back everyone was hoping for local capabilities and thankfully they have been included. Players can group up to play against others online if there isn’t enough of you for a local match but fear not, all gameplay modes are available for local play.
This is still a Micro Machines game that’s been brought kicking and screaming into the age of online multiplayer and allows online opponents to seamlessly be involved in almost all races you partake in yourself. Any open spaces left after finding opponents are filled with AI bots, which is crucial when choosing the Race and Battle options as the lobbies are never full.
Thankfully though, the devs are trying to help this empty lobbies issue, which they feel was partly due to the confusing submenu names, and have recently released patch v1.05. Before the patch, the titles were Quick Play, Ranked Play and Skirmish which didn’t really mean much, but these have been updated now to AI Match, Public Match and Local Play. It doesn’t sound like much, but my friends and I have been regularly caught out looking for the right game mode and these new names are far easier to make sense of.
The achievements are more tailored again to the Battle mode, with each character’s specific abilities having achievements related to them. There are also achievements for getting to level 50, winning races flawlessly and destroying opponents in different ways using the level obstacles. All in all, this list should keep you busy for a while if the repetition doesn’t get to you first.
Overall, many veteran players of this series will feel let down by this latest instalment, and this is all down to the bare bones approach that the developers have taken by releasing this game with only 12 cars and 10 race tracks. Previous games have had a choice of over 700 cars and while this decision to only include 12 was made to give the cars more personality, it comes at a cost to almost every other aspect. Local multiplayer is a saving grace for the game, but when a game comes out and the general community immediately asks for DLC, it looks like it will not be on people’s hard drives long term.