|Platforms||PC, PS4 (reviewed), XBO|
|Developer||Just Add Water|
|Release Date||June 30, 2017|
Micro Machines World Series is a multiplayer-focused, miniature racing game that tasks players with racing against each other across tracks built on top of everyday household locations. World Series brings the classic Micro Machines combination of difficult top-down racing and oversized real world locations into the modern generation, complete with some new twists to the formula.
It also forgets most of what made Micro Machines a fun time, choosing instead to focus on the wrong parts of the game and leaving a disappointing taste in the mouth. When you jump into your first game everything feels fine – the racing is more or less how you remember it, albeit with Mario Kart-style pickups scattered across the race track. The core gameplay itself feels solid and instantly familiar to anyone who played Micro Machines in the Mega Drive/Playstation heyday.
It’s when you start scratching the surface that problems begin to arise. Single-player feels like a tacked-on afterthought. There is no career mode or championship mode. If you want to play with the AI all you can do is play single races or battles over and over again. You race for a few minutes and then its over. Local multiplayer is the same – it features the same limitations on modes and is limited to only four players.
Playing offline, either with friends or the AI, quickly becomes boring and repetitive. There’s a small amount of fun you can extract from playing World Series this way, but without a point the game barely feels worth playing. The racing itself is fun, but you’ll have tracks memorised after one or two races around it and there aren’t enough obstacles, hazards or dynamic events to keep them feeling fresh or interesting beyond that. Even putting track selection on “random” sees the game select the same track time after time.
Any fun, exciting races you might be able to have will probably be ruined by the ill-advised power-ups you can collect. These NERF branded weapons come in the form of blasters, bombs and hammers that can upend a race fairly quickly. Attacks are incredibly difficult to avoid (and at certain points during specific tracks, it’s actually impossible). Turning these power-ups off exposes an AI that can’t keep up with you in straight races. Not that you can turn them off when you go online. It’s only offline where you can mildly tailor your experience.
It’s when you go online that you find out where the true focus of World Series lies – its battle mode. Racing, which used to be the core part of the Micro Machines series, is the secondary concern here. Battle Mode is clearly what Codemasters want you to be playing. For starters, there are more battle arenas than there are race tracks. It’s also in Battle Mode where the different vehicles you can select actually make a difference beyond a few voice lines spoken at random times.
Battle Mode throws players into arena combat. The controls are the same but instead of racing each other you’ll be trying to destroy your opponents in themed levels with various hazards to avoid as you do so. In battle mode the twelve vehicles you can select from all have different weapons, abilities and even chargeable ultimate attacks. They all handle exactly the same way, which is strange considering they range from sports cars to fire trucks to hovercraft.
The biggest problem Battle Mode has is that it’s not all that fun to actually play. The handling in Micro Machines has always been frustrating. Hell, that’s part of the game’s charm. While you’re racing across pool tables or through kitchens its the iffy, hard to control driving that is part of the fun. In Battle Mode it’s a nightmare trying to point yourself in the vague direction of an opponent, one that jettisons the charm of the franchise in favour of outright frustration.
This all combines to give the feeling that World Series is a half-finished game. It’s like the developers spent ages crafting a Battle Mode, stocking it with true differences between the vehicles and a wide array of arenas. But then they ran out of time before they could actually fully implement the rest of the game. And unfortunately the rest of the game is where the fun of Micro Machines should be.
Single-player, local multiplayer, Elimination and racing modes are where the focus of a great Micro Machines game would normally be. Instead World Series is all about its arena battles. Mechanically the game is closer to a poorly implemented Micro Machines version of Overwatch – battles hinge on completing objectives, managing cooldown timers on abilities and successfully deploying ultimate abilities. There are even loot boxes containing cosmetic customisation items (that are only viewable online).
Micro Machines World Series sees the franchise attempt to make the move into the competitive online multiplayer scene. But rather than do so by leveraging its strengths and the gameplay modes series fans enjoy playing, Codemasters have focused on a dull game mode that feels out of place with the rest of the franchise. This focus also has a detrimental effect on the rest of the content, making the game doubly dissatisfying for anyone who just wanted a new Micro Machines game.
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