×
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.

Popular on Variety

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

  • Tana MongeauStreamy Awards, Arrivals, The Beverly

    Streamy Awards 2019: The Complete Winners List

    The 9th annual Streamy Awards – honoring the best from YouTube and online video – were held Friday night in Beverly Hills. Tana Mongeau was named Creator of the Year by fans while “Good Mythical Morning” won Show of the Year. David Dobrik picked up multiple Streamys, including Best Director and Ensemble Cast (“Vlog Squad”). [...]

  • NBC News - Quibi

    NBC News Digital Workers Form New Union

    A group of approximately 150 editorial workers who help produce some of NBC News digital content have formed a union, citing a desire to push their employer to work more seriously through such issues as equal pay and the recent handling of sensitive stories. Editorial employees of NBC News Digital won certification of their union [...]

  • Fox Nation Tests Holiday Programming

    Fox Nation Tests Holiday Programming

    The Fox Nation streaming-video service has long been touted as a new option for super-fans of the Fox News Channel. But some of the broadband hub’s new programming choices suggest adherents of “Fox & Friends” and Sean Hannity aren’t looking solely for chatter about politics and interviews with members of the Trump administration. Subscribers to [...]

  • Facebook

    FTC May Stop Facebook From Integrating Whatsapp, Instagram

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is weighing whether it should seek an injunction against Facebook to prevent the social media giant from integrating services like Whatsapp, Messenger and Instagram with its core app, according to reports from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Regulators fear that Facebook’s app integration plans could make [...]

  • Ivanka Trump

    Ivanka Trump Reportedly Set to Speak at CES 2020

    Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump’s daughter and an adviser to the president, is scheduled to appear on a panel at CES 2020 in January, according to a published report. Ivanka Trump will appear on a panel set for Jan. 8 at 3 p.m. at the Las Vegas confab with Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of [...]

  • Rooster Teeth - Joe Clary, Sean

    WarnerMedia's Rooster Teeth Names Co-Heads of Animation to Replace Gray Haddock

    Rooster Teeth’s Joe Clary and Sean Hinz are the new co-heads of its animation studio, replacing replace Gray Haddock, who recently left the company after he was moved out of his role as head of Rooster Teeth Animation earlier this year. The WarnerMedia-owned company, whose animated series include “gen:Lock,” “RWBY” and “Red vs. Blue,” promoted [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content