|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Midway / Tigon||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 24, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
You're sitting in a chair watching Vin Diesel behind the wheel of a heavily damaged car, attempting to escape a group of gun-wielding enemies. He meets with some success after slamming into a couple of henchmen on motorcycles, leaving both the bikes and their riders rolling end over end in his wake, but he is still by no means safe.
While being nudged by enemy vehicles and taking bullets through shattered car windows, time suddenly slows down. Vin spins his car 180 degrees as he pulls out a pistol, which he uses with pinpoint accuracy to quickly take out his pursuers' engines, resulting in several fiery explosions. As the car seems to magically spin back around to its previous heading, you look down and realize that you're holding a controller. What you've just witnessed wasn't a scene from a new movie starring Vin Diesel, it was actually just a typical car chase in Wheelman.
Although it probably sounds more than a little cliché, the best way to describe Wheelman is the video game equivalent of a mindless popcorn flick. This is partially because of the game's focus on constant, over-the-top and unrealistic action but this comparison is also quite apt due to the almost non-existent story that serves only to loosely justify and explain the mayhem that occurs. Players will control Vin's character otherwise known as Milo Burik, who is apparently some sort of undercover agent trying to gather important intel on some major players in Barcelona. Because of this, you'll end up taking jobs from several seedy and stereotypical characters in an effort to eventually achieve your ultimate goal.
As I previously stated, this game has a fairly sad excuse for a story, but it is never bad enough to detract from what actually makes Wheelman so much fun, the often ridiculous but enjoyable action. Players start off slow with only the most basic of driving skills but are quickly introduced to a slew of absurd abilities that, once combined, make Milo quite deadly when behind the wheel of a car. The first thing you'll learn is how to check other vehicles. Unlike other driving games that have you swerving into opposing drivers, Wheelman essentially allows you to punch enemies' vehicles using your own. Pressing the right analog stick in any direction but down will result in your vehicle producing a powerful lunge in the same direction. This allows players to slam enemies' cars into flaming heaps rather quickly and can also be used as a tool to avoid similar attacks from your opponents or even obstacles and oncoming vehicles.
Every other ability you gain in Wheelman, except one, makes use of a focus meter. Driving quickly, using the handbrake, drifting, and smashing objects will all help fill this meter, while driving slowly, hitting traffic, and running over pedestrians will drain it. Using your special moves will also deplete this meter but the results are usually well worth it. Players can use their stored focus for an added turbo boost or to initiate either a Cyclone or Aim Shot. The Cyclone allows you to take out the pesky enemies behind you by spinning your car 180 degrees, slowing time, and giving you the chance to quickly disable their vehicle or take out the passengers themselves with a few well-placed shots. Aim Shot is essentially the same thing, only without the need to spin, since it allows you to dispatch foes directly in front of you.
Even with all of these entertaining and useful abilities at your disposal, you will often find yourself in need of a new vehicle once your car begins to heavily smoke from the constant battling that is usually required. Its times like these that I really appreciated Wheelman's Airjack maneuver. Feeling somewhat reminiscent of a mechanic found in the PSP title Pursuit Force, players can actually leap from whatever vehicle they are currently driving onto another moving vehicle, kick its current occupant into the streets, and drive away with a new car. While completely unrealistic, this move is fairly easy to pull off, incredibly useful, and quite hilarious all at the same time. Players will only need to hold down a single button while following a vehicle, wait for an arrow above the car to change from red to green, and then release the button.