by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Riding in Style
I may have never spent time with real-world Micro Machines when I was a kid, but I did spend more hours that I can count in my basement making the most outlandish Hot Wheels tracks I could throw together with my boxes and toys. As it’s been doing for quite some time now, the Micro Machines video game franchise is continuing to scratch that home-brewed nostalgic itch with it’s latest game, Micro Machines World Series. Given the relatively timeless and straightforward concept of a top-down racers I thought new what to expect when I first booted up the game, but I was strangely surprised when what I got was Overwatch with cars.
Of course the stars in a game like this are the vehicles, and it’s here that the game shines and most wears its Overwatch influence on its sleeve. I know that you’re probably thinking I’m stretching things here- after all, class-based combat games are nothing new- but the similarities are far too uncanny to be anything short of completely intentional. Though the roster comes in at a modestly sized 12, each vehicle is unique, with a satisfying number of cosmetic customization options (which are even split into blue, purple, and yellow levels of rarity!). The available rides, which include a satisfyingly varied sample of choices ranging from spy cars, to hovercraft, to tanks and more, each fit into an unofficial category of support, attack, or tank. This class is dictated by each vehicle’s three special combat abilities that let it unleash all sorts of crazy stuff. Add in voice lines, sprays, and taunts, you might forget you’re working on a snow traversal vehicle and not Blizzard’s favorite arctic scientist Mei.
Once you’re done paging through the admittedly cool car customization options (most all of which are locked behind loot boxes earned from leveling up), you’ll find a small handful of options to get your race on. What will disappoint some is that World Series has chosen to focus entirely on multiplayer, save for a quick match that’ll let you jump in for a single race against AI and local opponents. This is a bit frustrating for a few reasons. First, while this game comes in at a somewhat discount price, it’s expensive enough that I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect some sort of campaign or circuit mode. There’s a screen that tracks some of your achievements and stats, but that’s about all you’re going to get for continuity or progress. Second, and more importantly, the online community is already dead. In my time playing the game, I came across a grand total of two human beings. Statistics show that the average number of players playing the game is about 38, which is incredibly low for a game that’s just recently released. Considering the fact that those 38 players are split between arcade mode, quick play race, quick play battle, quick play elimination, and ranked versions of all of the aforementioned, and it’s easy to see why finding people to play can be a largely fruitless endeavor.
Regardless of your ability to find human opponents to play them with, the two main game types, race and battle, end up being a pretty mixed bag. One thing both deserve credit for are nicely detailed, creative track design. Each are a nostalgic hodgepodge of everyday objects ranging from pool tables to Hungry Hungry Hippos, and feel about as close to something a kid would throw together as you can get without completely losing functionality. In race, the aforementioned abilities are turned off for the cars, which makes sense. Instead, Mario Kart-esque pickup boxes litter the map, letting you use one of three simple Nerf themed weapons. Race mode does feature pretty heavy and obvious rubber banding, but in such an arcade game I actually thought it worked out. What doesn’t work out as well is how loose the controls are. Have you ever played Halo? Do you remember the fishtailing-swerviness of driving a Warthog around? That’s what the cars feel like here (each of the 12 have the same speed and handling). It may work on wide-open alien vistas, but it doesn’t work as well on some of the edgeless narrow track sections you’ll find here. It’s not that I need it to run like a Forza game, but World Series would have been a better experience with driving tightened up a bit.
The fast pace and lose driving which are more of a minor annoyance in race mode become much more counterproductive in battles. Battle, which pits two teams of 6 racers against each other in objective based open-map mayhem, is actually pretty cool on paper. The cars abilities, in theory, beg for players to at least consider group tactics and team composition, but the game doesn’t play in a way that lets players act on that. Things are too wild and loose to do much targeting of specific cars, place turrets or walls in terribly intentional places, or work map control. To be fair, part of this is might be due to the fact that I was stuck playing the AI every time I did battle, but I’ve got to take the game as it is.
I respect that Micro Machines World Series is an ambitious game that attempt some legitimately cool ideas, some of which bring it pretty close to being a really cool game. I do believe that there was a legitimately high amount of thought that went into this game, and it’s a shame that most all of these good ideas are ultimately fruitless due to the nature of the game itself, buckling under its own design. Perhaps if there was a more lively online community it’d be worth finding a group of friends to develop some tactics and strategy with, but as it stands this is a title that’s going to be disappointing for most.
Each vehicle is unique and enjoyable to use, cool tracks
No circuit or career mode, virtually dead online community, loose driving controls act against the seemingly tactical vibe of battle mode