Micro Machines review for PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PS4
Also On: Xbox One
Publisher: Codemasters
Developer: Codemasters / Just Add Water
Medium: Blu-ray
Players: 1-12
Online: Online

If you grew up with a NES or Genesis in your household then there?s a good chance that you?ll remember Micro Machines as something more than just a handful of miniature toy cars. While certainly not the most popular or best third-party licensed game of those generations, it?s a game that generally elicits a positive response when brought up in conversation with other video game fans. I find it kind of remarkable that it?s taken this long to see another Micro Machines game hit consoles, but having played this latest effort from Codemasters and Just Add Water, maybe there was a reason for that.

Micro Machines honestly isn?t that bad, but modernizing for a game playing world that?s very focused on competitive online multiplayer doesn?t seem to work well for this game. The online community, at least on PS4, has been largely non-existent. I was supplied with multiple codes in order to sort of bolster my experience in playing with others, but without friends in tow you?ll likely have a difficult time finding other random people to play with. Which really stinks, because pretty much any forward progression is locked behind the online play. Thankfully A.I. can fill in empty spots, but the game will search and search for active players, in some cases for up to 3 minutes or so, before deciding to give up and let you roll with A.I. controlled opponents.

And while you can opt to play the game offline, your options are a little limited. You, and up to four people, can play 2 of the 3 modes. For some reason standard races are walled off to single-player only, so you can?t just opt for basic races when playing locally with others. Why? I have no idea. The other two modes, Elimination and Battle, are solid though, and generally quick. They can also be quite hectic, especially Elimination, which features a modified version of a race where you?ll try to be the only car left on screen in order to successfully win a round. You can do this by either forcing cars off of the race track, deploying weapons to destroy opponents, or simply outracing your opponents and getting so far ahead they trail off-screen.

Battle is essentially an arena mode. Every car in the game has its own special ability kit, featuring one ultimate attack on a cool down timer, a basic attack, and two other abilities. Micro Machines as a whole really tries to emulate some of the mechanics in Overwatch, so you can sort of look at each vehicle as an individual hero. Much like Overwatch, you can even switch out to a new vehicle when you respawn too. The player with the most kills at the end of the round wins. It?s a pretty straightforward mode, but the small map means that the action stays tight and you?ll constantly be attacking or ramming other players around the board.

Online play features all three modes, along with a more unique Arcade mode that features a special event not found elsewhere in the game. You can also join Ranked Mode once you hit level 5, done so by competing in races online and earning experience. Ranked Mode is also season based, again much like Overwatch, with a set number of days per season and special rewards doled out at the end. That said, considering the absolute lack of people online, I have no idea how a full Season will even play out at this point.

Leveling up, and completing the Arcade mode, will also grant you loot boxes. Each box contains four random items with varying degrees of rarity. This can include skins, new voice lines, stamps that appear when you destroy another racer, and player icons. Yes, again, Overwatch. I?m personally OK with loot box systems, and I?ll admit that some of the harder to get skins actually look pretty cool. It at least incentives continued play, and earning experience points isn?t particularly difficult, even if you?re not finishing first in every race.

And trust me, you won?t finish first that often, at least not starting out. The game has a wicked learning curve when it comes to the controls, which try to emulate the old Micro Machines games in a way that doesn?t really feel natural for modern games. You?ll likely spend a lot of time sliding all over the track as you try to get accustomed to taking sharp turns, and you?ll also likely spend a lot of time waiting for your short respawn timer to count down after you?ve gone careening off the track when misjudging your drift. It can be a really frustrating experience starting out, enough so that if you have no experience with the classic games, the controls here might put you off of the game before you even really get started.

On the plus side, I think Micro Machines has some solid visuals, and I enjoy the track ideas the development team came up with. There aren?t a ton of vehicles to choose from, and the game lacks some of the variety from the older releases, like motorboats and helicopters. But the vehicles that are present look really nice, with a solid amount of details packed in. I dug the inclusion of the Cobra H.I.S.S. and G.I. Joe Mobat too. And again, some of the skins you can obtain can really alter the look of each vehicle in a considerable way.

Do I think that Micro Machines is a must play experience for everyone? Absolutely not. It?s a OK attempt at modernizing a somewhat niche, but well-loved 8-bit game, and that certainly won?t be for everyone. And unfortunately, modernizing that experience doesn?t work out too well, especially the heavy online focus that is too reliant on other players with a community that already seems dead on arrival. But still, the more I played, the more I enjoyed. Once I felt that I had some level of skill when it came to turning tight corners and lining up kill shots on opposing players, the overall experience with Micro Machines certainly improved. I don?t think I?d suggest picking it up at full price, but it certainly might worth it at a discount in the future.

Grade: B-