Micro Machines World Series Review – Yellow Flag (PS4)
I swerved out of the way of a stray cheese puff, only to get my tires stuck in some maple syrup that had been spilled. This slowed me down, and I had to watch my competitors pass me while I attempted to race toward a toaster that would send me to the next part of the track. These are the fun, frantic moments that make Micro Machines World Series so much fun, and I really wish I had more of them to convey.
Developed by Codemasters, this Hasbro-licensed car combat game is filled with nostalgia. From being able to select a G.I. Joe tank as a vehicle to dying due to a Ouija board planchette moving about, I constantly was reminded of my childhood when playing World Series. There’s a charm to the environments, which are filled with a variety of household items. The top-down racer can be incredibly charming when it’s not frustrating the player.
Sadly, much of my experience with Micro Machines World Series left me wondering what Codemasters was thinking while they were developing the game. Instead of focusing on the racing that made Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament a hit in the ’90s, the focus is instead on a competitive multiplayer mode that has players competing in capture-the-flag and king of the hill events. Each individual car is now a character, each with special abilities and a powerful ultimate attack that can change the way a match is going if used efficiently. It wants to be Overwatch with cars, as the game’s loot boxes and skins make extremely clear, except none of the action is nearly as fun or satisfying.
Since Codemasters decided to focus on online multiplayer, one would expect it to have top-notch matchmaking, a variety of modes, and enough polish to keep players coming back. That simply isn’t the case here, as the matchmaking is embarrassingly awful. Despite there being over 1,000 registered players on the leaderboards, the vast majority of the 12-player matches I got into were filled with computer-controlled cars. There were even instances where I was the only human in an online match. That’s unacceptable.
The only way that I could guarantee to be playing with other humans was by inviting a friend to join my group, but since multiplayer is team-based it still meant that more often than not we were competing against a team full of bots. Maybe it’d be more fun if the bots had adaptive difficulty, but they typically crushed us while playing the battle mode. Most of my online matches weren’t determined by player skill, but what team’s bots played better. That’s not a fun way to play a competitive multiplayer game. Things are slightly better when racing, as I occasionally managed to win the 12-player races, but when there’s that many cars on a small track, a lot of time is spent respawning after being bumped off the track.
I thought things would get a little better once I unlocked the ranked mode, as surely they couldn’t fill ranked matches with bots. After getting my player level to 10, I went to play ranked match only to be greeted with a message that says the “next season begins in 92 days.” That’s right, the ranked mode was locked for the next three months. At first I thought this had to be some sort of glitch I encountered, but I’ve talked to other players that also couldn’t get into ranked play. Making the matter even more confusing is that the leaderboards show players that have competed in “season four” of ranked play, so my guess is that the whole online play is completely broken at the moment. Either way, the game clearly isn’t working properly and this launch is somehow worse than Friday the 13th: The Game.
Since the online is broken, I spent a fair amount of time in the game’s local multiplayer mode, which is called Skirmish. This allows players to either do races (although this is solo-only), compete in free-for-all deathmatches (which is weirdly not a mode I ever encountered when playing online), or elimination races. None of these modes are particularly thrilling as the deathmatches remove the cars’ ultimate abilities and all take place in tiny arenas, and elimination races (which have players get eliminated if they go off-screen during a race) tend to drag on far too long due to how the scoring works. The only mode I really enjoyed was the racing, but there wasn’t really any good reason to race against the computer as I wasn’t working my way through a grand prix.
Micro Machines is such a beloved series, so it’s so incredibly disappointing to see its comeback marred by a lack of content and terrible online play. The core gameplay is solid, and the battle mode has a surprising amount of depth to it, but there’s never a good way to experience it. There’s no way to setup private online matches and to tailor the experience, nor is there a way to stay out of gameplay modes the player doesn’t like. It’s a bare-bones, rushed release of a series that deserves so much more.
Codemasters is typically a developer that prioritizes polish, so it’s especially jarring to see Micro Machines World Series lacking features and decent online play. The matchmaking is currently a mess, ranked play is currently inaccessible for many, and there’s no semblance of a campaign to keep players busy while the online is being worked on. It’s too bad since there are moments of fun sprinkled within the frustrating online sessions, but more often than not I walked away unsatisfied. This could get fixed into a solid game, but players should be cautious until an overhaul occurs.
Review code for Micro Machines World Series provided by the publisher. Reviewed on PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.