by Joseph Barron
reviewed on X360
The core handling model is very arcade-y, encouraging epic drifts and handbrake turns as well as ludicrous slow-mo jumps and explosions. But it is nothing you haven’t seen before and its stiffness makes navigating through traffic on a motorbike unnecessarily difficult. However, as soon as you step out of a car you quickly realise that the driving is definitely Wheelman’s strength.
On-foot control is exceptionally bad considering this game runs on the same engine that powers Gears of War. The cover system requires back-to-basics use of the crouch button and the animation is really lacking in polish. Shooting is solid enough and the aiming is reminiscent of GTA IV, but the enemies you will be shooting at aren’t exactly the smartest. When you are out of the car the game feels distinctly “last-gen”.
On top of the story driven missions you get a whole raft of side missions, which are often more entertaining than the story. These include taxi fares, races, fugitive chases (point to point chases), rampages (destroying a certain amount of road side objects) and contracts (take out a specific enemy vehicle). Completing these objectives will upgrade some of your abilities, such as your car’s durability but you can very easily finish the game without ever doing them.
Wrapped around the gameplay is a story that you have probably seen before in countless action films and you will be hard pressed to feel emotionally connected to any of the characters. There are a couple of events later in the game that are clearly supposed to pull at your heart strings, but frankly the storytelling was so disjointed that I was still struggling to figure out who everyone was. On top of all this, the voice acting is really poor, even Vin Diesel himself sounds robotic.
In the last act of the story the game tries to present the player with a sense of choice by offering 3 missions, only 1 of which you can play, but as the story makes no sense you are unlikely to feel the impact of your decision. Besides, whichever choice you make ultimately results in you undertaking a structurally identical mission anyway, just in a different part of the city and with a different character dying at the end of it.
Entertaining at time
My major gripe with the game is that it can be very buggy. Very occasionally you see traffic spawn out of thin air and during my review play through I experienced one glitch that broke the game entirely. I failed a mission by being pulled from my car by a police officer, but upon reloading a checkpoint the animation of the cop pulling me from the vehicle just kept on repeating over and over again. The only solution was to restart the mission (which I was already 10-15 minutes into) from the beginning.
It can’t be denied that Wheelman is fantastically entertaining at times, but it is all buried under a steaming pile of glitches and action movie clichés that make it difficult to ever get truly immersed in. Factor in its short length and lack of multiplayer and you have got a title that is good for a rainy weekend’s gaming, but not much more.
No Pros and Cons at this time