Content Type: Gaming Reviews
Date: August 14, 2017
Micro Machines: World Series is a top-down car combat racing game available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. The Micro Machines videogame franchise is based upon the best-selling miniature scale car toys invented by Clemens V. Hedeen Jr. at Fun City Toys USA situated in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin in the 1970s and licensed by a former subsidiary of Hasbro named Galoob to start mass production from 1976. Since its popularity endured multiple decades; Micro Machines branding was revived particularly to coincide with the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens via new themed Star Wars toy lines.
Micro Machines videogames originated in 1991 when Micro Machines released on NES in 1991 which was later ported to the Amiga, SEGA Game Gear and Mega Drive in 1993 with further platforms such as Game Boy and SNES following in 1994. A sequel arrived in 1994 titled Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament for SEGA Mega Drive receiving ports to such consoles as SEGA Game Gear in 1995 followed by Game Boy and SNES in 1996, while Micro Machines: Military released in 1996 as a SEGA Mega Drive exclusive on a J-Cart which allowed for 8 player multiplayer matches through one player using the d-pad and a second player controlling their car with face buttons across four controllers. Micro Machines V3 finally brought the series to PlayStation in 1997 with a Nintendo 64 port later released in 1999, alongside a spin-off named Micro Maniacs which released on PS1 in 2000 and Game Boy Colour in 2001 were the cars are replaced with characters running around the track. A remake of the original Micro Machines was released on PS2 in 2002, while a sequel to V3 was released in 2006 on PS2 and PSP titled Micro Machines V4. Micro Machines: World Series has been brought to home consoles by Just Add Water which is quite a positive decision by Codemasters; as Just Add Water has a reputation for excellent home console ports such as Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD, Volume and Lumo, alongside their exceptional original twin-stick shooter series Gravity Crash. Has Micro Machines been successfully re-invented within the 11 year wait for a new Micro Machines home console game?
An optional tutorial situated on a track named Learner’s Loop will get players up to speed on racing by showing them how to accelerate and use power-ups in a warm-up lap and a 3 lap race. The second part of the tutorial focuses on battle arenas in which you must drive through 4 marked areas on the map, then utilise your police vehicle’s equipped shotgun to destroy 5 evading enemy vehicles that will not fire back; followed by looking at the weapon loadout and abilities available for your vehicle before charging up your vehicle’s ultimate ability and using it on enemies. Players are granted the opportunity to practice further in the same vehicle or to select another vehicle against enemies that will now not just evade, but also fire back at your vehicle.
There are three event types including a race against three A.I. controlled opponents throughout a 3, 5, 7, 9 or 15 lap duration and the ability to have Nerf power-ups on or off, while elimination returns to the series’ routes by having a round based system in which the character who is out of sight from their opponents gains progression towards winning the event with the ability to utilise an airstrike and have Nerf power-ups on or off. However, there is also a reinvention for Micro Machines in the form of a free-for-all deathmatch against A.I. enemies in which every character drives a manually or automatically chosen vehicle with a score limit of 5, 10, 15, 25 or 100 and a time limit of 2, 3, 5, 10 or 60 minutes, while advanced options include abilities being to be customised to allow all abilities or only primary weapons; slow, normal or fast respawn time and fall respawn time; half, normal or double health and health pick-ups on or off. Surprisingly, despite a multitude of event types; there are no championships which is a design choice that only succeeds in stripping away a layer of Micro Machines’ nostalgic retro charms.
There are 12 cars, although only some of them are based upon Hasbro licenses which include G.I. Joe’s Cobra H.I.S.S. tank and G.I. Joe Mobat tank, while a stealthy spy vehicle named Agent Atom may be a tie-in with an animated television series titled A.T.O.M. which Hasbro was commissioned to produce a toy line for, alongside a futuristic sports car called Yu Saiko, a monster truck named Hank N. Stein and a hovercraft called Captain Smallbeard. Every vehicle has plenty of unlockable customisable elements totalling to hundreds of unlockable items which can be purchased with in-game currency such as paint jobs to change the look of your vehicles, character voice lines to taunt your opposition, gloats are picture messages sent to enemies when you have destroyed their vehicles and grave stamps are imprinted on the track when an enemy vehicle has been destroyed.
There are 10 tracks available for race and elimination modes, while a further five tracks are available in free-for-all mode or alternatively selecting a random track and 15 arena environments in battle mode. Track design is quite varied, especially due to the diverse environments and themes such as Shock Tactics producing electrically charged obstacles that alternate between areas, while Ball Bonanza takes place on a pool table that is surrounded by everything you would expect to find in a games room including pool balls, pool cues, poker chips, darts and decks of cards. Additional highlights include Army Action which contains green plastic army men and tanks as the main theme for the majority of the track, while Toaster Troubles features a toaster that the vehicles drive into and are catapulted into the air onto the next area of the track. There is unfortunately no track editor which is disappointing given that previous Micro Machines games as early as Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament on DOS and Micro Machines: Turbo Tournament ‘96 on SEGA Mega Drive have had a strong track editor as a form of infinite replay value, while the PS2 release of Micro Machines V4 in 2006 also provided a track editor. Therefore if a track editor of a similar format would have been included, albeit one that embraces the play, create, share mantra with the ability to share tracks online for players to download, experience and rate would have taken the feature to another level.
There is definitely a positive sense of speed when driving through flat out straights, although the handling when manoeuvring around corners can take some getting used to with the best approach seeming to be feathering the acceleration rather than attempting to accelerate through corners at top speed; therefore persistence in perfecting your technique is most certainly required.
Nerf power-ups produce a strategic advantage when utilised appropriately during race and elimination events, while every vehicle has its own unique weapons loadout and abilities which come into their own during free-for-all events including a primary weapon, two abilities and an ultimate ability which needs to be recharged after using it, but recharges faster from damaging enemies. For instance, G.I. Joe Mobat has a powerful, forward firing tank shell as its primary weapon, while chaff mines can be deployed to disrupt enemies that touch it by slowing their speed and preventing their weapons and abilities for a temporary period; a short burst of increased rapid fire, albeit at the cost of your vehicle’s movement speed for the duration, alongside an air strike ultimate ability to damage enemies within range. Meanwhile, Jack Hammer is capable of throwing sticks of dynamite which can bounce off objects and surfaces before exploding on impact with an opposing vehicle or after a certain amount of time, while a sentry turret can be constructed to fire at nearby enemies with a fire rate boost when Jack Hammer remains within the vicinity of the sentry turret; a temporary wall of rocks can be built directly behind Jack Hammer to block incoming enemies, alongside a shockwave ultimate ability which emits a force wave that damages enemies and allows a temporary boost to the weapon damage capabilities of allied vehicles.
There is only one camera angle available in the form of the classic Micro Machines top-down camera angle which will more than likely appeal to fans of the series, although it is capable of being overly restrictive of your view when approaching the end of a straight in regards to taking a left or right corner on some of the race tracks. Therefore, it would have been better to have a customisable camera that could be closer to your vehicle or further away from it, while a camera angle positioned directly behind your vehicle would have been amazing as it would have allowed players to see up ahead for a far more reasonable distance.
Player Bio provides a statistical analysis of your performances such as your division, XP earned and level attained, enemies assisted or directly destroyed, the amount of times wrecked, items collected, the amount of time played, the amount of matches played against A.I., public online multiplayer events, special events and local multiplayer, alongside your current title.
Downloadable content includes legendary skin packs comprising of super spy car Atom P.I. as an alternative to Agent Atom and Smallbeard’s Revenge as an alternative to Captain Smallbeard’s hovercraft which are exclusively free to download via PlayStation Plus, while the previous legendary skin pack was only available as a pre-order incentive.
Given that the previous home console release in the series titled Micro Machines V4 was also released on PSP; it is a disappointment to not see a Vita version, although there is remote play functionality. Micro Machines: World Series’ remote play performance retains the graphical qualities, audio and general performance from the PS4 version in single player and multiplayer, although there are no control scheme optimisations as acceleration and braking is mapped to the right and left of the rear touch pad respectively which is still playable, but would have been much better suited to R and L.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with four pre-set control schemes swapping the face buttons, d-pad and shoulder buttons around; resulting in every player being able to find a control layout that suits their play style. The default control scheme consisting of holding R2 to accelerate; pressing L2 to brake or reverse; pressing X to fire your primary weapon; pressing square or O to use your first or second ability respectively; pressing triangle to use your ultimate ability; pressing up, down, left or right on the d-pad for your character to taunt their opponents through e-motes; changing the direction on the left analogue stick to steer your car; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Tapping the touch pad displays an overview of your vehicle’s abilities, while vibration occurs when firing at enemies and when enemies hit your vehicle with weapons or abilities during free-for-all events or with Nerf weapons during race and elimination events, alongside passing through an electrically charged obstacle or falling off the track. There is no light bar implementation which is surprising as it could have produced a variety of colours as an alternative display for your vehicle’s health during free-for-all events or representing your vehicle’s customised paint job throughout racing events.
Graphically, Micro Machines: World Series has some nice touches within the surrounding environments such as a play on the wording on the front cover of War and Peace and the original Micro Machines displayed on a retro handheld console on the Army Action track, while vehicle models look as good as anticipated and explosions during free-for-all events look amazing; which is complimented by a fast and consistent frame-rate. Unfortunately, there is no PS4 Pro support and HDR support which is disappointing as that results in no higher resolution, while HDR would have enabled certain graphical elements to be highlighted such as the electrical obstacles in Shock Tactics and explosions in free-for-all events.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, garage vehicle customisation menus, event and track selection menus, vehicle selection menus, online multiplayer menus, settings menus and various gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. The background of the menu screens include an environment containing electrically charged obstacles and stationary such as paper clips, pencils and a pencil sharpener.
Veteran actor Brian Blessed counts down to the start of events, declares your finishing position upon the end of an event and informs you of being eliminated from a round of an elimination event. However, it would have been better to have a wider range of scenarios covered during single player and local multiplayer event types through more of Brian’s one word sonnets such as complimenting excellent driving and handling by exclaiming “Oh, you haven’t crashed for a while” or covering controversy when a character has destroyed an enemy vehicle and when a vehicle has been deliberately pushed into an obstacle or off-track by an enemy. This is not a criticism of Brian Blessed’s performance; as battle mode in online multiplayer has more commentary dialogue that expertly combines an increased frantic nature of gameplay with a genuine sense of fun and good humour due to an excellent delivery from a class act. Meanwhile, characters taunt their opponents via a range of emotes which provides some personality for the driver within each car. Sound effects include vehicles accelerating, tyres screeching, a heavy landing after a jump that reached a fair amount of air, weapons and abilities being fired and hitting enemy vehicles and vehicles bumping into trackside obstacles; accompanied by an interesting mixture of rock and synth riffs. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation which is surprising as it could have produced Brian Blessed’s voice-over dialogue and a variety of taunting emotes from characters during events.
The trophy list includes 44 trophies with 27 bronze trophies, 14 silver trophies, 2 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Schooled bronze trophy for completing the tutorial and the Individual bronze trophy for finishing an event using a newly equipped item. Harder trophies include the Perfect Record gold trophy for winning a race without being destroyed on 10 different tracks and the Undefeated bronze trophy for an elimination event by winning every round. Online multiplayer trophies include the New Entrant bronze trophy for completing your first online event; the Jack of All Trades bronze trophy for completing an online event with every vehicle; Level 10 and 20 bronze trophies for levelling up to levels 10 and 20 respectively; Level 30 and 40 silver trophies for levelling up to levels 30 and 40 respectively; and the Prestigious gold trophy for achieving prestige at level 51. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 30 to 40 hours to platinum the trophy list.
Despite there being no difficulty levels; the A.I. is definitely too precise in their vehicle handling resulting in it being very hard to have a guaranteed victory in race and elimination event types involving A.I. opponents throughout single player or any configuration of multiplayer, while free-for-all in single player and local multiplayer which expands to battle mode in online multiplayer as they contain quite aggressive A.I. opponents who are also clever in efficiently navigating the routes to objectives.
Micro Machines has always had an affinity with multiplayer and World Series is no different to that rule as there is local same screen multiplayer for 2 to 4 players, while A.I. opponents can still be implemented to fill the field of 4 vehicles in the scenario that you have 2 players on hand to play, although playing without inclusion of A.I. in local multiplayer seems more fun. Elimination and free-for-all event types are applied rather well to local multiplayer, although there is unfortunately no ability to have a multiplayer race as race events are exclusive to single player.
Online multiplayer caters up to 12 players with the option of A.I. to flesh out the field, while the performance during online multiplayer certainly retains the speed and graphical fidelity of the single player and local multiplayer. A.I. during online multiplayer is a positive design choice as it means that a player who cannot immediately find other human players can instead enjoy online multiplayer modes against A.I. in race and elimination event types in addition to co-operatively with A.I. and against A.I. in team focused event types throughout battle mode.
Online multiplayer contains special events such as the extremely fun ultimate capture the flag which tasks two teams of up to 6 players per team of capturing the flag and returning it to their own base to couple with their own team’s flag, although both teams have a full compliment of primary weapons, abilities and ultimate abilities to stop their opponents from taking their flag. A.I. match allows players to play solo or in a group against A.I. with the big differences being that there is a field of 12 vehicles in 5 lap races, elimination events in a field of 6 vehicles and battle mode which randomly selects various event types such as a version of ultimate capture the flag with both teams vying to capture their opponents’ flag on 3 occasions to claim victory, a zone event in which both teams try to hold a zone that pops up in different areas of the map and more besides.
Public match is a ranking focused alternative to A.I. match, although if no human players are around, then you will be entered into a match with A.I. opponents in which the results count towards your season progression, although it is individual events instead of a structured championship. A new season is held periodically as each player starts out in the bronze division before earning promotion to the silver division upon attaining 500 points, 1,000 points to progress onto the gold division, 1,500 points to enter the platinum division, 2,000 points to progress further onto the diamond division and 2,500 points to achieve entry into the diamond+ division. It is not particularly easy to reach the diamond+ division as each win offers only 100 points, while drawing a battle mode match or being a runner-up in an individual event in race or elimination event types yields no points at all.
Unfortunately, there is no simultaneous local and online multiplayer which results in battle mode not being playable in local multiplayer as well as single player, while season mode is also exclusive to online multiplayer with no pre-set or customisable championships available in single player or local multiplayer.
A variable amount of XP can be earned through time bonuses and performance ratings, while the purpose of levelling up is to unlock loot boxes containing up to 4 customisation items per loot box for vehicles or alternatively coins are sometimes awarded in place of one of the customisation items. However, rather oddly XP can only be earned during online multiplayer which somewhat neglects the importance of single player and local multiplayer gameplay progression for XP, levelling up and resulting unlockables.
Online leaderboards focus on the current season with each leaderboard containing each player’s rank; avatar; name (PSN ID); title; division; and points total, while players can compare their positioning on the leaderboards with players that occupy the top positions, globally, from your friends list and to immediately find and display your position within any given leaderboard.
Replayability stems from the unpredictability of race, elimination and free-for-all event types in single player and local multiplayer, a frenetic battle mode and season mode in online multiplayer, alongside a reasonable quota of tracks for race and elimination event types and arena environments in free-for-all and battle mode, while unlockable vehicle customisation items partially make up for there only being 12 vehicles.
• Title: Micro Machines: World Series
• Developer: Codemasters/Just Add Water
• Publisher: Codemasters
• System: PS4
• Format: Retail Release/PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1-4 (Local Multiplayer)/2-12 (Online Multiplayer)
• Hard Drive Space Required: 6.85GB (Version 1.05)