Micro Machines World Series Review

By Mark Delaney,
The Codemasters seal of quality goes a long way with racing games. For decades they've been developing some of the world's most revered genre titles, like Dirt, Grid, and the licensed Micro Machines. It's been over a decade since we last saw a console game branded with the Micro Machines moniker, although the studio released a respectable clone that went under the radar in between, perhaps due to the lack of the official license. By some means of behind-the-scenes business dealings, they've reacquired the license for the latest iteration in a long line of mostly proud Micro Machines video games. Sadly, this one fails to live up to its name and even struggles to achieve some of the high marks of its off-brand predecessor.

Micro Machines World Series

Micro Machines World Series (MMWS) is a cartoonish arcade racing game featuring miniature cars in a human-sized world. Like the other games in its lineage, MMWS sends players racing across tabletops, kitchen appliances, garage workshops, and all other manner of furniture and little-big settings. The game offers three main modes: Battle, Race, and Elimination. Battle mode takes center stage in World Series as the competitive online six versus six arena mode where each car sports its own unique foursome of weapons, ranging from general use to an Ultimate that needs charging by way of in-round successes.

If the formula sounds familiar, that's because it's designed with blatant inspiration from modern hero shooters and MOBAs. It seems MMWS fancies itself a potential e-sport; because of that, Battle mode is the unequivocal focus that introduces a sizable list of issues. For starters, this attention to Battle mode seems to have come at the expense of Race and Elimination modes. In these two modes, a scarcity of power-ups (3), vehicles (12), and tracks (10) makes them feel very repetitive after just a short while.

The cars also float around the corners a bit too much. It's apparent they need to be fast and agile for the more open design of Battle mode, but in turn it makes racing on traditional tracks in the other two modes frustrating at times. Not only do you drift too much around the very curvy tracks, but the game's bumper car physics and albeit lacking power-ups are still quite crippling to the point where your finish in a race can often feel more based on luck than skill. It's quite common to be in first place with everyone else breathing down your neck, get hit with a weapon, and drop to the bottom half of the contenders in an instant. Allowing so much chance into a game with clear intentions to sell itself as a worthy competitive title makes the design misguided from its inception and more than a little broken in practice.


Strangely, the game also seems to struggle to populate multiplayer games. Despite playing on opening weekend in game modes that reserve space for up to a dozen human players, only once did I partake in any round that included more than one other real person and that game totaled just two others. Even the basic idea of an online ranking system is confusing and maybe broken. For example, in three consecutive ranked games online (featuring just one other human player) I earned 60 rank points for fifth place, 100 for third place, and only 80 for first place in order. If there is any rhyme or reason as to why more points were awarded for a third place finish than a first, the game didn't explain it.

There's no single-player career or championship mode. If you don't want to partake in the online portions of the title, you're limited to local modes with only four contenders, rather than the online modes with 12 contenders. Even more bizarrely, there's no offline Battle mode. To design the game so greatly around online play at the expense of a deep racing experience, with a lack of balance required to draw in competitive players, and to include even the remarkable problem of failing to populate online games, leaves players stranded. There's no salvation from the game's main issues because those issues are also its focus. World Series salivates for its piece of the e-sports pie but is so singularly focused that there's nothing to fall back on when that vision isn't achieved.

If you are reading this only wondering if you and your family, perhaps your kids and yourself, can play it and have fun, the answer is yes — or at least probably. If gamers in your life aren't savvy enough to spot all of these design flaws and simply want a colorful and family-friendly racing and car combat game, it's moderately enjoyable. The deduction from 12 players online to four in local play is still quite unforgiving, though, and it's not like this game exists in a vacuum. There are other similar games already available that do well what Micro Machines should've focused on before it was damned to be Micro Machines: Overwatch Edition.

ReviewLoot Box contents will look familiar to anyone who plays modern online games.

The achievements leave no doubt as to what the focus of MMWS is intended to be. You'll need to utilize each car's unique skills in Battle mode and perform a few map-specific actions, like feed another car to a Hungry Hungry Hippo. You'll also need to climb the ranks all the way up to level 40 and then "prestige" for the first time. This will take quite a while when you consider just how taxing the game can become. If you boost the list you'll get a lot of gamerscore pretty simply. Playing straight won't get you much outside of the regular progress earned through ranking up and opening loot boxes.

Summary

Micro Machines once meant something to many people. In fact, today it still does carry a nostalgic allure for many who have been playing this series since it first hit consoles way back in 1991. This title carries the name of the famed toy and video game property, but it offers surprisingly little of what makes that name memorable. It abandons its legacy in crucial ways as part of a gamble to stake its claim as a worthwhile competitive multiplayer experience, but it misses that mark so greatly that there's nowhere left for players to seek consolation. If you're interested in preserving the shiny aura that surrounds the brand name, don't play Micro Machines World Series.
5 / 10
Micro Machines World Series
Positives
  • Colorful aesthetic
  • Varied personalities for the cars
  • Fun game for families or forgiving players
Negatives
  • Racing feel like an afterthought
  • Focuses on online modes but presents a largely broken online experience
  • Poorly balanced, feeling influenced by luck rather than skill
  • Only 12 vehicles -- a small fraction of its predecessor's offering
  • Poorly populates online games
Ethics
The reviewer spent six to seven hours racing, firing, and exploding across the little-big world of Micro Machines World Series. Seven of the game's 44 achievements were unlocked along the way. An Xbox One copy was provided by the publisher for this review.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He has written for GameSkinny, Gamesradar and the Official Xbox Magazine. He runs the family-oriented gaming site Game Together.