Product Type: Ubisoft Xbox 360 games
Newest Review: ... kind of makes sense after seeing the tv promos for it is that Wheelman was also meant to be a film. All I can say is that I doubt many t... more
Wheelman-An average game featuring a hollywood name?
The Wheelman (Xbox 360)
Member Name: Stunt 101
The Wheelman (Xbox 360)
Advantages: It has Vin Diesel in it, and it's good fun for a few hours...
Disadvantages: ...but after that it becomes a grind, and there's very little depth.
Wheelman-An average game featuring a hollywood name?
The struggling publisher Midway has finally gone down under. With poor, low selling games like Hour of Victory, Blacksite and more, this has come back to bite the once legend of Arcade gaming and now they are currently being bidded for by other companies. But for some reason, Ubisoft decided to make sure that Wheelman was released. After three years of development, Vin Diesel's new game is finally on shelves despite Midway's downfall. If this didn't have Vin Diesel behind it, I probably would have avoided this, but because of how much I loved The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay on the old Xbox, I hoped that the same kind of awesomeness would translate to this game too. Does its Diesel powered engine take it far?
You are Milo Burik, an undercover agent who is spectacular in a car apparently. He needs to get deep into the three gangs running the city by doing what ever it takes, and stop what could be a global threat. That's about as deep as it goes unfortunately. The problem with Wheelman is that it's quite confusing to follow. You're not sure who's stabbing who in the back because you're constantly switching sides, and the prescence of some characters in the game can be odd as you have no clue what their purpose is until the game of the game. And let's just say that Burik is not a very likeable character, as he's constantly bragging about how he's 'the best damn driver in Barcelona' which to be honest is probably far from true. His cocky and care-free attitude gets old before the 10 hour campaign is over and it becomes very grating towards the end. Milo is no Riddick, to say the least.
Wheelman is a single-player only open world game where rather than mixing driving and shooting like GTA or Saints Row, the game focuses a lot more on the driving style of gameplay. You can treat it like an open world game and drive to your next objectives/missions, or if you're the lazy type just use your map to start missions. Story missions can be started instantly from the map and if you want to do side missions you can get in a vehicle then start the mission from the map. There's very little reason to explore the open world, aside from finding hidden jumps and cat statues which reward you with only achievements. It not only cuts down on time if you use the map, but it's a lot more convinient. Unlike Godfather II, Wheelman has one large map of Barcelona, which isn't even an accurate re-creation and is far too big as driving everywhere is a pain. It's also complete uninteractive, making Wheelman's open world a waste.
However, things mostly fare better in terms of core gameplay. At least when driving anyways. Missions are a combination of driving and on-foot missions which are like night and day. First the good-driving in Wheelman is great thanks to fine handling and a quite nifty new innovation. The game lets you perform vehicle melee, a move initiated by swerving the right analog stick either left, right or forward depending on which direction you want to attack. It adds something quite new to the genre as it's a move that can cause huge explosions as you ram another car into the wall and cause it to blow up. The missions requiring you to drive can be a bit stale, as basically you're always either stealing another car or driving to escape or something along those lines, but the awesome car melee combat makes Wheelman quite innovative in terms of driving in the open world genre. There's quite a selection of vehicles to choose from too, including motorbikes, sport cars, bigger trucks and even bigger tankers and depending which you use, taking out enemies can be either easy or quite a challenge.
The other elements in Driving come in the form of hijacking and other methods of combat. If your car is about to explode you can perform a move where you jump from your car to a nearby car. It's not new-Pursuit Force on the PSP let you do this move as well, but here it's with shinier graphics. There are also a couple of combat manouvures too, which can greatly assist you when you're under attack. These are the Cyclone and Precision Aim moves, which can only be used by driving fast and doing other dangerous stunts to fill up an adrenaline meter. Once it's full enough you can perform either a precision aim-a move which you target at an enemy in front of you, and the cyclone, where you spin your vehicle around to kill enemies from behind. The cyclone in particular is pretty awesome-especially on motorbikes where you spin around on your bike while keeping steady. It will wow people passing by and never gets old.
Unfortunately, the other half of gameplay is pants. That is the shooting portions of the game, where you must exit the vehicle and shoot enemies on foot. There are so many reasons why these sections suck. Weapons aren't very powerful meaning it could take a whole clip to kill an enemy; the A.I. is pathetic as they actually stand next to explosive barrels which are littered around the level, there are instances where you die from cheap deaths as explosive barrels randomly blow up next to you from nowhere, targeting sucks as if an enemy is too far away you can lock onto them and free aim sucks too. Milo takes so much damage that while you can suffer from cheap deaths you only die on those occasions and the cover system sucks as, well, there is none:P. You must instead crouch under objects to take cover, which is clunky and hard to come to grips with. In short, these sections are lame and hurt the overall game.
The story missions can become a bit repetitive after a while, but the action is broken up by amusing side missions, which in truth, are actually a bit more fun than the main campaign. There are several different types of side mission. There's Taxi, the Crazy Taxi style missions where you must drive from one point to another, Rampage where you must destroy as much property as you can a la Burnout and many more which while borrowing elements from other games are great fun. They're quick, easy to get sucked into and very addictive. The only thing is that to unlock more side missions, you must not only play through the main storyline until you've unlocked every area of Barcelona, but also get at least an A ranking to unlock them, which is easier said than done in some cases. However, the side missions provide plenty of pick up and play fun and there are over 105 of them so there are plenty of missions to dig your teeth into.
Graphically, Wheelman can be quite mixed. On the one hand, the car models look very good, with smooth edges and nice colours. Vin's character model looks pretty good, though you'll notice that some of his clothes are quite blurry. And the city looks pretty good, considering how large it is, though some areas repeat too often. Unfortunately, there are some really ugly issues. Aside from Diesel, characters look poor with rough edges and weird clothes textures which look constantly creased. And the animation during gameplay is poor, particularly Milo's running animation. The animation during cutscene isn't much better, as the lip synching is quite weird. The explosions are okay, but inconsistent as sometimes causing huge damage doesn't cause explosions, yet doing less punishment will cause one. Sometimes Wheelman will wow you visually, yet at other times it will make your eyes bleed.
The soundtrack is the highlight, with a huge mix of music from different genres like Rap, Rock, Pop and more as well as some nice themed music to go alone with the Barcelona setting. Unfortunately, the rest of the sound goes downhill. Diesel does a good job of acting, but everyone else sounds average with horrible stereotypes plauging the game. The dialogue is also laughable, with more cheesy one-liners than you can shake a stick at, adding to the action film vibe, but taking away from the seriousness. Cars sound good, but most of the sound effects are underwhelming with poor gun firing and average explosions. Overall, the only good thing about the sound is the soundtrack, and that's not nearly enough to make up for poor acting and lame sound effects. It's also worth noting that there are some sound glitches, like jumping music and voice work cutting off mid sentance.
Wheelman is a bit low on value for money. The main quest will take about 7 hours to complete, though that will be increased to about 17 hours with the side missions added on. After that, there's nothing to do. There's only finding cat statues or jumps, but whats the point aside from achievements? Speaking of which, the 50 achievements are rather bog standard. Complete X number of certain side missions, perform X number of hijack jumps and find X number of cat statues. It's quite generic, and only really rewards you if you can get S rankings on all side missions, which is ridiculously hard unless you have true skill. There isn't any stand out achievements and the list becomes quite a grind. On top of the other issues with the value for money, the only Live support is DLC, and with Midway now defunct, it's questionable whether there will be DLC now.
Is Wheelman good, bad or ugly?
Wheelman is a fun game for a good few hours, with its awesome action and fun side missions, but after that the story missions grow old, the technical issues pile up and the game becomes more of a daily grind rather than being an enjoyable experience. There's just not enough depth here to satisfy most gamers, which is a shame because the new melee combat is unique and worth exploring, but only with either a rental or a very cheap purchase if you can find one. Wheelman, in the end, can be a fun game for a while but ultimately grows old and doesn't keep you engaged across its seven hour campaign, and there isn't enough content here to justify a £40 purchase. If you're just looking for some cheap thrills then by all means give this a go, but everyone else should stick to GTAIV, Saints Row 2 or Crackdown for free-roaming thrills.
Wheelman was released on March 27th, 2009 for the Xbox 360, Playsation 3 and PC. It's rated 15+ for moderate violence and criminal behaviour and can be purchased from £30-40.
Summary: Sad as it is, if Midway's games were all going to be as average as this, it's no they're bankrupt.
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