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ups: Cars look cool and there are lots of them to unlock.
downs: Bad controls; dated graphics; lame story mode

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Hot Wheels Velocity X
game: Hot Wheels Velocity X
two star
posted by: Eric Qualls
publisher: THQ
date posted: 09:10 AM Sun Dec 22nd, 2002

All you young whipper snappers out there take a seat and I'll tell you a tale. Back in the days before every home in America had at least one videogame console, we had to find other ways to entertain ourselves. Hot Wheels, and pretty much any other type of toy cars, were the toys of choice for little boys and we would spend entire afternoons playing in imaginary cities. Hot Wheels are still sold today, and from what I've seen there are just as many adults snapping up limited edition Hot Wheels to add to their collections as there are little kids who play with them at playgrounds all around the country. Hot Wheels Velocity X is the latest game to combine these toys with videogames. Sadly, not only does it fail to bring back fond memories of my youth, but Velocity X fails to offer good enough gameplay to keep the youngsters in the 128-bit generation interested for very long.

Velocity X seems like it is having an identity crisis from the very start. The Hot Wheels cars, cartoonish looking characters, and simple story are all things that scream, \"I'm a kid's game!\" On the other hand, the controls are flat-out horrible and the cars handle like bricks sliding across sandpaper. Also, the game is surprisingly difficult due in no small part to the crappy controls. I got fed up with the controls and repetitive gameplay rather quickly, so I can't imagine how today's impatient youth are going to enjoy it at all.

The story in Velocity X is pretty goofy and the characters would definitely fit right into a Saturday morning cartoon. You are Max Justice, a hotshot drag racer and an expert private investigator, apparently. As Max, you have to track down the fiends who stole the top secret Velocity X formula. Yawn.

In the story mode, there are many different objectives you'll have to complete in each of the different environments. Most of the objectives are simply getting from point A to point B, but there are battles with other cars, item collection, and protecting other cars. There are a few races thrown in for good measure too. These same objectives keep repeating over and over again as you make your way through the story mode. The levels are littered with ramps and loops and even half pipes, but you'll see everything the stunt system has to offer after just a few minutes. After a while, it starts to feel incredibly repetitive. The fact that there are only five levels to explore doesn't help much either. Some of the objectives are quite difficult to complete, but the reason for the difficulty isn't cunning AI but rather poor controls and a seemingly retarded navigation system.

First off, the navigation system. Like most games that have you freely exploring an environment, the way you find out where you need to go is by following an arrow that appears onscreen. In Velocity X, the arrow offers its best guess rather than a definite direction for you to travel. Within a span of ten seconds, the arrow will point in five different directions and when you actually start driving in the direction it finally settled on, chances are it will start moving around wildly again. When the arrow seems to be working right, it is far too slow to help you make the correct turns.

The controls are another factor that makes Velocity X much more difficult than it has any right to be. The cars simply do not turn sharp enough if you are going any faster than about 10 M.P.H. There is a handbrake available, like almost all racing games, but using it doesn't make you power slide at all. The only way to make it around corners is to either slow down to a crawl before you reach the turn or just plow through and smack into the walls. Battling other cars is made extremely difficult because almost all of the weapons fire straight ahead of your car and it is very difficult to actually line another car up so you can make a shot. The stiff controls ruin what would otherwise be a fun game.

There are 33 cars in Velocity X that are all copies of real life Hot Wheels cars. It is kind of cool when you can race with the same cars that you have actually owned. The cars all look pretty decent and it is a real thrill to unlock a new car that you actually recognize.

Velocity X is pretty bland looking and often gives you feelings of deja vu as you explore one similar looking level after another. The cars are detailed enough that you can tell what real life cars they are modeled after, but some more detailed textures would have made them look much better. The cars feature real time damage and crumple up nicely when they have taken too much abuse. Special effects for weapons look decent, but aside from some impressive explosions aren't anything to write home about. Overall, the game simply looks old. The graphics are adequate, and that's it.

The sound in Velocity X us unspectacular at best. All of the cars share the same exact engine noise and it seems downright odd to me that a decked-out hot rod can sound exactly like a pickup truck or even a school bus. The music is forgettable enough that even as I write this I can't really remember if there was any music in the game at all. The sound effects for weapons and crashes should sound familiar to anyone that has played a sub-par racing game in the last ten years. The sound is uniformly lackluster and works with the plain-jane graphics to create a game environment that can only be described as average.

Overall, Hot Wheels Velocity X features average graphics and sounds but is dragged down because of its extremely poor controls and repetitive gameplay. There are several games that do car combat, racing, and exploration a whole lot better than Velocity X so I would encourage you to check those out instead of wasting your time with this one. If your curiosity overwhelms you, you can do worse than waste away an evening with Velocity X, but with so many great games out right now why would you want to? Rent it first if you absolutely must play it or wait for it to appear in the bargain bin in a couple of months.

Eric Qualls (12/22/2002)