Vin Diesel in Wheelman promises spectacular Hollywood-styled stunts to go along with a gripping storyline full of andrenaline-fuelled action. Well, Wheelman has the right hypeman, but it might not be the adrenaline-fuelled, cinematic thrill ride Midway has promised. Jumping into the driver’s seat, Extreme Gamer takes a look at this ambitious vehicle action game.
Vin Diesel has made a commitment to gaming and his first effort coming out of the Tigon garage is Wheelman. Pegged to be an adrenaline-fuelled, vehicle action game, gamers who are looking for something different should look to get behind the wheel in Wheelman. It’s been a while since we have had a solid vehicle action title, so it is good to see another wheeler jump onto store shelves. The Vin Diesel name attached to the project will also help to bring a few new faces to the gaming world, or that’s what Midway's investors are hoping. If you happen to be a Vin Diesel fan then you will get more then enough Vin in Wheelman.
Eh Yo! I'm Milo Burik
Vin takes on the digital role of Milo Burik, a Wheelman, a career crimal driver. In Barcelona, Spain, Milo starts taking jobs for the assortment of criminal personalities while having a hidden agenda of his own. I can’t go into too much detail about the plot because it unravels quickly and would be filled with spoiler alerts. In a nutshell, Wheelman doesn’t shake up the formula, and keeps to the standard storyline progression you would expect. The plot isn’t overly interesting, but Wheelman does an excellent job keeping the player interested. Since Wheelman might be made into a feature film, the story aspect needed to be fairly solid. Ironically enough you could peg Wheelman on par with the average Vin Diesel film.
Pursuit Force The Vin Diesel Edition
The storyline might be your average tale, but that doesn’t totally transfer over to the gameplay. Wheelman is a unique blending of game elements mixed up to make their own version of a vehicle action game. Wheelman has a bit of everything in from the Midtown Madness inspired physics, to the Burnout: Revenge traffic checking, to on foot action like Grand Theft Auto in an open world filled with multiple objects like Test Drive: Unlimited. After a closer examination it seems like Wheelman could be pinned as a big-boy version of Pursuit Force which is Sony’s little gem on the PSP. It has the same vehicle centered action with a few on-foot missions to boot. Pursuit Force isn't as fancy, but the general concept is similar.
Metal Rocking Vehicular Combat
For the most part Wheelman is a fairly solid with a few weak points that hurt the overal gaming experience. Focusing on the one the stronger points would be the “vehicular combat” implementation. The concept of using a car as a weapon is realised without arming each vehicle with duel chainguns and heavy plated armour. The way Wheelman handles vehicle combat is by pressing the analog stick in the direction you would like to sideswipe your enemy. This throws your cars weight viciously into your enemies to set destruction in motion. The sideswipe is the quickest we seen in a game and actually feels like an extension like a fist. The concept is simple and ingeniously added into the gameplay with simple controls. More than knocking metal bodies together, you can use the sideswipe to avoid traffic, or doge hits, or even use it as defence to ram another car when they are about to do the same to you. At high speeds the combat between two cars is truly exciting and Wheelman’s strongest bullet-point.
Another conceptual addition to the vehicle combat concept is the ability to “Airjack” other rides. This is a basic commandeering manouver that is done while driving. If you have played Pursuit Force then you know exactly what is going on because that’s the main concept in Pursuit Force. Airjacking is a lot of fun and is easy done by pressing and holding a button until a marker turns from red to green. The beauty of Airjacking is that you can do it during your missions, or side-missions. When you ride starts to feel the punishment, simply jump behind the wheel of another ride. It’s that simple and another nice addition in Wheelman.
Gun Blazing Cyclone
Lastly, Milo has a special focus gauge that is powered up by continually driving recklessly in control. When you gauge is full you can use it in three different ways. First is a boost of speed which is self explanatory, secondly is an “Aimed Shot” which puts the gun in hand as your drive in slow motion. The screen jumps into an over-the-shoulder view point and you can pinch out a few bullets at your enemies. Lastly is a move called the “Cyclone”. The cyclone is a Hollywood spin that turns your car in 180 degrees as you enter an Aimed Shot scenario. Its slow motion shooting in reverse and it is damn fun. When your gauge runs out, Milo spins the car back to the front and you continue on your way. Wheelman likes to have a lot of fun and these special moves make the action that more intense and over-the-top. I would have liked to seen more special moves, but this is their first Wheelman run, so I can wait.
Milo, Get Back In the Car!
So far, Wheelman should sound fantastic because it is. The formula really works for the game up until Wheelman wanted to be like every other Grand Theft Auto clone. What I’m talking about are the on-foot missions. On foot Wheelman is plain and dull as it forces the player to run through a few mandatory shooter missions. The shooting mechanics aren’t overly horrendence, just plain sloppy. The A.I. is beyond dull and you can pretty much march through these missions blind-folded. The challenge or fun factor isn’t present and when you compare it to the high intensity of the driving missions it looses its lustre. This is the biggest downside to Wheelman, and even though there aren’t too many on-foot shooting missions you will need to partake in them every so often.
We Don't Need No Cinematography
One other negative comment towards Wheelman are the graphics which are slightly dated and poorly acted. Whoops, sorry Vin. The cut-scenes really show off the awkwardness of the acting and dialog lines as the digital actors drop their lines. Along with a wooden feel, the character models including Vin Diesel are lacking in high polish. The look a little amateurish compared to the lot of great games that have been released last quarter. The lack of quality isn’t as noticeable when you’re driving and for the most part when you’re behind the wheel; Wheelman pulls its look off. It’s a little shined over, but the frame-rate is steady for the most part when you’re getting busy on the screen. I also felt that the cinematography was trying too hard to be like a Hollywood action flick. Worse then trying too hard is that fact that the majority of them break up the natural flow of the game. Once or twice would have been cool to see now and again, but some missions are layered with slow motion, tricky camera angle jumps that do nothing for the in game action.
Extra Curricular Activities
I have conversed a lot about how wheelman plays, so let’s get into some of the missions and side-missions you’ll be behind the wheel in. First off, the mission’s structure is all laid by icons on the open-ended world. You can drive to each location to start a type of mission, or pull up the PDA which has everything at your disposal. The map is ultra clear with large and legible icons. It is easy to see which missions you have completed, your rank for each mission and all your available targets. Jumping in and out of missions from across Barcelona is done with one button press. It’s a snap and one of the most simplified PDAs menu systems we have seen in a game.
For missions you have a nice balance of side-missions to play around with while you focus on the main missions. Actually, I found the side-missions to be more addictive and fun then the general missions in the story. I would get lost completing all of them each time I unlocked a new batch of side-mission for completing a story segment. It’s not a knock against the storyline, or the variety of mission types in for the story, it is just a lot of fun to jump in and out of a few mini-games without worrying about watching cut-scenes, or getting an on-foot side objective.
The side mission consist of everything from crazy taxi styled race-against-the-clock missions, normal lap racing, to Fugitive escape missions, Wheelman is packed full of other activities to keep you busy. Achievements will be awarded for partaking in this extra curricular mission and as you rank up by completing more missions your in-game stats will increase. You can earn a boost to ever aspect in the game including your attack power to the amount of focus boost you can collect. That’s not it, there are more, hidden golden cat statues and cinematic stunt jump spots are hidden all around Barcelona. Besides being fun the side-missions extend the disc life in your console and give you something to play around with after you beat the game.
What?! No Multiplayer
Now one thing that is missing out of Wheelman is multiplayer. This is upsetting because I think Wheelman could have really shined online. After I played a few minutes of Wheelman, I immediately jumped back into the main menu and was going to hit up some Multiplayer, and to my surprise it wasn’t even an option. The fast, no-brainer action would have translated perfectly online, and better yet they could have used the side missions as online modes. It’s almost too simple, what the heck happened. Even leaderboard support for fast times and rankings would have kept me in the game a little longer than normal. Uh boy, I think Midway missed the ball completely here.
Wheelman might be a little self-absorbed, but it is a fun game that can pull you out of the real-world for a few hours of straight-up escapism. Nothing is close to being a reality in the game which can be good, or bad depending on your view of “car games”. Wheelman doesn’t want to be Full Auto heck it doesn’t even want to be FlatOut, all Wheelman is trying to do is have a little fun. Vin Diesel’s Wheelman isn’t a rush to the store purchase, or even a top shelf pick, but it should make due as a satisfying weekend rental. I wasn’t expecting much out of Wheelman, and then Vin showed me he means business. Wheelman is a fun ride, but ultimately forgettable once it the ride is over.
Gameplay:7, Graphics:6, Sound:6.5, Innovation:7, Mojo:7 Final: 6.7 / 10
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 04.02.09