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Wheelman Review

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Developer: Midway Games Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: March 24, 2009 Available On: PC, PS3 and Xbox 360

A few months ago the once proud publisher out of Chicago – Midway Games – nearly collapsed under its own morass of mediocrity. It filed for bankruptcy protection, sold off the publishing rights to Wheelman and is possibly negotiating to sell their Mortal Kombat franchise. While the company may suffer the same fatality of their more colorful video game characters, gamers will suffer from an unfinished racing/shooting game hybrid that fails on nearly every level.

Let’s start with the racing mechanic. This is the core element of the game. So basically you get to roam around the city of Barcelona, Spain and do missions for various gangs. Sounds interesting enough, until they introduce you to the main character. His name is Milo Burik, who is both voice acted by Vin Diesel and has his likeness. Unfortunately the character models are ugly and the sound seems to be recorded by the Taliban (i.e. it’s not very good quality).

I digress. The racing in the game is relatively solid until they introduce a few action elements. I thought that it was pretty cool that they added an analog stick vehicle melee feature that I suppose you could compare to takedowns in Burnout. Basically you use the analog stick and point in the direction you want to slam into a rival car. This works and they should have left it at that. Instead they had to throw in the ridiculous ability to jump from car to car. I guess that Vin Diesel is some kind of super hero.

Things get worse from there. After a few car missions they will quickly introduce you to the on-foot missions. This feels quite a bit like the older Grand Theft Auto games and that certainly is not a good thing. You aim, you lock on and you fire. That is when the controls decide to cooperate with you. Seeing as there is no cover system at all you will have to hide behind objects in order to avoid on-coming fire from enemies. On the other hand they are so stupid that you likely will not be threatened by them very often.

When Wheelman doesn’t try to be a Burnout-meets-Grand Theft Auto (which isn’t often) it can actually be an enjoyable game. There are a number of side missions that you can choose from in order to kill time or just distract yourself from the mundane storyline. Most of the missions in the game are sort of taxi driver ones where you escort someone to a certain place. Others put you deep inside enemy territory where you will have to make it alive to a set point on the map.

What do you get when you have Vin Diesel, cars, guns and Midway as the lead developer? A bad game of course! Wheelman had the makings of a good game. You have Hollywood talent, a decent driving engine and well, not a whole lot else. This is definitely a game that needed to be in development for longer, but given the dire financial position of Midway, that probably was not possible for them. There isn’t a circumstance in which I could recommend this game to anyone, even as a rental.

Graphics: 4
Sound: 4
Gameplay: 4
Creativity: 5
Replay Value/Game Length: 5
Final: 4.2
Written by Kyle Write a User Review