If Vin Diesel wants to turn Wheelman into a movie he’s going to have to stump up a budget of about $5 billion. That should just about cover the hundreds of cars that explode, the thousands of objects that get flattened, and the special effects that allow vehicles to melee attack one another and Diesel to leap between cars travelling at 100mph.
It’s this utter ridiculousness and complete disregard for even the tiniest shred of believability that makes it impossible not to enjoy the game. You’ll probably hate yourself for liking it so much, but everyone has at least one guilty gaming pleasure. For loud, brash thrills and sheer stupidity, few games can match it. You won’t care about the plot – Diesel drives rival gangs around Barcelona – because it’s utter nonsense. You could probably make up a better one on the back of a cigarette packet (although smoking isn’t big or clever). If he’s supposed to be undercover and playing the different gangs off against each other, why is he always so keen to draw attention to himself by creating absolute carnage?
No, the only thing that matters here is what happens when you get behind the wheel. With a flick of the right stick, your car shunts sideways into an enemy. Slam into a car enough times and it’ll explode, flip about ten feet into the air and send parts scattering into pedestrians and other vehicles. It has to be seen to be believed. And if your car gets busted up, you can simply ‘AirJack’ a vehicle by lining up behind it and pressing a button when the arrow indicator turns green to leap.
By driving fast and avoiding innocent pedestrians you build up a Focus meter that lets you perform two even more outrageous stunts. Being chased by multiple vehicles? With enough Focus you can do a 180 turn and line up the target reticule in slow-mo over each vehicle’s weak spot, then flip back around without losing speed. If there’s a roadblock ahead, you can do the same focus shot only facing forwards.
These moves should get old, and yet somehow they don’t. Shame the same can’t be said for the on-foot shooting sections, which are as unwieldy as one of the earlier GTA games and probably as bad as the on-foot bits in the Driver games (that’s incredibly bad). The lock-on loves snapping to the wrong enemy, though you can get away with free aiming from such a distance that enemies take damage yet don’t react to getting shot.
There’s a healthy supply of side missions which add a welcome bit of variety, but it’s probably not enough to make you want to revisit the game once you’ve completed the main story missions. In fact, Wheelman is one of those games that you may balk at paying full-price for, but won’t be able to resist renting for a weekend, playing to death and having a brilliant time with. And you thought it was going to be a five-minute wonder – so wrong.
Mar 30, 2009