by Videep Vijay Kumar
Did I have any expectations for a video game featuring Vin Diesel and a lot of driving? Of course not. On the other hand, campy action movies are without doubt, my thing. I dig preposterous dialogue full of cliché, macho one-liners and bucketloads of cheese. There's hardly anything more entertaining. Wheelman has a lot of this, and then some. And this is not necessarily a good thing because it's the 'then some' part that's the problem. Yeah, there's an insane amount of over-the-top action, and yeah, there's a semi-convincing open-world version of Barcelona to drive in and blow stuff up, but the fundamentally broken gameplay, downright dumb AI and lack of mission variety all bring this game down.
Vin 'Milo Burik' Diesel bringing the pwnage
In the game, you play as Milo Burik (voiced by and modelled after the one and only Vin Diesel), who arrives in Barcelona in search of information. There wouldn't be much of a plot if Burik didn't get involved in some sort gang war, now would there? Funnily enough, it's not much of a plot even after Burik gets involved in said gang war. Anyway, it becomes quite obvious to everyone that Burik is one hell of a 'Wheelman', a maniacal driving specialist. “How does it become obvious?”, you ask? It's because Burik goes around telling everyone he's a 'wheelman'. Very subtle, don't you think? Since this is a video game and not a 'realistic' Hollywood movie (which is no place for over-the-top stunts, by the way), Burik is able to perform mind-blowing, physics-defying moves such as the Vehicle Attack, the 'Airjack' and more! In the 'Airjack', for example, we see Diese.. er.. Burik jump about ten dozen yards from his vehicle, and then accurately landing bang-inside another car, taking control of it! The other moves aren't quite so preposterous, but are brilliant in terms of camp value. Throw in some super slow-mo ala The Matrix, and you've got a pretty awesome visual feast. Now if only the game wasn't so frickin' lame.La policia hit the deck when Vin Diesel is around
Now to the storytelling. Wheelman's plot is very mysterious. Now, this has nothing to do with a complex plot-line, interesting characters, or cryptic dialogues. It's mysterious, because there happen to be a bunch of factions in Barcelona (including the CIA!) who hate each other and are very open to the idea of blowing each others brains out, and the only way to get to the bottom of things is to work for all of them. Very mysterious, indeed, simply because there aren't any attempts to tell a story of any kind. Not even the cheesy/campy dialogue can save such gaping holes in the plot. The open-world environment doesn't help either. For starters, everything has been blatantly ripped off from GTA IV, which one might think isn't a bad thing. But then again, one could simply just play GTA IV, and that would be an infinitely more fulfilling experience. Oh, and this 'sandbox' adventure's 'story' mode takes about 7-9 hours to labour through, and if memory serves right, that's shorter than like, GTA 2.
Wheelman's mission system is a bit rubbish as well. The first few are a breeze to complete, but the difficulty spikes make life truly miserable. Whatever happened to progressive and transitional difficulty levels? Doesn't every single game have it these days? The side-missions seem pretty cool, but ultimately end up being pointless simply because the rewards gained are insubstantial, and are not required to complete the 'story' mode. Okay, forget the missions, forget the story. Let's talk about the fact that Wheelman often feels like a beta build. There are an absurdly large number of physics bugs. You can run over trees, walls, but get stuck on say, a piece of cardboard or a box. Kill a bunch of enemies, and they magically come back to life and take a stroll in one of Barcelona's pretty parks. Midway, please stop insulting gamers' intelligence by releasing something that looks to have been coded by a bunch of teenagers on a Red Bull high.
So, does Wheelman actually have any redeeming elements?Sure, Vin Diesel's one-liners are great, but there's nothing that can make up for the overall shoddiness of gameplay. The game is 'fun' on some level. It's ridiculous, over-the-top and dumb. The graphics look alright and Burnout Paradise-ing your way through Barcelona isn't all bad.