As a video video games developer, Milestone is understood for its motorsports simulations. Demanding motorsports sims, just like the MotoGP and Ride sequence for racing bikes, and the WRC license again within the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 days.

That doesn’t imply making an arcade racer like Hot Wheels Unleashed was a trip, or a lighthearted team-building train. Michele Caletti, the studio’s government producer, noticed the game as a significant alternative to develop the 27-year-old studio’s enterprise, in ways in which sticking to the ultra-sim motorsports format merely couldn’t fulfill.

“We know that racing games are a niche, and simulation games are a niche of the niche,” Caletti instructed Polygon in an interview main as much as Hot Wheels Unleashed’s launch on the finish of September. “The car racing game market is quite crowded; could me make a game to the level of, I don’t know, Gran Turismo? Technically speaking, yes. Should we go head to head with Gran Turismo? That does not sound like a great idea.”

At first it was a shock to listen to that Milestone had pitched Mattel on the concept of a Hot Wheels racing game, as an alternative of Mattel coming to the studio or dad or mum firm Koch Media, which purchased Milestone in 2019. Mattel’s collectible automobiles have a protracted video game historical past, however had been final featured in their very own console video game (versus an enlargement for an additional) in 2013.

But simply because the chassis are die-cast metallic and the automobiles are largely powered by gravity doesn’t imply Hot Wheels aren’t a pure match for Milestone. Once Mattel green-lit Caletti’s pitch, Milestone introduced its motorsports values to their toy line, the identical approach the studio would for the Monster Energy Supercross sequence, Caletti stated.

“We understood that the license was never really treated with triple-A quality,” he supplied, “so it was a matter of connecting the dots. We love simulations, but that doesn’t mean we don’t like arcade [racing].”

The 1985 Audi Sport Quattro prepares to land a jump on a red plastic track

The Audi Sport Quattro is a Legendary-class experience in Hot Wheels Unleashed, for good cause. The toy is one in every of government producer Michele Caletti’s favorites.
Image: Milestone/Koch Media

Some arcade racers, Caletti felt, can break right down to a “scripted” expertise — that their racing action is little greater than a third-person digital camera winding by the monitor, virtually on rails, with traction, course floor, and braking both irrelevant or closely lowered as gameplay influences. Kart racers particularly don’t actually incorporate physics, which result in a really homogenized expertise, and doubtless a cause why no Hot Wheels game in current reminiscence has stood out like Unleashed.

“We developed the handling system based on actual physics,” Caletti stated, though in completed type, it’s nowhere close to as strict because the physics and dealing with in Ride 4, in fact. “So, [we were] bending the physics to be able to do some kinds of drifts, loops, jumps, landings, without bouncing your way crazily, or not being able to complete the loop.”

In my time with Hot Wheels Unleashed, I’ve discovered it’s a must to actually, intentionally attempt to cease in the course of a loop-de-loop to fall out of it. But the truth that you may, and that you could crash out of the monitor fully and spend the remainder of the occasion simply exploring the encompassing setting, speaks to Milestone’s objective of constructing this a official racer, one which isn’t locked to a monitor or a couple of lanes inside it.

This type of quasi-realism additionally explains why Hot Wheels Unleashed doesn’t have a kart racer’s conventional weapons to sabotage different opponents or give your personal experience tremendous powers. It does use a lift (and at increased difficulties, you’ll be utilizing it virtually consistently), however that’s primarily as a result of its utility — excessive velocity solely — might be simply expressed in an setting the place physics have the ultimate phrase. Additionally, gamers recharge their boosts by drifting, which is one other physics-based act Milestone managed to tie to a standard arcade racer software.

“The boost goes much beyond what is going faster,” Caletti stated. “It can save your race. You drift, you put the car sideways, and you engage the booster, it compensates for the way the car tries to go [wide] of the [corner exit].”

A 1970s-style Hot Wheels racer with golden flake painting takes a long jump

A flaked inexperienced paint-job completely fits the Seventies-fabulous Twin Mill.
Image: Milestone/Koch Media

None of that is to recommend that Caletti and his colleagues introduced a wonkish, gear-head standpoint to a game about toys. Caletti stated most of the designers have Hot Wheels collections of their very own, and he has about 100 for himself. His 11-year-old daughter has an equal quantity.

That helped when it got here time to signify all the totally different supplies and surfaces that make up a Hot Wheels automobile, or monitor, with virtuoso authenticity. “We were asking, should we make these cars in a way that they look like full-size cars, or toy cars, or video game, cartoonish cars?” Caletti recalled. “And the point was that nobody was making them in the most obvious way — that is, like the ones you can buy in toy shops, right?”

Hot Wheels Unleashed launched with a fleet of about 60 automobiles, all primarily based on actual Hot Wheels toys and listed by their sequence and yr of launch. Caletti’s personal 1985 Audi Sport Quattro (a die-cast toy, not the precise rally racing legend) was a part of the primary batch of automobiles Milestone put collectively to pitch Mattel, and it’s within the completed game — with a Legendary ranking and attributes to match. If the automobile rolls over, you may see its matte grey undercarriage, with the define of the Mattel trademark and different writings; once more, it’s precisely just like the toy in actual life.

And maybe that little detailing explains why Milestone’s dedication to realism and authenticity, even for a sequence of toy racers, made the studio the one one that would ship one thing like Unleashed. The sim-style physics and arcade-like automobiles and tracks give followers a racing expertise they’d actually solely imagined — really being on the wheel of their Rodger Dodger, Rip Rod, or Motosaurus, and taking that loop-de-loop with the throttle extensive open.