- Posted April 7th, 2009 at 04:09 EDT by Steven Williamson
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A fast-paced, arcade-style driving game with a few impressive tricks up its sleeve.
- The cinematic crashes and jumps
- Pulling off super moves
- The nicely balanced range of objectives
- The lack of variety in vehicle handling
- The dull on-foot combat
- The unintelligent A.I.
It's blatantly apparent from the outset that Midway Newcastle has taken some of its design inspiration for Wheelman directly from the Grand Theft Auto series. With such a heavy focus on driving missions, the developer would have been crazy if it hadn't attempted to imitate some of the same features that can be found in one the finest examples of vehicle-based gameplay in this particular genre, so we're certainly not going to knock it for its copycat mentality. Besides, Midway has done an impressive job fusing some of the familiar features from GTA, including its excellent way-point system, police evasion mechanic and mission structure, together with a few new ideas and plenty of over-the-top Hollywood flair.
The story of Wheelman follows Milo, an undercover agent and a digitized Vin Diesel, whose talent behind the wheel leads him into the heart of Barcelona’s criminal underworld where feuding gangs rule the streets. While the disjointed tale doesn't keep you engrossed for long enough for you to really care about your character or what his underlying mission is, the action more than makes up for it in terms of entertainment value. Plenty of frantic car chases through the Spanish city in a range of four-wheeled and two-wheeled vehicles, from Oil Tankers to Japanese Superbikes, plus many familiar objectives, including escort, rampage, delivery and taxi missions, in addition to street races and on-foot gun battles against Barcelona’s toughest criminals, ensure that there are a diverse range of objectives to get stuck into.
Disappointingly, despite the wide range of vehicles on offer, one of Wheelman’s biggest surprises is that there doesn’t seem to be a much of a difference in the way that each vehicle handles. Many feel almost identical. It's clear, however, that a lot of effort has been put into the general car handling and physics, as well as the variety of stunts and super moves available. The result is an arcade-like, exaggerated driving experience that benefits greatly from its range of over the top control mechanics. From the satisfying Burnout-style ‘Takedown’ melee system, where you use the right thumbstick to smash vehicles off the road, to the visually impressive ‘Cyclone’ super move, where your vehicle spins 180 degrees, the camera pans inside the car giving you a view through the windscreen and then slow-mo kicks in, affording you with a short space of time to blow up cars with a couple of shots from your pistol, it’s explosive stuff from start to finish.
Aside from the well implemented drift mechanic and the ability to handbrake sharply around corners, the range of game-defining super moves are a welcome addition to the driving portion of Wheelman and are essentially what makes it stand out from the crowd. By filling up a focus gauge, which you do so by driving recklessly fast around the city, you're able to execute a range of super moves, including the aforementioned 'Cyclone,' as well as a super boost or 'Aimed Shot,' which gives you a window of opportunity to kill enemies with a single blast. There's also the outrageously silly but enjoyable ‘Air Jack’ move that allows you to leap from one vehicle to another with a press of a button. These super moves are geared toward making Wheelman an accessible, fast-paced and exciting arcade-like experience, and to that extent it does it exactly what it sets out to do: entertain.
Gameplay has also been jazzed up with some cinematic touches to give Wheelman a movie-like feel. Short cut-scenes kick in at various times in the game, such as when you break through a police barrier or hurtle over one of the many of the strategically placed jumps around the city. Though they can occasionally be intrusive and interrupt the flow of a high speed pursuit, most cut-scenes have generally been handled with high production values and are enjoyable to watch. There are plenty of explosive and over-the-top moments to look forward to, including blowing up an oil tanker and then sitting back and watching the carnage it causes unfold on screen, or smacking cop cars out of the way and then watching in slow motion as they break into pieces and crash into other objects and cars in their path.
Wheelman isn't all about ... (continued on next page) ----
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