Not long ago, we brought you our first hands-on impressions of Wheelman, Midway's upcoming driving-action game starring Vin Diesel and a cast of shady associates plucked from the European crime circuit. Wheelman puts you in the role of an American abroad named Milo Burik. As a driver-for-hire, Milo's basic job is to get from one point to another in an expansive, open-world representation of Barcelona. But the slightly illegal nature of Milo's work means things aren't always so easy. That's where Wheelman diverges from your standard driving game: Speeding through these Catalonian streets is just as much about taking out enemy cars as it is about beating the timer. We recently spent a bit more time with this upcoming title, a second look that gave us the opportunity to see some more driving mechanics, a few side missions, and a glimpse at those few moments when you'll need to bust some heads on foot.
Wheelman starts you out with a tutorial giving you the basic fundamentals of driving. Those fundamentals all seem very standard until you're introduced to the melee stick. By using the right control stick, you can perform 180 degrees of takedowns on nearby cars. Pushing the stick to either side, you'll violently veer in that direction, but at no penalty to your handling. Likewise, nudging forward on the stick gives you a quick speed boost to pummel any unfortunate soul caught in front of you. We spent our fair share of time cruising aimlessly through Barcelona, using the melee stick on any and all cars on the road. As odd as it sounds, the precision and quick response gives you the feeling of using your car to punch someone. (Using it to sandwich motorcycles against buildings was especially entertaining.)
Taking out cars is done in a few other ways besides just the melee stick. You can also use your focus gauge to slow down time and fire shots from the driver's seat. This gives you the ability to aim at enemies, enemies' cars, enemies' cars' gas tanks, and, well, you get the idea. It's called an Aimed Shot while driving forward, and a Cyclone when you perform a quick 180 to take out the thugs tailing you. Time slows down just enough for you to pull off three or four well-placed shots. It's up to you to use these fleeting seconds to make sure it's the best shot possible, one that will cause a chain reaction of cars tumbling into each other or just plain exploding. Besides these focus attacks, the environment also plays a factor. For example, plowing through scaffolding on the side of a building will bring a barrage of wood and poles toppling down on those behind you, while luring cars off a particularly hazardous jump could spell their undoing if their car isn't as fast as yours.
The story unfolds over the course of 24 primary missions, but you'll be able to explore the alleys and forgotten side streets of Barcelona over 105 side missions and events. We got to check out two of these side missions. One was a pretty standard event where you start out in a plaza and race to pick up packages from five nearby locations. This one is aimed to give you a better feeling for the roads and alleys since most of the goals were tucked away in less than clear locations. The other event we tried was more about the visceral thrill of messing stuff up. This one is sort of a rampage mode where a specific object is displayed on the screen and your job is to destroy as many of those objects to build up your multiplier, then take out cars to collect maximum Euros. So if you see a bench on your HUD, you'll need veer onto the sidewalk, take out a few benches, then drive like a madman through traffic to collect the Euros. The challenge here is to keep an eye on your rapidly changing multiplier target while being sure to time your melee stick strikes for the ideal traffic pileups.
All of this driving will make up about 80% of the game, with the rest going to on-foot destruction. The actual combat is nothing out of the ordinary. The way the controls were mapped the Xbox 360 version we played were left trigger to aim, right trigger to shoot, B to crouch, X to reload, and left bumber to sprint. It's all very standard, so the key thing to keep an eye on is how it's integrated with the more ambitious driving elements. Punctuating your driving with the occasional need to unbuckle and stir up some trouble should add a nice sense of variety, but lengthy and prolonged on-foot sections probably won't work as well.
The most impressive thing about Wheelman is the depiction of Barcelona. From the opening camera shot that hovers over the harbor, past the Monument a Colon, through La Rambla and into your first set of wheels, the imagery feels very authentic. We're told there's at least 2,000 miles of road, including the ability to drive into the mountain passes toward the north end of the city. You can expect to argue over whether Vin Diesel or Barcelona is the biggest star of Wheelman when the game ships this fall.
Check out a pair of new Wheelman screens here.