The Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels DLC made me feel like a kid again

Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels DLC
(Image credit: Playground Games)

Part way through the first lap of a speed circuit race in the Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels DLC, I truly feel like a big kid. Everything is a spectacle, from the looping bright orange track that spirals towards lava-filled volcanic rock to the giant motorized toy dragon curved around a lane that roars and moves as I pass. I feel myself moving in sync with every turn and gravity-defying loop. With the track now taking me into the skies high up above, it's not long before a slow-motion pause gives me the chance to soak in the view of the Hot Wheels Park below before a big drop sends me hurtling back down to earth. 

The Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels expansion evoked a similar feeling of childlike joy as I drove a life-sized version of the classic Deora II 2000 Hot Wheel car down a big water flume track. The vehicle looks every bit like the toy version, with its curved design and signature surfboard decals that sit in front of the vehicle's rear engine and quadruple exhaust – Playground Games' infamous attention to detail is present and accounted for here. I should be focused on cementing my place in the Hot Wheels Pro rank, but I can't help but be distracted when water splashes up onto the screen as I swerve down the flume. Forza Horizon 5 and Hot Wheels are once again a match made in racing heaven, feeling every bit like a theme park as it brings an oversized Hot Wheels set to life in ways that will surprise and delight you. 

Becoming a legend  

Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels

(Image credit: Playground Games)

Just like Forza Horizon 5's opening drive in Mexico, the expansion kicks off with a big introductory race behind the wheel of the new Bad to Blade Hot Wheels car. With the series' signature over-the-top flair that I can't help but love, I immediately get a taste of the different tracks that make up the massive Hot Wheels set, from the signature orange lanes to magnet and air tracks and speed boosters that shoot my car forwards just like the toy set. The tracks loop and curve across four biomes that take you over the snowy Ice Cauldron, the lush green Forest Falls, and the Giant's Canyon with its fiery molten lava; Horizon Nexus completes the park as the home of the local Horizon festival. The opening race quickly establishes what's in store, and gives you the chance to soak in the sights of the new location from the get go. 

Not unlike the main campaign in the base game where you race your way to being a Hall of Famer, the DLC sees you rise through the ranks in the Hot Wheels academy to become a Legend. Starting out as a Rookie, you work your way up by earning medals through a series of specific major and minor missions that task you with completing races, PR stunts, unique challenges, and more. As you advance, you'll gain access to the faster cars in your collection to use in races and in the park, with B class vehicles available from the outset. Completing various objectives to climb up the ladder from Rookie all the way up to Legend offers a satisfying level of progression, and there are plenty of challenges to keep completionists busy. I also feel all the more motivated to complete as many as possible thanks to unlockable rewards such as vehicles and Hot Wheels-themed clothing that are tied to specific missions.

A new Horizon story introduced in the DLC also offers up more races, with each chapter taking you through a different part of the history of Hot Wheels. Just like the story races back in Mexico, each chapter has a three star rating with different parameters such as completing a race within a certain time frame to earn the highest rating. During the different races that make up each chapter, you gain insight into all things Hot Wheels, from its origins to its design and notable landmark moments for the toy series over the years. As someone who grew up around Hot Wheels sets in the '90s and early '00s, I thoroughly enjoyed gaining insight into the story behind the famous orange tracks and interesting facts about particular vehicles. Fans of the sets are sure to get a kick out of it, and it also offers newcomers the chance to learn a lot about Hot Wheels as you race behind the wheel of some iconic cars.

Track builder  

Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels DLC

(Image credit: Playground Games)

"The supersized Hot Wheels park that swoops and swirls above Mexico succeeded at putting a big smile on my face time and again"

Of course, no super-sized Hot Wheels park would be complete without being able to make your very own tracks. Once you reach Pro Rank, Event Lab destinations will be added to the map that will give you access to a selection of new Hot Wheels additions to the creative hub. Not wanting to waste any time, I immediately went to a nearby Event Lab marker on my map and got stuck right in. Working in the same way as the Event Labs back in the main game, you can set up your own custom races using set routes or ones you create yourself, only here you can lay down your own Hot Wheels track pieces to bring the giant playset of your dreams to life. With a selection of loops, lane pieces (of varying lengths), junctions, and props – such as the big toy dragon – I decide to make a short, speedy spiralling race called Looping Lane. 

Once I begin making my custom route with the blueprint builder tools, connecting pieces together proves to be pretty easy. When you bring a piece close to the end of another track piece, they'll naturally snap together not unlike a toy. I manage to lay down my first loop by connecting it to an existing track with relative ease, making use of the different tools such as pitch, height, rotation, and roll to position my track in place just so. 

With my looping lane now in place after putting down several pieces, I then go about setting down checkpoints and giving the race a test drive. It takes some trial and error, with one drop I try to create with curving tracks proving to be too steep for my car to handle. Thankfully, it's also easy to delete and replace pieces and before long, I have just the kind of race I was hoping to create. The loops are endlessly fun to play around with, and I'm already excited to see what the community comes up with using these new pieces in the park to create Hot Wheels races. 

Hot Wheels certainly makes a memorable return in Forza Horizon 5. There's a great variety of different races to make your way through, with many I want to revisit over and over. And while I only got the chance to experience the park solo during my time with the DLC so far, I can already foresee it being a great playground to zoom around in with pals. The supersized Hot Wheels park that swoops and swirls above Mexico succeeded at putting a big smile on my face time and again as I worked my way towards reaching the Legend rank. From the ice, water flume, and magnet tracks that I sped my way across, to the new life-sized Hot Wheels cars, and the Horizon story that taught me a lot about the toy sets I used to play with as a kid, the Hot Wheels DLC is the perfect excuse to return behind the wheel in Forza Horizon 5.  

The Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels DLC is out now on Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC, and only helps solidify this experience as not only one of the best Forza games, but one of the best racing games of all time.

Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.