GC 2008: Wheelman Preview
Written Thursday, September 25, 2008 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Right, let’s get all preconceptions cleared now before we start up here. Wheelman is not a racing simulator, nor is it really an arcade racing game, if I had to categorise it sat here now, I’d call it more of an action game. Yes, it’s true, there is tonnes of driving in it and that’s what you’ll spend most of your time doing, but the focus isn’t on the style of the driving. It pretty much aims to be an interactive Hollywood movie from the off, I mean, even early on the Tigon Studios developed title is looking to set the cinematic tone and style of the game.
Wheelman is set in the Spanish city of Barcelona and behind the cities’ hot weather, beautiful women and fiesta style atmosphere, lies a dark criminal underworld which is where our main protagonist steps in. Mylo Burrick who is voiced by and has the likeness of Vin Diesel, is an undercover agent who gets thrown in head first in to a huge escalating gang war as he attempts to save someone from his past. The world you are cast in to is not an exact copy of Barcelona as Tigon have decided to exercise their artistic license in the city to create a better experience, but with over 30 landmarks featuring in the level, we’re sure that unless you know Barcelona well, you’d be hard pushed to tell the difference.
One of the levels on show at this year’s Games Convention was the opening level where Burrick must help one of his contacts escape from a bank robbery with the police in hot pursuit. At this point as Burrick is dashing through the streets, driving through benches, trees, you name it, it’s clear that the intention of Tigon Studios is not to create a realistic driving experience. The focus is most definitely on the speed, pursuit and experience as a whole and they clearly don’t want any small obstacle slowing you down on the way. This in another sense makes the game really accessible to all types of gamers, ranging from the casual to the hardcore.
In order to create the illusion of a Hollywood movie, Tigon have taken it on board to throw in plenty of Hollywood style stunts... You know, the completely unrealistic, over the top stunts that are only ever present in movies ... Wheelman has plenty of them.
The first of these worth mentioning is the vehicle combat system. With a simple nudge of the right thumbstick, you can throw the car across the road. You are in effect using the car then as a powerful battering ram and slamming your opponents in to railings or surrounding architecture provides some text book Hollywood smashes and explosions. As you progress through the game, your opponents will start to use the same moves on you, so expect a bumpy ride.
Now with all that bashing and what not that you’ll no doubt be involved in, chances are you’ll need to change your car pretty frequently but fear not, it is not as arduous as it may sound. The vehicles do take persistent damage which is represented by a real time damage definition model, so you’ll know when you need to change car just by looking at it. When this moment arises, you’ll need to pull up behind or alongside the vehicle you want to switch to and then with a simple click of a button, Burrick will perform an “air jump” and perform some fancy flip from your battered car to your desired car of choice.
My personal favourite feature of the whole demo was most definitely the “cyclone attack” which is possibly the most elaborate weapon of the game and something that you’d definitely only really see in Hollywood. With the “cyclone attack” your car will perform a 180 and as you are facing the wrong way, time slows giving you a window of opportunity to aim your gun to take out any pursuers. All you need to do to perform this behemoth of a move is to click down on the d-pad and Burrick will perform the “cyclone”. I kid you not, I swear Hollywood was never this fun!
Barcelona is a huge environment and spans a huge 2,000 square kilometres where you are not only confined to the roads, but Burrick can head down alley ways, through interiors and so on. The final game is said to feature 10 hours of story based missions and in addition the player can get involved in any of the 105 side missions that are dotted around the city. The side missions give you the chance to unlock a whole array of goodies to assist you on your missions, from weapon upgrades, storage garages, car upgrades to ammunition caches. The game really rewards the gamers that explore more than the core story arch which will please some. The game also features 3 different classes of vehicle to get the job done being; bikes, cars and trucks, each with their own characteristics so that they act differently. Just a warning though, don’t try using the bike’s combat system to take down a truck... It’s just not going to work!
In addition to the driving mode, Burrick can take to the streets of Barcelona on foot and take part in some third person action Hollywood style shoot-outs. If this isn’t your thing, you’ll be glad to know that only 20% of the game sees Burrick take to the streets on foot. We’ve not really seen a lot of this gameplay element yet, so we reserve judgement. Let’s hope it doesn’t go all Driv3r on our ass!
The emphasis on Wheelman falls entirely on high octane, over the top, Hollywood style chases and scenes. Wheelman by no means is trying to be a racer of any kind whatsoever, it’s just trying to create some pretty elaborate scenes and it does just that, while looking good as well. We won’t know entirely whether Wheelman will be worth shouting about till we’re sat with the review copy in hand but rest assured, Vin is coming baby and he’s trying to create a whole load of commotion on the way.
Wheelman will be available in Q1 2009 on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.