After Micro Machines V4 on the PlayStation 2 in 2006, it’s been a long time coming for a return to the crazy arcade antics of the little toy car vehicles (Toybox Turbos aside), and now the frantic nature of Codemaster’s gaming Micro Machines has returned to the big screen in more ways than one with Micro Machines World Series. With Micro Machines V4 not faring well on the PlayStation 2, has this new rendition brought back the zany races and multiplayer action that we’re used to in the past?
From the off, Micro Machines World Series gives you the immediate vibe of preadolescents playing with their mini toy cars around the home in random places. The colourful art style immediately screams fun and cheerful choons lightly beat out in a rocky racing fair. The user interface is presented well, allowing you to quickly choose which option or mode you want to play, but there is something very familiar about this set-up, a little too familiar.
Before playing a game you are forced to connect online as this game is mostly online only (hence the title World Series). You’re given only four options – Special Event, Quick Play, Ranked Match, and Skirmish. At the time of this review, Special Events are not available. Quick Play encompasses three game modes: Battle, Race, and Elimination. Ranked Matched is locked off from play until the player reaches level ten but includes the same modes as Quick Play, and the Skirmish is the same as Quick Play except that it’s local against other players or the AI.
With Battles, it’s a top-down arena affair where each vehicle has their own sets of weapons and cooldowns. Each of these arenas is randomised and it can incorporate different objectives, be it Capture-the-Flag, Bomb Delivery, or a free-4-all called King of the Hill. Bomb Delivery and Capture-the-Flag is an all-out frenzy which also incorporates jumps and speed pads. In Bomb Delivery, you need to take the bomb (which spawns in the centre of the map) and take it directly to the enemy base, after a set time it explodes. Capture-the-Flag is about taking the enemy’s flag and returning it to your base to score a point, however, you can only score a point if your flag is in your base.
Race and Elimination modes are almost identical except the latter is based on last-man-standing on the track. These incorporate Hasbro’s viral marketing with Nerf used for all of the weapons. Picked up a gun? That’s a Nerf Gun. How about a mine? That’s a Nerf Mine. Maybe a water bomb? That’s right you guessed it, a Nerf Water Bomb. The weapons are balanced rather nicely, especially the fan favourite hammer… sorry, Nerf Hammer, that instantly destroys the player in front of you with a quick bash.
But the advertisements do not stop there. After re-acquiring the licence from Hasbro, Codemasters have taken Toybox Turbos, ripped out half of the tracks, replaced some of the track objects with slightly different Hasbro scenery, then incorporate it back into Micro Machines World Series. This means that some tracks are exactly the same as from Toybox Turbos but aesthetically advertised with Hasbro products instead.
What is sad is that there are more arenas than there are race tracks owing to Codemasters focusing on a 6v6 multiplayer session rather than the standardised racing that we’re familiar with. This, in time, will hurt the game in the long run, especially as local multiplayer is highly nerfed and limited to four players only (including AI). It is nice that the AI (which can be quite brutal at times) use the throwback era of avatars from the 16-bit era of Micro Machines with Spyder, Dwayne, Sherry, and others making an appearance, but that’s about as far as nostalgia goes.
Tracks aren’t the only areas where Micro Machines World Series has been slashed in half,as the vehicles available are very limited compared to the past. There are a total of twelve vehicles each with their own skins, taunts, gloats, and death stamps (similar to sprays). I’m sure I’ve seen this set of unlocks around before but I’ll just best make sure.
Twelve vehicles isn’t much, considering that Toybox Turbos had thirty-five and the previous Micro Machines games had over a hundred! But to attempt to add to the longevity, these unlocks are acquired through loot boxes. If you own an unlock already then you acquire coins instead which you can then use to purchase an unlock. Ah yes, that’s right, this system is from Overwatch, but what’s it doing in a Micro Machines game?
What is abundantly clear is that Blizzard’s Overwatch has had an overbearing influence on this game, so much so that it feels like an almost carbon copy of the game, except you’re racing with Micro Machines instead of shooting people. Every option, statistic, looting system, and many other things throw you an immediate Groundhog Day effect. You’ve seen it before and now you’re being injected with another dose.
The lack of originality for the entire menu and statistics system (borrowing heavily from Overwatch) could mean only one thing, this game has been built for one purpose – eSports. With the forced online login at the start, the ranked matches, the special events, and the tiered reward system in online ranking, it has to be purely for competition purposes; and Micro Machines is not the game to do that.
What Micro Machines is well known for is the single player championships and the ludicrous eight-player local multiplayer across four pads. The hours played in local multiplayer across several dozens of tracks made the games a blessing to play and great fun. Unfortunately, you get none of this here, not even a championship mode. Instead everything local is tacked on for “good” measure and little thought and effort has been put into it.
If online multiplayer is what was being focused on primarily then there was another glaring issue. More than two-thirds of the races or battles online resulted in myself being the only vehicle moving. You can tell that when other players fell off the track their vehicle would spawn in the relevant place, but it again would not move, yet you can see and hear the weapons being used. This even happened when there was only AI. It’s so glaring that playing online feels like a random roulette game where the outcome is totally unpredictable.
What is clear is that Codemasters are pushing their venerable Micro Machines series to the online multiplayer scene. It is set up in such a way that it has become a detriment to the single player and local multiplayer, which has little content. What hampers the game, even more, is the broken online play where, at the time of writing, playing online frequently and seeing only myself move. I highly recommend waiting to purchase the game until the online servers are sorted out and when there’s more content – or simply purchase Toybox Turbos.