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.
Powersliding is a key factor for your success in World Race.
Hot Wheels World Race plays pretty much like the most recent entries in the series. The main competitive races put you in a six-car race on a variety of courses, each filled with all sorts of twists, curves, and jumps. The accelerator and the hand brake are the controls you'll find yourself using the most, especially since the game relies heavily on powersliding. The game also employs a simple, yet cool, stunt system--when you find yourself launching off any of the various ramps, you can spin the car frontward, backward, or to either side using the left control stick or the directional pad. Well-performed stunts reward you with a boost to your Nitrox2 bar, which is essentially your speed burst bar. Once the bar is full, you can go much faster for a short period of time. This function is most useful on certain jumps--those that can get you to an otherwise inaccessible shortcut on a track.
World Race doesn't bog you down with any manner of plot or storyline beyond its initial opening cutscene, in which a mysterious man simply explains that you'll be racing on crazy tracks in another dimension, because, well, that's the point of the game. There are 35 different cars, each piloted by a different racer, who, incidentally, is a part of one of five different racing teams: the Wave Rippers, the Scorchers, the Road Beasts, the Dune Ratz, and the Street Breed. Every racer has strengths and weaknesses in categories of speed, grip, acceleration, and boost, and, for the most part, the differences are noticeable--for instance, cars with higher grip levels take turns significantly better than those with lower grip levels. There are actually only five cars available at the beginning of the game; the rest must be unlocked in the game's league mode.
League is the primary mode in World Race, and it lets you compete in three different race classes: rookie, veteran, and elite. You must beat one to get to the next, and each consists of multiple tracks that you must compete in. The mode uses a points scoring system that's based on how high you place in each race, and the racer with the most points at the end of the league is the winner. Additionally, better performance on various tracks lets you unlock racers, new tracks, and even concept artwork. The remaining single-player modes consist of a quick race, a time trial mode, and a challenge mode, which places specific goals in front of you, along with a time limit and a finish line. There is also a multiplayer mode, in which you play split-screen versions of the quick race and league modes with up to two players on the PS2 and up to four players on the GameCube. The only trouble with the roster of modes is that there isn't much here worth playing through in a single-player capacity once you're done with the league mode, which takes only a few hours to beat on all three difficulty settings (though unlocking everything will require a little more time). The multiplayer component is a definite plus. If you have friends who want to play, the game will be enjoyable for a lot longer than it would be otherwise, but if you're in a purely single-player mind-set, the game doesn't offer much once you're done with all the major goals.