The latest entry from the Vin Diesel-powered Tigon Studios opens with an adrenaline-spiking cinematic car chase
- Action-movie quality fun, insane vehicular combat and pursuits, ability to highjack cars mid-chase
- Gameplay falls flat when you're not behind the wheel
Vin Diesel car-jacking 18-wheelers in bullet-time while unloading shotgun blasts into passing motorcycles? Yeah, I can dig it.
Price$ 109.95 (AUD)
The latest entry from the Vin Diesel-powered Tigon Studios (and Midway Newcastle) opens with an adrenaline-spiking cinematic car chase that makes Bond and Bourne's behind-the-wheel antics look like a driver's ed class; as the titular driver-for-hire, you're immediately thrust into a blockbuster-worthy scenario that sees you weaving through oncoming traffic, blasting down too-narrow back alleys, and hitting top speeds as you leave twisted metal, shattered glass and fiery explosions in your wake. It's a seat-of-your-pants opening that adequately sets the stage for what's to come in this GTA-meets-Burnout romp.
As Vin Diesel -- I mean, undercover agent Milo -- you'll infiltrate all corners of Barcelona's crime syndicate through a series of missions and side quests. You'll spend much of the game in the driver's seat, and that's a good thing as Wheelman's at its pulse-pounding best when you're behind the wheel, engaging in car-to-car battles, or simply turning a sidewalk cafe into a sea of overturned tables, flying umbrellas, and fleeing pedestrians. The driving mechanics are accessible and tight, allowing you to pull off slick stunts with ease; you'll never have to worry about being stalled by accidents or obstacles either, as not even a head-on collision with a brick wall will keep you from the action for more than a few seconds. Realistic? No. Fun? Absolutely!
The vehicular chaos only gets better when you factor in the game's Focus Meter which you fill by destroying objects, speeding, and generally driving like an a-hole (although, running down civilians will deplete the meter). With a brimming Focus Meter, players can unleash a pretty standard temporary speed-booster, but my favourite focus powers let me combine my rubber-burning skills with some good ole' fashioned gunplay. One ability slows time and shifts the perspective to your vehicle's interior, while a reticule allows you to get an accurate bead on the road-blocking baddies up ahead. Even cooler, though, is the aptly dubbed "cyclone" manoeuvre that lets you pull a 180 while popping rounds at tires, gas tanks and driver's heads.
Get Back In The Car
Complemented by super-stylised cinematics filled with screen-devouring explosions and other action-infused staples pulled right from the popcorn movie playbook, taking out highway hoodlums is endlessly fun. Of course, you can always highjack new vehicles should yours get dinged up; you can do this by exiting your smoke-spitting jalopy and hoofing it to another car or you can just climb out the window of your speeding deathtrap and perform an "airjack", which is as fun as it sounds.
When players aren't tearing up the blacktop, they're controlling Milo in on-foot missions. These aren't nearly as exciting, primarily because third-person running-and-gunning has already been done so much better in other games. Thankfully, though, you're behind the wheel for most of the game's mission-packed duration. And whether you're fleeing to a safe-house in a suped-up sports car, or unloading an Uzi from behind the handle bars of a scooter, you'll find Wheelman's at its action-amping best when you're on the road.
Wheelman definitely treads a tricky path, as it doesn't pack the gameplay variety or character-driven narration of a Grand Theft Auto, nor does it offer the depth of a dedicated car combat title such as Burnout. However, its arcadey addictiveness and cinematic style successfully lands it in a sweet spot right between those two genres, taking players for a ride that's totally on par with the summer movie excitement it emulates.
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