Vin Diesel is a gamer, which should be good news if he’s in a game and he’s providing his likeness and his voice. Tigon Studios oversaw Escape from Butcher Bay and it was one of the best games on the Xbox, so can Vin appear in yet another fantastic game, this time in Barcelona instead of space? Well, it’s complicated and I’ll explain why.
Wheelman takes the GTA-style open world of racing and gun combat and puts the emphasis on driving. When pelting along at full speed it feels like you’re playing Burnout which can’t be a bad thing, and with a flick of the right analogue stick you can ram other cars to the left, right or in front and cause them to flip over in a satisfying ball of flames. You can also ‘Air Jack’ other vehicles by locking onto them and leaping from the car you’re driving onto the roof of the other, yanking out the driver, thus seamlessly continuing your escape or pursuit if your car was on fire.
You won’t spend much time on foot but when it’s called for you can lock onto enemies and duck behind objects if you need to clear out an enemy gang. You can also use your bullets inside the car as well in the form of ‘Aimed Shots’ and ‘Cyclone’ super moves. If you have enough focus in your focus meter acquired from driving well, you can tap the d-pad to slow everything down and get a view from inside the car. Now you can destroy cars, bikes and road blocks by lining up your crosshair with the target and releasing a single deadly shot.
It all sounds and looks good doesn’t it? The problem just comes with some of the execution. To begin with, loading screens appear between every mission if you choose to select them from the PDA without driving there yourself. Because a lot of missions are relatively short that’s a lot of loading screens you’ll be staring at. The side missions are also a bit samey. There are lots of different missions dotted round the city such as escaping the cops, being a taxi driver, performing hits etc, but once you’ve done one, they don’t vary enough when you do another one in a different location.
When it comes to how the game looks, the Unreal engine provides a great frame rate and speedy action, but some of the textures look dreadful. Bullet holes sometimes float in front of objects and Vin himself looks like Mr Potato Head. He looked better in the Xbox Riddick game. Reflections on cars are also cheated, they’re not real-time reflections of what’s around you so you end up with the same building and skyline following you around. Look behind you and it’s nowhere to be seen – creepy!
Wheelman certainly provides some brainless action and I’m sure the film provides the same – just don’t expect any deep gameplay or that extra spit and polish we’ve seen from recent triple-A titles. Wheelman gets a fun 6 out of 10.
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