Wheelman offers a great experience early on in the game. Giving you diverse missions and a real fun melee system. Problems occur later on in the game when it gets a bit to messy for its own good.
For the most part, Wheelman focuses on a solid driving experience that is reminiscent of the old Driver games. What this game does to separate itself from Driver is taking it to the next level. Instead of simply driving and relying on your own skills as a driver, Wheelman makes you feel like your the king of kings in driving, with your ability to air jack other cars and its use of a melee system every time you’re in a vehicle.
The story of Wheelman is a rather simply one to tell. You play as Milo, an undercover cop set out on the streets of Barcelona to wreck havoc for all the known gangs and eventually pitting them against one another. In a weird way, Wheelman takes itself a bit to seriously with both its poorly written dialog and its poorly written story which never really seems to flesh itself out. For half of the game you go searching for some gang member while the other half leads you pitting each gang member against one another which is stupid because in the first half you work together with them to get what you want. Its all probably just a way to establish Milo as a badass character in one way or another.
Which brings us to the main character; Milo. Milo is played by none other then famed actor Vin Diesel of xXx fame. Not just in likeness but in voice as well, so you get the full Vin Diesel experience. It’s kind of hard to exactly explain the type of character Milo is, as most of his dialog is a bunch of non sequitur’s and one liners which is probably the best way to sum up Vin Diesels acting in general. Aside from cutscences, one or two phone conversations and some odd ramblings, Milo doesn’t talk much. Which makes a lot of the early on in the game conversations quite comedic as it would seem that there would be a segment where he would talk but nothing comes out. Later on in the game they almost seem to cover it up or at least give an explanation, which just seems like a half-assed way of doing it when they simply could of just gone back and redo the audio conversations.
But, we’re not here to delve on the story of Wheelman as it’s just a means to an end. What matters in this game is the gameplay and on that note it delivers. A lot of your time playing Wheelman involves the main campaign; to which offers you a diversity of missions. From a simple run after enemy, keep the passenger scared to listening to the passenger give directions. There was plenty of diversity in most missions and they don’t repeat as much so it kept things fresh. Unfortunately, that diversity doesn’t last long as the second half just becomes a generic mess of you going to some area making stuff explode, run away from the scene only to be chased by hordes and hordes of enemies cars. Which leads to another problem in this game: the chase scenes.
All action-based driving games have these, but Wheelman uses it in an rather unusual manner. Once the chase sequences begins there is only one way of ending it and that’s by heading to your destination. Otherwise, the cars will follow you till eternity. Cars continuously re-spawn over and over with no sense of remorse, even to the point that they go ahead and spawn ahead of you. So very rarely do you find yourself in a quiet moment during these sequences which come to often and far too frequent, to the point that it is killing the experience.
Police chases (yes you do get chased by police) work a lot it the same way except that there are ways to get rid of them. Whenever you find yourself in trouble with the law, your GPS will indicated all incoming Police cars and a big fat circle indicating there “line of sight” or whatever its called. Much like GTA4 getting out of that circle will cause the police to forget about you, and by then, your back on your way to do whatever it was that you were doing. What they don’t tell you is exactly how to get out of that line of sight. Initially, I thought that I just had to out run them and as soon as I was out of there vision; they’d be gone. But no, that’s not the case, as other police cars will just go ahead and spawn ahead of you. What you have to do is continuously make sharp turns as you get further and further away from the police.
Aside from the chase parts of the game Wheelman offers a lot of interesting additions to driving a vehicle. Probably the best of all of them is the Melee attack. Using the right analog stick, you can hit oncoming cars from the left, right and in front of your own vehicle. It actually feels rather satisfying to do so and if you smash them up enough they eventually blow up burnout style which is always entertaining to watch. Other then using the right analog to attack you can use it to avoid a head on collisions with wall’s or avoid some other car trying to melee you.
Some other skills include slowing down time to get aimed shot at enemy cars both in front and behind you, a nitro-like boost and the ability to air jack other cars which can be pretty entertaining to watch. Using the aimed shots can be very use full as they show weakness in vehicles to exploit, and though the aiming is a bit wonky, it just takes a few tries to get it down right and everything else is almost entirely useless.
Using boost does make your car go faster and if you are chasing after a vehicle it does get you very much closer to your target, but when you use it to get away from enemy gangs or the police its doesn’t work out quiet well as it seems when you go to boost they seem to join you for the ride. It could be a bug, I’m not sure, but it is very annoying when you are trying to out run five cars chasing after you only to find out that they move just as fast as you… at the same time.
And the air jack? Its probably a useful tool in theory, but much like the boost it doesn’t quite work out properly. When you are moving at high speed and you go and do the air jack sequence (which is basically you holding down a button till an icon indicates its time for you to let go) you realize the car your air jacking isn’t moving as fast as you and there are a few seconds till you get back at high paced speed. Which mean those five cars are right beside you and can shoot out your tires rather quickly. Also, when joined by a passenger and you decide to air jack the passenger does not go along with you for the ride. Instead, your passenger jumps out your car and goes and runs after you in the current car you’re in. In most cases I had to drive in reverse and wait for the passenger to stupidly make his way to the car, all the while, enemies are shooting at my car as I just sit there and wait and can only start to see my car go slowly in flames. If you are beginning to ask yourself which is a better way to fend off the enemies, I’d say that the air jack is the is the better option as sometimes the enemies just drive right passed you and have to go in reverse to catch up to you.
Other then driving you can go off and walk around the city of Barcelona and see exactly how life-less the town is. There’s plenty of cars and pedestrians when your moving fast but when your walking waiting for that nice Bike or Convertible come your way, you’ll find yourself waiting quite a while. Not only can you walk around but many missions also take you on foot and do some shooting sequences. Shooting isn’t anything bad per se but its nothing exactly riveting either. AI is super dumb and can be taken down with a few shots. There is however, a rather clever auto cover in which you press the crouch button and whenever you have an aimed shot and fire; Milo will go back in standing form to shoot away the bad guys till you stop at which point he goes back and crouches behind cover. There is nothing really wrong with the none driver parts but whenever you do enter these sequences you do get rather annoyed by its frequency and sheer amount of times you have to do it.
Graphically the world of Barcelona looks fine. There have been a few people mention to me that such buildings and monuments are actually in the city. Everything looks Unrealish and Vin Diesel looks just fine as Vin Diesel. Cutscnes are pretty much Milo and some other guy standing in one spot as they talk to each other so nothing exactly riveting there. They seem to have there own set of custom music however, you only hear it when your just free roaming the city as entering a mission will have its own music that is heard far too often and very forgettable.
Anytime you are not doing a mission, you can enter your GPS and see what other things there are to do. You GPS marks down side missions which improve some of your stats when driving, And also mark campaign missions and and choose to enter the from there which takes a lot of repetitions. Side missions are your generic bunch, ranging from racing, smashing everything up, to a bunch of crazy taxi type clones. Their mainly there for you to take a break from the main campaign but aren’t exactly fun themselves.
Wheelman seemed to have the right path early on in the game. It offered clever missions styles and some interesting features to make driving a lot more fun. But as the game trugs along it seems like it wants to continuously hit its climax over and over again. Combat is not Wheelman’s strong point and at some point its developers forgot that. There are plenty of neat ideas that the game does but they never seemed to flesh them out and instead took the easy path of instant action here and now. If your looking for a game that is a more arcadic Driver experience, then Wheelman is your best bet. But if your just looking for a quality game, you should try some place else.