The PC release of Wheelman was something I was both looking forward to and dreading. I knew I had my expectations a little high, expecting quality comparable to recent “GTA clones” such as Saint’s Row 2. But at the same time, I knew the game wouldn’t be anything stellar, because movie-to-game adaptations hardly are. There where no indications that this game would be exceptional in any way. Yet somehow, I still eagerly awaited the release. It is possible that this game manages to be different. Rather than being based on the movie, the movie is to work as a sequel to the game. I remained hopeful.
Taking the role of Milo Burik, voiced by and visually based on Vin Diesel. You are, as the name suggests, a wheelman. You take jobs from just about every criminal organization in Barcelona (Spain). You start to make a name for yourself in the local world of crime. Really, the game is that simple. I was hoping for something more special that would set this game apart from all the other open-world crime-based games. When compared to other games of this genre, it usually doesn’t quite measure up. Really, Wheelman has a bit of everything, but none of those bits are especially good. I can’t help but think that if they had focused on just a few aspects and left others out, it could have been a much better game.
Wheelman tries very hard to setup up a story and get you to know main characters, but it seems too rushed. You’re far more likely to just skip the character info so that you can get back to the car chases. The game just doesn’t do a great job of keeping you interested in the story. It has a hard enough time trying to keep you interested in playing it at all.
The graphics are not too bad, but they have a dated feel, lacking finishing details and a properly optimized game engine. For example, my frame rate would fluctuate from 8 FPS (Frames Per Second) to 300 FPS. Usually sticking near 20-40. Much lower and the game is almost unplayable with all the high-speed, tense car chases, Which is very unfortunate, because given a smooth framerate, the chases are actually quite fun. There are several offensive moves and attacks that you can perform in your car and they make the chases even more interesting, but this is not enough to make up for the game’s faults.
As with most games of this genre, Wheelman feels a bit clunky on the keyboard and mouse. I would strongly suggest the use of a gamepad/controller.
Despite the fact that Wheelman is based on a movie (of the same name), it still has lots of lame dialogue. You would expect the game’s script to be slightly different from the movie’s, but in this case, the game does not paint a very nice picture of what tot expect from the movie’s writing quality.
Up until now, this review has been primarily negative. With nearly zero likable characters, severely flawed physics and despite an open world, a rather linear feel, the game still manages to be fun. Granted, Wheelman has it’s share of things that will annoy you, mainly the sad attempt at physics and the frame rate issues. Through all that, driving a large semi with a full payload through police roadblocks and smashing squad cars still manages to be quite fun. It’s hard to explain what makes this game painful, but still almost enjoyable and fun. By no means is it a GTA IV, or Saints Row 2, but it’s something that can keep you entertained, even if it is just to fill the gaps between game release dates.
- Graphics: 7
The graphics are nothing special. Sure, there is nice lighting, but most things seem to lack fine details.
- Storyline: 6
Wheelman tries too hard to setup the storyline for the movie. Very hard to keep interest, let alone pay attention to it.
- Gameplay: 7
With horrible physics and an annoying framerate issue, Wheelman somehow manages to save some of its dignity with fun and intense car chases.
- Presentation: 5
The menus are clearly designed with console versions of the game in mind. The only graphics options you get are the ability to change the screen resolution, which doesn’t exactly help the “designed for console” feel.
- Lasting Appeal: 4
The car chases are fun, but there is little else to keep this game interesting. This is especially the case when you compare Wheelman to other sandbox games.