Racing games have such a broad spectrum, from tight simulations through to comical cart racers, and Codemasters has been making games scattered across that spectrum for longer than I’ve been alive. Bringing back the Micro Machines licence from a developer with such racing chops should have been an easy win, but unfortunately the game stalls more often than it takes off.
Kicking into the game, you are greeted with a quick tutorial that gives you some time to figure out the controls, and how weapons work. This is crucial as the controls are tough to grasp, with vehicle's turning very sharply. Any experience with good racing games can make this phase challenging. Adjusting to the controls is possible, but expect to fly off the track many times during this period.
The tracks themselves are the stars in Micro Machines: World Series, with beautiful and interesting designs. As one would expect they are embedded in real world environments; on a table or a work bench, as you avoid real world obstacles like a moving band saw. Many other toy car games have come out with this style of track, but none compare to those created for the Micro Machines games.
Gameplay modes are spread across three categories, Race, Elimination, and Battle. Races are exactly as they sound. Elimination has the camera slowly panning to the front of the race; the moment a car falls off the track, or out of the screen’s view, it’s destroyed. These races are short, but they work well as a mini tournament – how long you last determines your place on the scoreboard.
Then there is Battle mode, which comes in one of three types. Deathmatch, payload, and territory control – all your generic modes seen in multiplayer games these days. For the most part they are fun, albeit with very chaotic and overpowered weapons, meaning the games rarely flow well.
The biggest plus is the local co-op, which is something I will always praise, even if I don’t use it very often. It’s fun to play with others on the same screen, and even overcoming the annoying controls can lead to some shared laughs. Unfortunately, the game is built around online multiplayer, and that’s where it starts to fumble.
My first ranked game was a prime example. It gave a 105 second queue time. At around 200 seconds it finally put me into a game with one other player, and ten bots. This seemed weird enough on its own, but then when the race started, I was the only one driving. After two laps it become a horror game, warping opponents to random locations on each lap. In the final stretches it decided to flip my first-place position to different numbers, and finally ending in 12th place.
The example above sums up a significant portion of my time playing online. Waiting for up to five minutes wasn’t uncommon – despite a two to three-minute estimate – and regularly being matched up with bots. The decision makes sense, but the wait is frustrating, especially because if you choose to play offline against bots you can’t unlock loot boxes. If I sound cynical it’s because it blows my mind that at any given time there aren’t 12 people looking to play, or there are and the online is broken. There’s no easy way to tell.
Speaking of, the game also struggles to convey information. Ranked matches – which are arbitrarily unlocked until you grind out level 5 – are supposedly based around a season. Above this menu item there should be a timer to advise how far into a season you are, and when the levels will be reset – but there isn’t.
For the most part Micro Machines: World Series is very close to being a great game; all it requires is a proper single player championship mode. Unfortunately, the broken online ruins much of the experience. Anyone looking for local co-op action should pick the game up if it’s on sale, but if you’re playing on your own, it’s tough to recommend.
Blair received a digital copy of Micro Machines: World Series from Codemasters for review.