by Ingvi Snædal
reviewed on PS3
Cars with Guns
Driving high-powered vehicles with guns mounted on them is fun. It was fun as an arena deathmatch in Twisted Metal. It was fun as a story driven and seemingly open world in Interstate ‘76. It was even... ‘doable’ in Death Track: Resurrection. I’m sorry to say that, in Wheels of Destruction, it is none of the above. Even though it looks promising and sounds cool in theory, it is lacking most of the important aspects that make a good car combat game.
Modes and Maps
As Wheels of Destruction is built up as a purely online multiplayer arena-style car combat game, there is no story to speak of. No attempt is made to explain to the player why the world is as it is, why these deathmatches are taking place, or even what year it is. Designers usually lop in a titbit of background info in an attempt to make the player care about the outcome of the match and about continuing the struggle. In this game, the only incentive to keep fighting is scribbled on the global leaderboard.
The game modes are pretty poor for today’s market featuring only ‘Deatmatch’, ‘Team Deathmatch’, and ‘Capture the Flag’. Most car combat games shake it up a bit by introducing a new mode or a new take on a classic one, but Wheels of Destruction doesn’t even appear to be trying. There are, however, some ways of making the game a little bit more interesting. You can, for instance, choose to spawn as a random car each map, or select ‘firefight’ which removes all weapons from the map. It leaves you only the machine gun you start with, making your skill behind the wheel all that counts. While neither of those can be classified as “new”, they do break the monotony of round after round of the same stuff.
The maps are also very few but I found myself actually enjoying their structure and look. The maps are: Paris, Seattle, London, Tokyo, and Rome. They are very nicely structured on multiple levels, allowing for pretty cool jumps when you either hit a ramp to get up or drive off a ledge to get down. The scenery, as well as the cars themselves, are very aesthetically pleasing and the futuristic style of it complements the Tron-like style of the cars very well.
The cars are split into five different classes: ‘Soldier’, an all around fighting machine; ‘Assassin’, a fast but weak car stocked with ammunition; ‘Scout’, another fast but weak car with jet boosters which makes it perfect for hit and run attacks at the enemy flag; ‘Engineer’, a well shielded jet powered car with an enhanced radar system which allows him to see enemy locations all over the map; and last but not least, ‘Heavy’, a slow, heavily shielded tank on four wheels. The cars look alright when you first get a hold of them, but when you acquire a shield, lights appear on its surface, giving it a very nice Tron-like appearance. The visuals in this game are very well done and I’d honestly say that they deserve to keep their jobs. Everyone else, however, might want to update their CVs.
The level of enjoyment you get from any driving game is dependant on how it controls. How the car “feels” in your hands. Regrettably, this is exactly where Wheels of Destruction falls flat, nose-diving into the coarse asphalt beneath. There are only two control schemes in the options menu and the only difference between them are the shoulder buttons. One has R1 as primary fire and R2 as acceleration, making it an exercise in finger dexterity to shoot and drive forward at the same time, and the other has the R buttons as primary and secondary fire and the L buttons as acceleration and reverse. The second scheme I felt all right driving with but there is another problem that completely breaks the game for me.
The right analogue stick aims your gun and also steers your car. That means that whatever you are aiming at, your car is turning towards it. The right analogue stick is completely inert and I feel that it should have been used for aiming, allowing you to race in one direction while firing in another. Or better yet: allowing you to shoot back at someone who is chasing you. This also means that you cannot aim up or down, which is a shame considering the multiple levels the game’s maps feature. The auto-aim occasionally locks onto targets from the other levels, but when you want to go down, there’s no way of knowing beforehand whether you are jumping down to another level or into the abyss.
From a multiplayer focused car combat game with no story or customisation options, there is one thing I’d expect it to offer: a split-screen mode. Wheels of Destruction doesn’t have that. In the ‘Play’ menu, you do get the option of choosing online or offline. Online is what I have based this review on, as offline is exactly the same but populated by bots. A game like this offering no customisation options, no dedicated aim controls, no new game modes, and no split-screen action is a severely disabled entity. I’m inclined to suggest that you try out Death Track: Resurrection instead as it is a far superior product to this game, but read the review for it first, I’m sure you will end up wanting neither.
Visually pleasing, low price.
Useless controls, no split-screen, no variety.