×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Wheelman

Heavy borrowing from two great videogames plus a big Hollywood star don't quite rev the engine of "Wheelman," Midway's awkward attempt to meld "Grand Theft Auto's" open world with "Burnout's" action racing into a vehicle for Vin Diesel.

Borrowing heavily from two great vidgames and putting a star in the driver’s seat aren’t enough to rev the engines of “Wheelman.” Midway’s awkward attempt to meld “Grand Theft Auto’s” open world with “Burnout’s” action racing into a vehicle for Vin Diesel is full of exciting moments – and has a few genuinely innovative features – but never finds a compelling identity of its own and will quickly speed off gamers’ radars.

Set up more than three years ago as a simultaneous game/movie project at Paramount and Midway, “Wheelman” has suffered numerous development delays, seen its film companion fall aside, and was ultimately bought by Ubisoft after Midway declared bankruptcy this winter.

Time hasn’t been kind to the game. What might have seemed like competent copying a couple of years ago pales next to 2008’s “Burnout: Paradise” and “Grand Theft Auto IV.” “Wheelman” offers a few spectacular racing mechanics, but otherwise fails to meet the mark of those top-shelf inspirations.

Diesel plays Milo Burik, an undercover agent investigating gangs in Barcelona. The plot is a convoluted, underdeveloped mess that seems to have been abandoned mid-production by the developers, as cutscenes often stop abruptly and are concluded in voiceovers. It’s just as well, since the story is ultimately tacked onto the gameplay.

Those who enjoy “Wheelman” will be attracted by its ultraviolent street races, which make “Fast and Furious” look like “Herbie the Love Bug.” With a simple set of controls, players can ram nearby cars, slow down time to shoot enemies in front of or behind them, or even leap out a window and “airjack” a nearby vehicle. Though not nearly as well executed as the “Burnout” games, “Wheelman’s” auto action is great fun, particularly when the developers shake things up by putting the player in a tractor trailer or racing in a pedestrian walkway that’s barely one car wide.

If “Wheelman” had focused entirely on over-the-top driving and abandoned the badass cop story, it would have been a much more compelling product. The result of attempting both is extreme tonal conflict. It’s difficult to take anything Milo says or does seriously when he’s been jumping from roof to roof in cars speeding more than 100 miles per hour.

Most players will ignore the nondriving elements, which is just as well, since the streets of Barcelona are disturbingly empty and the occasional on-foot action is terrible. A better option is to focus on the game’s dozens of short, fast-paced side missions in which gamers earn rewards by racing enemies or “airjacking” as many cars as possible in several minutes. It’s here, when it abandons pretensions of being anything but an arcade racer, that “Wheelman” is at its best – but also where the lack of online multiplayer is most glaring, and where many small but annoying flaws are magnified.

Onscreen directions are particularly poor, for instance. Instead of marking turns clearly, “Wheelman” uses a small compass in the corner of the screen to point players in the right general direction. In addition, important instructions are often given in Spanish during driving sequences and translated into subtitles, forcing English-speaking players to choose between watching the road or reading the dialogue.

Voiceovers are generally weak, with Diesel delivering a particularly flat performance despite his producing credit and name above the title (an incredibly rare occurrence in the videogame world). Production values are otherwise solid, though the overwhelmingly bright, primary colors that dominate “Wheelman’s” palette give it a slightly creepy Crayola feel.

Wheelman

Reviewed on Xbox 360. Rated T. $50 - $60.

Production: A Midway and Ubisoft presentation of a game developed by Midway Newcsastle and produced by Tigon Studios for the PC, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360.

More Digital

  • Cory-Haik-Vice

    Vice Media Hires Cory Haik, Former Mic Publisher, as Chief Digital Officer (EXCLUSIVE)

    Vice Media has recruited Cory Haik, former publisher of digital news start-up Mic, as chief digital officer to lead the youth-culture company’s global internet businesses. Haik will be based at Vice’s Brooklyn headquarters and report to CEO Nancy Dubuc. She most recently worked at Mic, which last fall laid off virtually its entire staff before [...]

  • Snapchat logos

    Porn Studio Starts Building X-Rated Snapchat Lenses, Encourages Users to Do the Same

    Adult entertainment company Naughty America wants to use augmented reality to get the word out about its paid services. The company has begun to make Snapchat lenses featuring some of its models, and is teaching its audience to do the same. Naughty America shared three such lenses on its website (link not safe for work) [...]

  • New, Likely Cheaper Galaxy Home Speaker

    Samsung Is Getting Ready to Introduce Second Smart Speaker

    Samsung still isn’t selling its Galaxy Home smart speaker, but the company may be getting ready to introduce a second model soon: An FCC filing for an “AI speaker” suggests that the new model, like the original Galaxy Home, will be dual-branded, featuring both Samsung’s own brand name as well as that of its audio [...]

  • Streaming Placeholder

    TikTok Owner Preparing Streaming Service to Rival Spotify (Report)

    ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of the TikTok video app, is developing a paid streaming music service aimed at the same emerging markets that Spotify and Apple are seeking to explore, according to a report in Bloomberg. The app could be introduced as early as autumn, according to the report, which adds that the company has [...]

  • VidCon-Now-Stacey-Kelly

    VidCon Launches First Original Series to Promote Creators Year-Round

    VidCon brings together thousands of fervent fans at its annual conventions, who flock to the events to see their favorite YouTubers and other digital celebs in the flesh. Now the Viacom-owned division is trying to keep the excitement burning during the VidCon off-season, too. This week VidCon is launching its first foray into original content [...]

  • Stranger Things

    Coca-Cola Will Revive New Coke in Alliance With Netflix, 'Stranger Things'

    A rush of TV watchers to streaming video has prompted Coca-Cola to test an interesting pour. Coca-Cola will bring New Coke back to market for a brief time, all part of a partnership with Netflix, which has featured Coke in its cult-favorite series “Stranger Things.” The third season of the series, set in 1985, will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content