It’s a shame that Nathan Birch already wrapped up his 2017 disappointing games piece, because, man, do I have one to add…
For years, Codemasters has been working its magic on the top-down Micro Machines racing games. It started on the NES with an unlicensed – but still excellent – game that provided a lot of variety, whether you were racing on a breakfast nook or around the edges of a pool table (without falling into the pockets, natch).
The team has been doing well on its games, and I was excited to learn that the series was making its way to Xbox One and PlayStation 4, with a new entry that promised to take the Micro Machines series to new heights, with more elaborate tracks and the thought of racing with others online. But, with the game now available, I can’t help but feel let down. It’s as if Codemasters forgot about what made Micro Machines tick in the first place.
The general racing is about the same, as you coast along in a variety of tiny little vehicles, racing everywhere from game rooms to kitchens to greenhouses, getting the jump on your competition with little pint-sized weapons and finding shortcuts wherever you can, even at the risk of possibly flying off the track.
However, the structure that the game builds around that racing is a bit disappointing. The focus of World Series, it seems, is mostly about online. That’s fine for certain games, but previous Micro Machines titles have come with a robust single player component, with some kind of story mode or, at the very least, some options for local multiplayer racing. Neither of those are present here, save for some bare bones options where you can have quick races against a far-too-competent AI.
Plus, it seems like Codemasters really wanted to have some Overwatch style modes thrown into World Series, as there are a number of battle modes where you fight in an enclosed arena, shooting at opponents with different weapons. These can be a bit fun – particularly with the Hasbro Hungry Hungry Hippos arena where your car can be devoured – but most of them are one-note, and don’t work nearly as well as the races.
Also, since the game has such a dependency on online racing, I found it a bit odd that the matchmaking didn’t work better. It took me a great deal of time trying to connect to certain drivers, forcing me to take the local multiplayer route to get my kicks with friends. And even then, again, very bare bones in terms of options, with only so many races and battle modes to choose from. So either way you go, there’s only so much fun you can have with your friends before one of them eventually asks, “So why aren’t we playing Mario Kart 8 again?”
The game does offer a lot to players who stick around for the long haul, including ranked matches where the best of the best can compete. But, again, with the matchmaking system the way it is, I’m having a hard time really sticking around.
Gameplay-wise, Micro Machines still feels pretty good, though there are times the handling can be a bit wonky, forcing you to make too far a turn and, hence, flying off the track as a result. The first time, it’s hilarious, but as you try to grasp the system and experience it again, it becomes a bit frustrating. Eventually, you get the idea and start to get better at the game, but with so little to work towards in a single player arena, it may turn a few folks off.
As for the design, again, classic Micro Machines, with its old-school track design and a great deal of diversity in offerings, which could be right in your backyard. But I wish there was an option to zoom out the camera so you got a better lay of the land, as some turns can come out of nowhere and throw you for a loop – and, combined with that slightly iffy control scheme, this can result in a lot of crashes. The music and announcer are okay as well, but not nearly as good as what I’ve heard in the previously released Toybox Turbos, which was done by the same team, but without the Micro Machines license.
Speaking of Turbos, looking at that in contrast brings up another interesting point – price. That game sold for $15, had a bunch of single player content, decent online and plenty of unlockables. World Series, by comparison, sells for double that, and barely has that level of balance. Had the game sold for about the same price, I would’ve been a little more lenient on its issues. As it stands, though, not really.
Micro Machines: World Series would’ve fared much better had Codemasters stuck by the basic principles that the series was based upon, instead of trying to make it the next big online beast. It’s not going to be, I mean, it’s Micro Machines. Online racing should be a part of it, but not the focus.
Combine that with the issues surrounding the game’s camera, controls and lack of single player content, and you have a ride that pretty much ends up spinning its wheels instead of crossing the finish line. Shame. Micro Machines deserved better.
RATING: Two out of five stars.
Disclaimer: A review code was provided by the publisher.