Wheelman - 360 - Review
In a world where Grand Theft Auto, Saints Row and Crackdown showcase incredibly open world environments, there are many copy cats that can only dream of putting forth similar quality. Midway’s – and now Ubisoft’s – Wheelman is one of those pretenders with over-the-top action, disappointing graphics and below average controls. Let’s dig deep and discover the drawbacks of Wheelman, a video game that looks and plays as if it was released six months too early.
The first thing you’ll notice when you start your journey through Wheelman – outside of the obvious inclusion of former A-lister Vin Diesel – are the sub par graphics that don’t utilize the Unreal 3.0 engine. With the power of the Unreal 3.0 engine, you’d think that the developers would’ve taken their time to create a gorgeous looking title, but instead the end results are caricatures that are horrendous to the bitter. The characters in the game all look weathered and old with wrinkles due to the poorly implemented lighting. There’s just too much lighting and it all comes off as unnatural. Poor Vin Diesel, he hasn’t looked this bad since his film xXx.
Wheelman doesn’t employ an in-depth storyline to hold your interest beyond the first few missions. Diesel plays as Milo, a smooth talking driver for criminals and other randoms who just need a quick escape from whoever they are running from (usually the police). The basic concept is chasing cars, shooting cars, and being chased by cars; yes, there isn’t much diversity beyond the first few levels of gameplay where you experience everything the game has to offer. You might enjoy the occasional on-foot sections where you can shoot at your enemies in third-person, but in the end, the gameplay isn’t that satisfying by any means. Running around on your foot just isn’t exactly as superb as it was in GTA or Saints Row, but it didn’t have to be since it’s a driving-based game at the end of the day because there’s not nearly enough to do on foot. You’ll end up scratching your head wondering if Wheelman is paying homage to old arcade titles where they usually involved around mindless action without worrying about the storyline. Or quite possibly, you might find yourself wondering if it was shipped to retailers uncompleted.
When driving, there are a few quirks to take advantage of, but once again, there’s not much to keep you coming back. When you are driving, you can use the right thumbstick to smash into your enemies with your vehicles. Think of this as body checking in hockey, pressing left or right on the stick will slam your enemies into the wall with your own vehicle. This highly exaggerated action may entertain younger generations, but after awhile, you’ll grow bored of the game slowing down to see a car barrel roll down the road and explode into a hundreds of pieces.
In addition, if exploding cars aren’t enough to tickle your fancy then maybe leaping from car to car at high speeds is your type of thing. Yes, that’s right; you can leap forward twenty to thirty feet and jack a neighboring car without any realism attached to the gameplay. There’s even the ability to spin your car around and enter into a slow-mo/bullet-time mode where you can fire at your opponents with precision. It’s a highly predictable game with not much originality provided, so just be warned that Wheelman is a title without much uniqueness.
So what does Wheelman offer? There’s voice-acting by Vin Diesel himself but sadly the rest of the voice-acting is wooden and overly annoying. Your passengers will often yell and command you to make impossible the possible when driving, and you’ll wonder “why doesn’t Milo give them a little taste of what’s on his mind?” The soundtrack at least somewhat makes up for the lack of believable voice-acting. A majority of the genres of music, from hip-hop to dance music, are covered so that shouldn’t be an issue for gamers. The main problem that will stand out from the technical department of Wheelman revolves around the disappointing graphics – you won’t be able to overlook the poor visual presentation.
Midway needed to provide Wheelman another six months of development, with concentration on improving the graphics for this title to look anywhere near finished. It’s a technical mess without an ounce of salvation. Its replay value is little to none; once you are finished with the storyline, there are no incentives to return to the game. The best advice is to play the demo and if that catches your interest, then proceed to a weekend rental because that’s all the title is worth.
If driving titles are up your alley, then there should be a subtle attraction to Wheelman’s highly explosive gameplay.
More hideous than the ugly duckling, there’s no reason or excuse for Wheelman to look this bad.
Often times you might want to turn down the volume or go straight to mute as your passengers unnervingly yell out directions to Milo without much of a response from Diesel himself.
Sure, you might give the developers a hand when it comes to several “cool” concepts of slamming enemies into the wall with your car or leaping from car to car, but you’ll grow tired of the over-the-top action sooner rather than later.
Wheelman has to be the year’s most disappointing title so far. Before Wheelman’s release, Diesel had the chance to star in two bona fide hits in a matter of one month as The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena releases at the start of April. Now, with Wheelman as a major letdown, he only has one left in his queue for 2009 to put his name back in the limelight.