Lara Croft has had a monopoly on gaming tits for too long. Mirror’s Edge thought it was too stylish to let Faith use the first-person perspective to look down and press her knockers together. And we’re not even sure if Sackgirls have sexy organs on them. It’d take someone utterly shameless, brazen, and without substance to try to compete with Lara’s bust. Oh hi, Vin. Didn’t see you there.
It’s too easy to focus on Diesel’s pecs and mirthless mug, and not notice that Wheelman is just trying to be a barn-full of silly fun. It won’t change the world, it probably won’t score a ten, and it won’t help you pass your driving test. But if you can electrify yourself into an undiscerning stupor, the relentless cinematic action and “Vehicle Melee” should carry you perfectly happily through the 30-odd hours of gameplay. Just don’t play it through in one go, or you might never be able to do sums again.
This vehicular melee idea puts the game closer to Burnout than Driver. You earn focus by popping wheelies on a motorbike or from drifting and colliding with street furniture. You can use that focus to boost your speed or slow time while you shoot your gun out of the window. One of the more unfeasible stunts is to swing your car 180 degrees, shoot the tires and radiator of the car following you (topping it off with a shot to the driver’s face), and then flip another 180 and carry on driving. The focus tests have been positive, and you can see why – it’s instantly fun to play, and a laugh to watch. Vin Diesel is no comic actor – the humor comes from the lunacy - the absolute barking insanity in which Vin’s character, Milo Burik, remains heroically serious as he flips and spins at waves of oncoming traffic, all guns blazing.
Which brings us to the plot. As a synopsis, it reads a bit like Need for Speed Undercover. You’re a cop who has to work his way into the underground by driving fast and often. But it’s much more varied and engaging than NFS’ repetitive chases and dire cutscenes: it’s actually well-acted. You’ll ferry a man with a bomb strapped to his chest to a disposal expert, following his panicked and occasionally wrong directions as he guides you to the house. You’ll drive into the Spanish Metro and chase a hijacked subway train. All this, to reach the thief who stole ‘potentially nation-breaking’ information, before he sells it to the gangs you’re working for.