While most Hollywood stars wouldn’t think twice about signing off on a crappy movie tie-in game, Vin Diesel takes games seriously–perhaps more seriously than his films, seeing as his virtual performance in The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay was much more well-received than the movie upon which it was based. Now, Midway and Vin Diesel’s Tigon Studios are teaming up for Wheelman, a criminal mission-based driving game, and Midway gave the press a look at the game at its recent Las Vegas event.
Virtual Vin Diesel will play the part of Milo Burik, the titular Wheelman who appears to be your typically stoic, guttural, and tough-as-nails Vin Diesel character. Little specific detail about the story, though we know the game kicks off with an explosive escape from a bank robbery, and you’ll end up involved with some salty Romanian gangster. The game will take place in Barcelona, and while the city will be dotted with recognizable landmarks, the actual geography of the city will be different, ostensibly for the sake of playability. The structure of the game itself seems to bear more than a passing resemblance to Atari’s Driver series, though a nice sense of speed and some over-the-top physics already set it apart.
While Midway was happy to reference films like Ronin, The Bourne Identity, Bullitt, and Vanishing Point as inspirations for Wheelman, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Burnout during my time with the game, mostly because of the prominent vehicle melee system. Rather than just grinding enemy vehicles into walls or knocking them into oncoming traffic, though, you’ll use the right analog stick to violently slam your car into enemies. The movement of your car in the vehicle melee attacks is distractingly severe at the moment, but it seems like a pretty novel take on vehicular combat.
You will also be able to perform some vehicle super-moves, one of which will be the cyclone. When triggered, the cyclone will cause the action to slow down and your car to spin around, with the perspective dropping inside the car and your control switching to Milo’s gun hand. As you spin, targets will appear on nearby enemy vehicles that, if you can hit them, will disable the vehicles. While the bulk of the action in Wheelman will take place behind the wheel, you can also expect some on-foot action, which I’m told is based on the same tech used in John Woo’s Stranglehold.
Save for the plastic-looking character model that makes Milo Burik look more like a Vin Diesel action figure than the actual dude, Wheelman looks pretty good, and I see some good potential in stuff like the vehicle melee and super-moves. Wheelman is currently slated for release on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 this fall.