Among the many classic game series viewed through rose tinted glasses, Micro Machines has been one of the most regularly requested series to be revived. It’s taken a long time – just over a decade, in fact – but Codemasters have answered your prayers. Has it been worth the wait though?
One thing that was made quite abundantly clear as my PS4 threw a strop and refused to connect to the internet for a few minutes, was that Micro Machines World Series has taken online multiplayer and recent trends in this area to heart. Three of the four play options – Special Event, Quick Play, Ranked – are online and online only, and I faced having them blanked out.
Giving the console a mean glare, it decided that it did actually want to connect and I was away and free to dive into the Quick Play menu, with Battle, Race and Elimination modes to select. The latter two will be the most familiar, with race having twelve cars rounding a circuit five times, and Elimination being Micro Machines’ distinctive mode where players that fall off the track or go past the trailing edge of the screen are eliminated.
The handling is as loose and floaty as it’s ever been, with all of the Micro Machines more than happy to fishtail through a corner. It can be frustrating at times to be bumped off your line or misjudge things and crash into the scenery or simply fly off the table, but then there’s the moments where everything clicks and you have the satisfaction of cutting past someone else on the corners.
You’ll be racing across ten new tracks that make you feel like you’re in Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. There’s a race through a frozen garden, with a nice split level section and patches of treacherous ice; there’s the classic messy breakfast table, the pool table, and so on. It all looks great in action, with plenty of depth of field to help emphasise the scale of everything on show.
Battle mode, meanwhile, features bespoke levels to let you play game modes like Capture the Flag and Control Point. Two teams of five race around these roughly symmetrical maps, making the most of the expanded Hasbro licensing in the game. Nerf guns pop up here and there, GI Joe’s tank is one of the vehicles, and even Hungry Hippos and a Ouija Boards get to be Battle map centrepieces.
The twelve vehicles get their own identity here, thanks to different speeds and handling, as well as unique sets of weapons and special abilities. The GI Joe Mobat fires tank shells, and can lay chaff mines, rapid fire and once the ultimate is charged, unleash an air strike, while the Hank N. Stein monster truck has a shotgun primary weapon, grappling hook and “earthquake” slam attack, with the ability to unleash a tornado as its ultimate.
It feels like a page has been lifted from Overwatch’s design manual in this regard, and that carries through to the loot box system, with boxes earned for levelling up and earning you cosmetic items like liveries, voice lines and death sprays.
They’ve striven to make each vehicle feel in Battle, but this doesn’t really carry over to the main races. All of the vehicles are brought much closer together in speed and handling, and you’re limited to a nerf gun that slows vehicles it hits, a hammer that slaps things directly in front of you, and a bomb that’s thrown behind. They’re quite laughably ineffective 90% of the time, and the bomb is just as likely to propel someone chasing you forward as it is to wipe them out. It’s a million miles away from the likes of Mario Kart in this respect.
Sadly, where it was once the main reason to pick up a Micro Machines game, local play in Skirmish feels like the less favoured child in this game, and World Series doesn’t even attempt to do a career. A race in Skirmish can only be played solo as there’s no split screen in Micro Machines games, and even then it’s restricted to just four racers while the online multiplayer can fill out an entire grid of 12 with AI as needed. Elimination is there for local four player multiplayer, with all players sharing the screen, and there’s a cut down battle mode called Free For All, pulling players into a small arena.
Simply put, it pales in comparison to the already fairly minimalistic online play, and almost makes me question whether or not I’m remembering the classic Micro Machines games right. Elimination is predicated on your ability to read the road ahead or having learnt the tracks by heart, especially as the leader gets closer to the edge and has less time to react. Before you have that intimate familiarity with every spoon and Cheerio on the messy breakfast table though, the AI feels a little too good in this mode, and can put a dampener on two people playing. That said, there’s some nice touches like a particularly long and close race eventually having the camera zoom ever closer and closer, or how local play lets eliminated players lock on with a homing missile.
Local play does manage to be a blessed haven from the prevalence of lag online, though. Other racers judder and bounce around, weapons are inconsistent, as already mentioned, and worst of all, your own frame rate can drop, reducing the consistency and feel that you need to be confident as you take corners, jumps and race. Some races are better than others, but we hope this can be swiftly dealt with.
There’s other little quirks and oddities that annoyed me, such as how repetitive the little lines of dialogue are from your chosen car, the way you have to always back out to the main menu after a race or battle, and so on.
Mixing the old with the new, it’s clear that Codemasters have tried to bring Micro Machines up to date in World Series. While there’s plenty of charm to the classic racing and elimination mode, I feel they could have gone even further with the ideas in Battle mode and the variety of vehicles and weapons that it contains, bringing these back to the classic modes.
Version tested: PlayStation 4