Vin Diesel has been quite a busy guy lately. He has two games that just came out as well as a new movie that has just hit theaters. One of his new games is Wheelman. A lot of questions surrounded this title as it was continually delayed and some wondered whether it would ever come out at all. It is always dangerous when a game enters that territory because you never quite know how a game is going to turn out when it eventually does hit store shelves. Developed by Midway and published by Ubisoft, Wheelman is basically nothing more than a Grand Theft Auto clone. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you like the genre, however, if you aren’t a fan of these open world titles than this won’t be the one to change your mind.
Wheelman is set in Barcelona and you are an undercover agent for the United States. Your job is to basically gather intel and then take down the major gangs that are running the city. As the Wheelman your driving skills are put to the test as you are racing through the city while at the same time engaging in vehicular melee combat. As an enemy vehicle comes up next to you, you have a few different options. You can try and side swipe them to try and run them into a wall, you can get your gun and try to shoot out the tires or shoot the driver or if your own vehicle is badly damaged you can “air jack” another car if there are any around you. When you “air jack” a car you leap from your damaged car to another car right in front of you and immediately take control of that new car. This is an essential skill to master as there are some missions that are really long and you might have to keep switching cars as the ones you are driving get badly damaged. You also have two very cool moves that you can pull off in your car if you have your focus gauge built up. One move will allow you to slow time as you are driving so you can better aim at a vehicle and try to take them out. Another move will allow you to completely spin your car around so you are now facing your pursuers and you can try and take them out. There was one particular mission where I had to race a subway train and take out the driver so I simply raced in front of the train, spun my car around and shot the guy. There are certain moments like that where the game can make you feel like a badass. Of course, this game isn’t all about the driving. You do have the typical Grand Theft Auto type of missions where you get out of a car to storm a warehouse and steal a shipment or to save someone that might be captured. You have a couple of different weapons that you can carry at the same time. One of them is interchangeable while the other one is a standard pistol with infinite ammunition. There isn’t really a cover system per se but you can crouch down behind items until they are blown to bits by the enemy.
Unfortunately the shooting is where the game starts to fall apart a bit. Auto targeting doesn’t always work as it should. If you are driving and trying to shoot an enemy that is in a car behind you the gunfights can be a nightmare. Instead of letting you fire your weapon whenever you want to try and take out your opposition you need to meet certain requirements before you can fire at your enemies. If you have an enemy leaning out of his car firing at you then you have to make sure you are a certain distance away before the game will let you fire back. If you are either too close or too far away then you are out of luck. If you happen to be on the wrong side of the car then you aren’t going to be able to fire your weapon either. It gets incredibly frustrating when you have enemies on motorcycles shooting at you from all sides and you can’t even use your weapon to fire back unless you are in the right position. When you do happen to lock on to a guy and begin exchanging firepower then the camera shifts to a different angle not allowing you to see what is in front of you which can easily result in you being the unwilling participant in a spectacular crash. If your character happens to die then the game will taunt you with the hint, “It’s a good idea to stay alive”. Fortunately some of the longer missions have a decent checkpoint system where you won’t have to do everything again but that doesn’t excuse anything. If they would have just let the gamer fire their weapon whenever they wanted and make the determination as to how they wanted to get rid of the enemies then the game would have been a lot less frustrating.
As with other open world titles there are the main story missions and then there is a plethora of side missions. These range from “Fugitive” where you are trying to get to a safe house before the police arrest you or “Rampage” where you are trying to cause a certain amount of damage as you tear through the city. Other missions include “hot potato” where you have to collect four packages and return them to the drop off point in a specified time as well as “made to order” where you have to locate and acquire two specific cars and return them to the garage with as little damage as possible within the time limit and finally “contracts” where you have to locate and destroy your target within a certain timeframe. These missions can add some variety to the game but overall can’t make up for some of the poor design decisions.
Overall Wheelman is a below average Grand Theft Auto clone. It is not the prettiest game in the world and some of the core mechanics of the game don’t’ work very well. There is very little story and the A.I. can be pretty dumb. There are some good ideas here and it is a shame that they didn’t get fully realized. If you are interested in this title be sure to rent it first.
Originally posted on Totally Gaming Network