The Wheelman Preview
Normally, games based on movies are absolutely awful, which is why the world was shocked to experience the greatness that was The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay back in 2004. Granted, it wasn’t exactly based on any one particular movie, but it was based on Vin Diesel’s film character, Riddick, and made by Diesel’s game studio, Tigon. Ever since then, we’ve been anxiously awaiting the next solid effort by Tigon, and therefore, we bring you this look at The Wheelman, which will be both a movie and a game; it’s a “joint project” by MTV Films and Midway/Tigon. It seems like an invigorating combination of Stuntman, Grand Theft Auto and Need for Speed, which is more than enough to pique our interest right off the bat. Provided this one hits the mark, it could be a major sleeper hit; we say “sleeper” because we already have the likes of GTAIV and MGS4 this year, but that doesn’t mean The Wheelman can’t be excellent in its own right. Cross your fingers!
The setting should appeal to a wide variety of gamers. We will have a wide-open virtual driving world – perhaps similar to what we found in Burnout Paradise – set in the densely packed and beautiful city of Barcelona, Spain. Here, rival gangs and factions vie for supremacy and you can offer your services to just about anyone. We hear the city is very large and authentic and much like Chronicles of Riddick, it’s not based exactly on the movie, but it will certainly feature a similar concept with Vin Diesel as the lead star. Diesel operates as “The Wheelman,” of course, who is actually an undercover government agent seeking to work his way to the top of the gritty criminal underground. You will complete your quest by finishing a main set of missions that, unsurprisingly, will include a heck of a lot of driving, and if you’re starting to think about “The Transporter,” you’ve probably got a good idea of the action. According to IGN, there should be 24 main missions and an impressive 105 side missions to toy around with, offering more in the way of longevity.
The missions should be quite diverse and those extra tasks will be have a mini-game mentality to them, such as a mission that wants you to as much damage as humanly possible in a two-minute span. We bring up the Burnout comparison again, because we’ve learned that smashing stuff up will get you points, and if you nail certain targets, you’ll secure multipliers to jack your score through the roof. We do know you will be rewarded for your efforts, although we don’t know exactly what those rewards will entail… If you nail down enough multipliers, though, we’re certain your rampage will prove to be worth the time and effort. However, we’re wondering if exploration via freedom will be a major part of the experience; if the city is a wide-open world and you can select the missions you wish to attempt, there should be in-between time, yes? Well…what do we do with that? Will there be secrets to find? How interactive will the city be; i.e., can we get out of the car and walk into buildings? We don’t have answers to these questions just yet, but we’re hoping for a truly immersive experience, either way.
You can certainly expect plenty of flash and panache, though, as there is going to be six tons of action piled atop what should be a solid and accessible racing/combat mechanic. For example, you can take corners on two wheels, rip off crazy stunts like the Cyclone (a full 180-degree spin that lets you shoot at your pursuers), and you can shoot out the window with both speed and accuracy. And while we’re not sure if we can wander around the city like we can in GTA, we do know the environment should he destructible. Say, for instance, you’re attempting to lose several cars in a huge chase. Well, smash through something that will bring the entire structure down on those bad guys, which could mean destroying a hotel lobby or a mall (oooh, remember that classic scene from “The Blues Brothers?”). However, despite the obvious arcade-y tinge to this particular title, Tigon and Midway have worked to make the physics quite realistic, which means you’ll have to mind your surroundings.
It wouldn’t make much sense to be able to push a Hummer around if you’re riding a motorcycle, now would it? No, but you could certainly outmaneuver the big, hulking thing. On the flip side of that same coin, if you’re driving the Hummer, feel free to sideswipe the motorcycle and send the rider flying into a wall. There’s no point in being careful or strategic; the more damage you cause is almost always more beneficial to you in the long run, and that’s great for keeping the action sky-high. At the same time, if you go around hitting pedestrians, you will get the attention of the cops…which, of course, leads us to another question: how important of a role will the police have in this game? Are they scripted in for certain missions or are they patrolling the streets of the city at all times? We keep getting flashbacks of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, and we have to admit, those flashbacks are mostly exciting. Still, while we may have some questions, we understand the concept, and we can’t wait to get up-close-and-personal with the final product. At the very least, it sounds quite original.
The Wheelman should arrive for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC this fall, and we get the sneaking suspicion the game might even be better than the movie… In our opinion, Chronicles of Riddick was better than any Riddick film made (with the possible exception of “Pitch Black”), so it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see Tigon excel yet again. Like we said at the start, the idea behind this hectic driving/action game should appeal to a very large demographic, which so many developers fail to do these days. That gives Wheelman an immediate advantage going in; all that’s left to do is secure the gameplay, and that should translate to a winner.
6/17/2008 Ben Dutka