4) Vin Diesel’s mug is scary… in a good way
We’ve seen some pretty dodgy looking celebrity likenesses in licensed games recently – Quantum of Solace’s Daniel Craig face that was so waxy it looked like it belonged in Madame Tussauds springs to mind. Thankfully, Midway Newcastle have really captured the subtle, brooding menace of the Chronicles of Riddick star. From the trademark furrowed brow, 24-style lingering scowls or Vin’s deadpan but effective voice work; you really do feel like you’re controlling Hollywood’s hardest slap head.
5) It’s like Red Dead Revolver in a car
Remember Rockstar’s overlooked gem of a Wild West shooter? Well, Wheelman is like that in a vehicle. Only without the horses, tumbleweed or old-timey prostitutes. Specifically, it’s the slow motion in-car aiming system that reminds of us of the targeting system we used with Red a few years back.
In this mode, the camera pans slightly above your arm – kind of like a quasi first person/Resi 4-style view – and lets you target specific vehicle or enemy parts. It’s particularly useful when you want to take out wheels or pull off easy headshots. And there’s nothing quite like seeing a car flip up and pirouette through the air after you’ve crippled it’s suspension with a well-placed shot.
6) Nothing gets in your way
During our playthrough one of the developers aimed a not so sly dig at Niko Bellic’s amoral adventures by stating that their trees ‘wouldn’t get in your way’ And it’s true, GTA IV’s indestructible trunks of doom that would stop you dead in your tracks are nowhere to be seen in Wheelman. Truth be told, we did our fair part for Spanish deforestation by ploughing through half the tress in Barcelona.
In fact, in the right vehicle, namely a semi-truck - that lets you drive through almost anything – nothing will get in your way. This was demonstrated particularly well when we chased a boss in our truck, crushing seas of traffic and shrubbery under our massive wheels. And all to the charming tones of some opera music - provided by one of Wheelman's in-game radio stations. How civilized.
7) Vin Diesel actually takes games seriously
As anyone who’s played the Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay will attest to, Vin Diesel is not in the habit of appearing in shoddy games. Granted, it’s not a mantra he’s always followed in his celluloid career – think the Pacifier .
Thankfully, Wheelman looks set to maintain the quality production values and intense atmosphere of Riddick’s immersive FPS. It may not be pushing the PS3 and 360 quite as hard as Butcher Bay did, but the build we saw was pleasingly solid. Vin’s also been putting some serious hours in the recording studio. So there’s no need to worry about a SpiderMan 3 Tobey Maguire-esque phoned-in performance.
8) You fight a train with a bike
Trying to stealthily sneak away from the cops in car with knackered brakes – thanks to some unwelcome tinkering from a gang of Romanians – is tense. Racing through Spanish rush hour traffic with a live bomb in the back seat of our car even more so. But battling a tube train while on a puny motorcycle? Now that’s just ridiculous. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what we had to do in the final mission we were allowed to play.
After chasing a gang of bikers through a shopping mall and down into Barcelona’s underground network on Milo’s hog, we suddenly found ourselves chasing the head biker who’d boarded a train. Now most normal people would probably just give up and go for an early siesta at this point. But then again, most people aren't named after a type of fossil fuel.
The highlight of the chase was definitely entering into slow motion and individually shooting specific parts of each carriage, which subsequently fell off, making the train smaller and smaller. Silly, gloriously over the top, but the sort of shameless escapism only games can capture. This one set piece was the perfect summation of everything Wheelman does well.
Nov 28, 2008