The Hot Wheels brand has been around for over 40 years now, and feels as synonymous with American culture as hot dogs, apple pie, and baseball. In fact, we’d be surprised to learn of any boy that didn’t have at least one of these classic die-cast cars in their toy-box at some point in their young life. To this day we harbor memories of running Hot Wheels along the walls of the house (which led to scolding, of course) and propelling them off ramps into shoe boxes, skee-ball style. It’s a simple, timeless, universal form of fun. Unfortunately, not an ounce of that magic is captured in Hot Wheels: World’s Best Driver.
This isn’t a racing game as much as it’s a collection of vehicular challenges. Sure there are races strewn about, but they’re just a small part of the overall activities. With the option to choose between four different teams of vehicles, the type of challenges - based on speed, stunts, jumps, and precision - vary considerably. From taking a motorbike through a gauntlet of obstacles on a narrow track high above the ground, to crushing as many cars as possible in a towering monster truck, we guess you could say one thing World's Best Driver has going for it is variety. There’s no forced plot, you just play through event after event, earning medals and setting high scores…..that is, if you can keep your ride on the road.
"There’s no forced plot, you just play through event after event, earning medals and setting high scores…..that is, if you can keep your ride on the road."
It probably goes without saying that the most important thing to get right in a driving game is the handling. If you can’t keep your vehicle on the track, or move with any sense of precision, then you’re essentially offering a broken game. This is what derails Hot Wheels: World’s Best Driver before ever really getting started. The vehicles handle so poorly that it’s hard to get through the first few events without taking the frustrations out on your controller. Turning feels laggy; like the vehicle is always trying to catch up to your inputs. Once you’ve turned too far in one direction, and tried to straighten back out, it’s pretty much guaranteed you’re going to crash or careen off the road. If the analog stick isn't finessed in an obsessive manner, you’ll be banking off of each wall like a puck on an air hockey table.
Physics don’t help matters any, with instances of unexplainable crashes and losses of traction, sometimes making it feel like the weight of your vehicle is changing minute-to-minute. When performing stunts, the analog stick will need to be manipulated in all directions to enact flips and spins. When you ease off, the vehicle is supposed to right itself out for landing - given you've left enough time before impact - but this almost never worked properly. Add a stubborn camera - that, when airborne, shifts to an absurd view making it nearly impossible to anticipate your landing - and it feels like there's always something working against even the most menial goals.
"We’ve seen racers on the N64 with more character and pizzazz than this."
The events take place at remote test facilities around the world, which means lifeless, barren looking areas devoid of civilization. Environments lack detail, and course design is primitive and uninteresting. We’ve seen racers on the N64 with more character and pizzazz than this; like Hot Wheels: Turbo Racing, which is an infinitely better game. Even the brand association is minimalistic, and the vehicles represent the extreme models that have been seen in recent years, with a serious lack of classics. Everything does have a smooth, arcade-like veneer, and we could get past the lack of detail (to an extent) if there was fine-tuned arcade gameplay to make up for the impotent visuals, but alas, poor controls equate to useless game.
This one's in serious need of a tuneup, and for the steep asking price of $39.99 - which is supposedly a bargain - you're likely to regret your purchase within minutes of participating in your first event. If a family-friendly racer is something you're after, why not check out Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed or the XBLA boat racer, Hydro Thunder Hurricane? If exhilaration is your thing, games like Pure, Nail'd, and Burnout would be sound alternatives. But if you're simply a Hot Wheels fan, we reckon you'd likely be best off investing the money you would've spent on World's Best Driver in the collectable toys, instead. All of these options should be much, much cheaper and will produce a much happier consumer.
World's Best Driver is, ironically, one of the Year's Worst Games. There are an ample amount of activities/events present, which keeps the variety high, but unfortunately any potential fun is decimated by uber-poor controls. It's underdeveloped, untuned, and purely unpleasant. Considering there is no shortage of quality racing titles available for the Xbox 360, we highly, highly recommend that you divert your attention elsewhere (see the paragraph above for recommendations) to avoid getting caught in this wreckage.