Wheelman Updated Hands-On

Vin Diesel + Barcelona + Car Crashes = Midway's upcoming open-world action game.

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If you pick up the controller in the middle of Midway's upcoming Vin Diesel-starring action game, Wheelman, without familiarizing yourself with the game's features and controls, you might think the game is too difficult for its own good. But if you spend some time with the game's tutorial missions, and get a healthy dose of practice and experimentation, you'll come to appreciate the depth of the controls, as well as the sheer amount of vehicular mayhem you can create in this open-world driving game from the developers at Midway Newcastle. This week, Midway dropped by our office to show off the latest build of the game and to show off the different moves available to the titular hero (and the cars he drives).

Though Wheelman will have on-foot missions...

You play as Milo Burik in the game, an undercover agent who is sent to Barcelona and eventually finds himself involved in a power struggle between three powerful gangs that run the city. As Burik, you'll need to earn the trust of each of the gangs as you infiltrate their ranks, taking jobs as they come and eventually working your way to the bosses that run the criminal activities.

We got a chance to see a few missions in the game--the first was a tutorial mission, where you have to steal three cars for a friend in a certain amount of time. The catch? The three cars are being driven at the time. The mission essentially acts as a tutorial for one of several special moves Milo has available to him--the air jack. To pull it off, you simply drive up behind the car of your choice, then hold down the B button (on the Xbox 360 controller). A red target icon will appear over the car when you're approaching it, and when it turns green, you let go of the B button and Milo will leap out of his current vehicle and into the new ride.

With three cars to steal in this particular mission, it isn't long before you get used to the air-jacking feature. The developers intend for the player to consider vehicles as dispoable in the game; you'll constantly switch between rides as you make your way around the city. Cars do take damage in Wheelman--often in spectacular fashion--so making it easy to switch from car to car, even while in motion, reinforces the idea of always keeping a fresh set of wheels under you. After completing the car-jacking mission, we had to escape the police who chased us down. The police pressure doesn't seem to be as intense as that found in a game like Need for Speed: Most Wanted--all we really needed to do was get out of the line of sight for a few seconds--but it's probably fair to assume that the police get more persistent as you progress in the game.

Other moves available to you include the ability to slow down time and even spin the car around while in "focus mode" to take on enemies who might be behind you. During these brief slow-motion interludes, you'll be able to shoot enemies--an aiming reticle will appear and turn red when you pass over "critical" parts (such as an enemy's head or a car's gas tank or tire). Bigger enemy vehicles, or those with considerable armor, might require several shots in critical areas to take out completely. You build up the focus required to go into these slo-mo moments by pulling off cool stunts in the car--drifting around turns, bashing into enemies, or performing air-jacks. You can also use banked focus (indicated by a meter in the lower right portion of the screen) to give your car a periodic turbo boost.

...it's at its best when you're behind the wheel.

All of the cars in Wheelman have their own feel--from the relatively agile compact cars to the quicker, heavier muscle cars--and, as such, you'll want to pick the right car for the job. The game will feature traditional cars and motorcycles, but at the most extreme end of car handling are the monstrous big-rig trucks (which seem curiously ubiquitous in Barcelona). One of the later missions we saw (but didn't play ourselves) featured Milo taking over an 18-wheeler he had to drive across the city, while hordes of bad guys attempted to take him down. The truck's weak spot was its gas tank, which the enemies shot at mercilessly. And while the big rig was relatively slow and clumsy in terms of handling, it made up for its weaknesses in sheer power and resilience. Blasting our way through park gates and streetlights (and even trees), we really got a feel for the unstoppable might of the truck.

Nowhere was that strength more apparent than when using the vehicular melee feature--which happened to be our favorite special move in the game. With just a flick of the analog stick, you can jerk your car left, right, forward, or backward, dealing a heavy blow to enemy cars (or, indeed, any object around you). In a car, vehicular melee moves are great, and in a big rig, they're awesome--dealing out huge amounts of damage to enemies who are unlucky enough to be caught in their path. In addition to using vehicle melee as a weapon, we found the move pretty useful in pulling off quick shifts left or right to avoid oncoming traffic or other objects.

While Wheelman does have some on-foot, it looks like most of the action is going to be in a vehicle, which seems like the right idea to us. In addition to the main story modes, the game has a lot of different side missions you can play. Taxi, for example, is a basic time trial mode, challenging you to get from one part of the city to another in a certain amount of time. Beating Taxi challenges will open up teleport spots throughout Barcelona, which you can use to zap from one area of the map to the next (instead of having to drive there).

Vin Diesel plans on finishing the third and final facade of Barcelona's La Sagrada Familia... WITH BULLETS.

Contracts and Fugitive are a pair of modes that are essentially two sides of the same coin. In Contracts, the idea is to chase down and destroy a target car before it gets to a safe house; in the case of Fugitive, it's you who is on the run as you try to escape a number of enemies trying to take you down in short order. Rampage is a mode where you enter a specific Barcelona neighborhood and try to create as much mayhem as possible. Made to Order is a series of increasingly difficult carjacking missions, and Hot Potato challenges you to pick up and drop off packages all over the city in timed missions.

With an impressive fictionalized version of Barcelona to explore, dynamic music that is individually scored for each mission in the game, and, most importantly, hard-hitting and speedy car combat action, Wheelman looks to be a fun twist on the traditional open-world game. After Vin Diesel's success in the phenomenal The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay back in 2004, will Wheelman enhance the actor's reputation in video games? We'll find out when the game is released in February.

Discussion

112 comments
Noah-Phoenix
Noah-Phoenix

Played the demo, and have real hopes for this. The city itself, when you're screaming through the streets, is a little bland and PS1-ish graphically, but aside from this, its a new fresh take on the whole Driver/sandbox genre. It won't break the mould, maybe just inject a little Burnout juice into a flagging genre.

pilot_riaz
pilot_riaz

I played the Demo, was fun bashing the cars off the road and into other cars and they explode.

q64silver
q64silver

Played demo yesterday... TOTAL LETDOWN

TheKindVillain
TheKindVillain

Sounds like it could be pretty fun. But I don't know how long I can stand Vin Diesel cutscenes and the animated version of his ugly mug.

j-urski
j-urski

looks awesome and fun!

ptflea1
ptflea1

yer it does look fun

jagcivtec
jagcivtec

I hope this doesnt have that ''driver parallel'' feel. It looks interesting, but competition is tufffff.

TaintedSaint666
TaintedSaint666

Perhaps keep an eye out for this. It seems as though it might be overlooked after those other open world games. ¬¬

DJFMBEN
DJFMBEN

vin deisel + Crazy F'n action game?!!!!! I NEED ZIS SH!T!

lucebuce
lucebuce

holy c*** :D this game is gonna rock , Escape from butcher bay was great , and vin diesel's voice really fits the guy whos a culprit who just tried to do some good but no1 ever loves him ( no offense )

Express_Diablos
Express_Diablos

Cool Vin is such a good actor and has some nice games too, can't wait to see how this game drives away.

drunkenyak
drunkenyak

I like some of the films Diesel is in, but I have a bad feeling about this game for some reason. Not saying it's going to suck or anything, but after GTA 4, and SR2, I'm not sure that this will be able to compete.

Un4givingAsault
Un4givingAsault

I'm just wondering is the game really that good if they needed to put a hollywood actor in it? Most great games have just solid voice actors, they don't pay to use their image. Thats one reason i doubt how good this game will be. Vin Deisel is douche anyway, i met someone who seen him cry because he is so terrified of water.

onteanqui
onteanqui

Like the Chronicles of Riddick, i have much in this game, probably a great game to.

Neosword
Neosword

Is the Camp Nou in it? if it is, that's +1 for awesome.

havocmerc
havocmerc

Well, it has got to be better than the Driver series.

ropumar
ropumar

this is shovelware, trust me. Expects an metacritic of +-50%

Danteh
Danteh

Lol I live in Barcelona I'm gonna search my house and Camp Nou in this game ;)

fsl_hero
fsl_hero

ATTENTION: I attended the GAMES 08 exhibition in Dubai a month ago and had the chance to play many working demos including Wheelman, Killzone 2, Resident Evil 5 etc. And frankly speaking, the demo of Wheelman wasn't up to the mark at all. Rigid player movement, plays a lot like True Crime, and the car mechanics are from GTA. Although the graphics and Vin Deisel's appearance was impressive, the game looked nothing special and hardly received any attention at all at the festival. Just my analysis of the demo.

Filaki
Filaki

Nice! I hope it'll be more TDU than GTA with regards to cars though.

Stealthos
Stealthos

Fast Cars, explosions, guns, gangs and Vin Diesel - how could this not be awesome??

705H1R0
705H1R0

I swear, you guys use the word "titular" every freaking chance you get. I hope this game doesn't end up getting ridiculously hard like Driver 2.

rohit9891
rohit9891

it looks like dey're bringin in a lot of new stuff just hope the car controls r gud enough

Xtos89
Xtos89

the chronicles of riddick was an awesome game, lets hope this ones another winner

crazyslopytalk
crazyslopytalk

Its a fresh idea, which means it could do well being an original title or turn out to be flawed.

Sheiko
Sheiko

Looks like something to tide you over until the next GTA. Looks nice though can't wait to play this.

winnerjay
winnerjay

oh... and ok you got me on bullet proof nanny... lol

winnerjay
winnerjay

i dont know man, maybe im way off base. but i think as an actor he has been mostly decent in all his films even if the writing was bad. but i think this is a little differnt then having a roll in a movie that someone else wrote. he is more directly involved. if im not mistaken isnt his company making this? i think he would be alot more picky with what is going into this then perhaps just a job.

maverick_76
maverick_76

I'm betting this game gets no better than 8.0. My guess is somewhere between 6.5-8.0, depending on the amount of polish that goes into the game.

donsocko
donsocko

"i dont think vin would put his name on trash"...cuf-bullet proof nany-cuf...

hagemann
hagemann

Says winnerjay: "i dont think vin would put his name on trash." Says me: Trash is all that bald ape has ever put his name on. With the exception of "Pitch Black" (which was good *despite* Vin's presence, not because of it) and his monosyllabic voice work in "Iron Giant," this guy's career has been an ironic joke.

robbie3000
robbie3000

Another GTA clone. Now thats something new! ;)

Hk47ownz
Hk47ownz

This game could be great, or could fail miserably. I'm definitely gonna wait for the reviews before buying it.

winnerjay
winnerjay

sounds pretty good. i dont trust Midway as far as i can throw them, but something gives me a good feeling about this. i dont think vin would put his name on trash.

1valiantknight
1valiantknight

At first I didn't think much of this game but it's looking better and better the more I see of it. Too bad a lot of people will trash talk the game just cause they don't like Vin Deisel.

StJimmy15
StJimmy15

I thnk I'll stick with gta IV...

just_nonplussed
just_nonplussed

looks awful. vin diesel looks like a shaved monkey. it won't be long before they make a van damne action experience, based on his inflated ego.

AngelCage-2
AngelCage-2

Vin Diesel is a player, he likes videogames, he plays videogames and he HATES all the trash that is released these days. Escape from butcher bay was great, this game could be even better, i hope so.

briax87
briax87

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]