reviews\ Dec 16, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Hot Wheels Velocity X - PS2 - Review

Hot Wheels.  Kids know them as their favorite toy.  Adults know them as their favorite collector's item.  With intricate designs and realistic models, Hot Wheels are the premier toy car models.

With a huge fan base and a growing number of children buying more cars every year, it's no surprise that Hot Wheels has made its way into the video game industry.  Its first foray met with success, encouraging game publishers to continue licensing this popular franchise.  The latest game in the "series" is Hot Wheels Velocity X: Maximum Justice.

The name comes from the game's story, which revolves around illegal racing gangs.  This isn't another The Fast and the Furious wanna-be though.  Maximum Justice has many things not featured in that movie, such as weapons, which result in a little vehicular car combat.  No Hot Wheels game would be complete without loops to fly up and spin around in, so the developers made sure that they included plenty of those as well.

Several cool Hot Wheels vehicles are available at the start of the game, with many more to be unlocked.  Everything from spruced-up racing trucks to classic speedsters are there and ready to be raced, looking very close to their real-life Hot Wheels counterpart.

With so much to offer, Hot Wheels Velocity X: Maximum Justice seems like it's going to be a really great game...until the first race begins.  Not 30 seconds into the race you'll be scratching your head, wondering what went wrong.  Then it becomes pretty obvious: the controls are a mess.  For starters, the turning radius is way too low.  It's not possible to make a sharp turn -- even in sheer luck -- without slowing down ahead of time!  Changing lanes is a chore in itself.  It feels like all hope is lost when fighting an opponent in the game's battle mode, since you can't turn around nearly fast enough to attack.  The vehicles are so sticky that you'd think their tires were made of cinnamon buns.  Saying that the controls are sluggish would not be enough to describe the torture that they will put you through.

If you can get past the controls, what's inside is a fairly decent (albeit extremely hard to enjoy) game.  As I mentioned before, there are a lot of loops to spin around in, as well as several ramps to launch off of, which enable you to perform a number of stunts.  Stunts are executed by pressing the left analog stick in any direction while flying through the air.  The type of stunt performed depends on the direction that the analog stick is pressed -- Left makes the car spin left, Up makes it spin forward, etc.  This has been done before in racing games, but it's still fun.

The weapons are cool, too, though not overly original.  The Atom Blaster allows you to fire a powerful stream of blasting atoms; Magnet Mines stick to your enemies and then blow up, halting their progress; Jet Boosters give you a temporary increase in speed, etc.

For a game with as few polygons as Hot Wheels, you'd think that it would move at a really smooth pace.  Unfortunately that isn't the case.  The framerate is jerky at best, literally stuttering at times.  Racing games are only as exciting as the feeling of speed they create, and any amount of excitement in Velocity X is lost when the game slows down to load.

As most games do, Hot Wheels Velocity X: Maximum Justice has its ups and downs.  What really brings this game down though is the controls.  They take way too long to get used to, and even after you've succeeded in mastering the ridiculous controls, the game never really feels like a racing game should.  There's some fun to be had with this game, but the excitement is very limited.  I know that Maximum Justice is geared towards a younger audience, but younger gamers tend to be the most impatient and may not want to stick it out until it becomes "fun."

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 4.5
For all the cool things this game has to offer, the gameplay doesn't deliver a very fulfilling racing experience.  The uncontrollable vehicles are the culprit -- how can you have any fun when you can't even make a turn without bumping into something?

Graphics: 5.9 
The graphics are not exactly praiseworthy; however, the car models, although lacking in polygon goodness, are pretty cool looking.

Sound: 5
Generic racing game music (techno) and typical sound effects is all you'll hear from Maximum Justice.

Difficulty: Medium
If the difficulty was based on the control scheme, this game would get an extra, extra hard rating.  Controls aside, Maximum Justice isn't the most challenging games.  Kids who have no trouble with the controls will have no trouble finishing the game in a few sittings.

Concept: 6 
Maximum Justice's concept is true to the Hot Wheels name, but the end result isn't as entertaining as the product it’s based on.

Multiplayer: 4
The battle mode would have been so good if the controls were more controllable.  Twisted Metal: Black, this is not.

Overall: 4.5
Diehard Hot Wheels fans will no doubt be disappointed by this game.  It could have been really good, but the controls (and the framerate) are not even on part with the average PlayStation 2 racing game.  Save your $40 for something else.

Below Average

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