Vin Diesel is slowly beginning to turn into Ron Perlman for me. What I mean by that is in the past few weeks I have seen more of Vin than I have my own kids. I mean I turned on the TV and there is a promo for “Fast and Furious”, I changed the channel and there is Pitch Black, and now I am playing his game Wheelman. None of these are a bad thing, I enjoy Vin Diesel, and I think I am just close to a Vin overload. But you aren’t here to hear me talk about my upcoming breakdown- let’s get into the Wheelman.
The Wheelman is Vin Diesel’s Tigon Studios latest game, their first being The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (I’m sure we all remember how awesome that game was). In Wheelman Vin plays Milo Burik in both the upcoming Wheelman flick (Which I think has been cancelled) and the prequel video game of the same name. Milo is a driver-for-hire in or a ’wheelman’, hence the name. You’ll learn more about the story as Wheelman moves forward at a very fast pace, but for starters, Milo is in Barcelona for contract work. I would love to tell a little more but it would spoil it for you, but if you think real hard, I am sure you can figure it out.
Midway takes a few cues from some of the best racers around to build the foundation for Wheelman. They took the open-ended feel of a Midnight Club: Los Angeles and even added the ability to instantly start an event from the map, or you can turn on the GPS and drive to any event. For the longest time the developers of this game have said they wanted a “cinematic feel” so with that in mind they added Hollywood-level chase cuts and camera angles that you can find in the last Stuntman game. You will even notice some Burnout thrown in there with the car damage, and destruction you can cause while driving the streets of Barcelona.
But Midway didn’t just “cut and paste” these elements into their game and ship it. They took all these things and then added what they call vehicular combat. Anyone who played Burnout Revenge is familiar with “traffic checking”, essentially vehicular combat is the same thing but instead of using the same stick you are steering your car with in Wheelman you use the right stick to throw your car around. With the flick of the right stick in the left or right direction you can ram your car in the side of your opponents, using your car as a very effective weapon. Vehicles barricading a roadway in front of Milo’s ride can also be pushed out of the way with a flick upward on the right stick. It’s also worth noting that Midway also enables the right stick combat movements to act as dodging moves when no car is near; a nice touch that adds more of an over-the-top arcade feel to this driver.
Once you damage a car enough the icon above it will start to blink yellow, indicating that the car is ready to be finished. (Love the irony, Midway- and Finish Him) One more ram will trigger a cut scene that shows the car being destroyed in pretty fantastic ways. Bodies will fly, tires get thrown and the burning husk of car rolls around on the ground. The only negative to this is that every once in a while the car will clip through a tree, or a light post, but aside from that the physics with the car destruction is pretty awesome. There are a few other car combat moves that you can utilize in the game. The first of which is carjacking. If you are familiar with the PSP game Pursuit Force, then you will be right at home leaping from one car to another.
As you are tearing up the streets of Barcelona your car will get damaged, well if you are in the middle of a chase you can’t be bothered to get out and get another one. So what does a badass wheelman like yourself do, well you leap to the car in front of you, kick the driver out and keep it moving like nothing ever happened. The controls for carjacking are pretty easy, as you approach a car from the rear, just hold the B button on 360 or the Circle on PS3 and Milo will open t he door and lean out, once the arrow above the car in front of you turns green just let go of the button and watch the mini cut scene and enjoy your new ride.
Another move is the cyclone spin, which I think is my personal favorite, especially on a motorcycle. Once you fill up your focus gauge just press down on the D-pad and the car will turn 180 degrees giving you the chance to shoot at the baddies behind you. You will notice white circles above the hoods of the car; if you hit those you can blow the car up faster and get back to driving. Once the gauge runs out you turn the car another 180 degrees and just keep on driving like before. Like I said before, the effect is cooler on motorcycles because Milo turns on one wheel which is just badass. The last of the driving special moves is the aimed shot. It is basically the cyclone spin but instead of hitting enemies from behind you can shoot the ones in front of you. Also it should be noted that can you can fire your gun from the car at anytime, you don’t have to use these special moves to shoot people. These moves just make it easier to kill them is all.
If you concentrate on the driving bits of Wheelman, you’ll realize how well done this game really is. The PDA map is one of the better ones that you will find in an open-ended driver. You have the ability to plant a waypoint to a specific area you want to go to which helps with the inclusion of garages and caches for vehicle/weapon storage around the city of Barcelona. Side missions can also be easily found with a simple waypoint set. Speaking of missions, Wheelman has quite a nice selection. Most of these have been featured in other driving games already. But the fact that you can go from running a taxi service (Crazy Taxi style) to air jacking people and taking their rides to chop shops means that there’s quite a bit of variety from objective to objective. Another thing you will notice is that Wheelman is pretty open ended for a game with a linear story line, too.
Even though Midway paid homage to all those other racers, they should have stopped there. But no, they had to take something from the GTA series; sadly the on foot action doesn’t really impress. It does add variation to the game, but it’s just so bland that it doesn’t really add anything. You can fire from behind cover, use bombs to trigger massive explosions and nudge the auto-lock reticule to target different body parts. So, basically, everything possible in every other third-person action game out there is possible in Wheelman, except more watered down, since it’s a driving game.
So what should you take away from this review? Well Wheelman is a good game, with a bit more polish it might have been a great one. Having some good dialogue, a great soundtrack, and pretty cool premise helps distract from the pop-in that comes up every once in a while. You may also notice longer than average load times, I found that this is fixed by installing the game. So if you are a fan of crazy car stunts, action packed car chases, or just a fan of Vin Diesel you should definitely check out Wheelman.