Vin Diesel is an easy target for unrelenting journalists – big, buff and with a voice that’s got more bass in it than a professional fishing competition, he’s almost the antithesis for the modern gamer. Or so you’d think, but it turns out that he’s actually a bit of a geek himself – even going so far as to found a games studio that makes games based on his films and ideas.
Unfortunately though, while Tigon’s previous games have actually been pretty great, Wheelman isn’t of the same high quality. Riddick was a very solid and engaging game, but the only idea we were able to take away from Wheelman was that Mr Diesel might have started to use Tigon Studios as a personal Djinn. Wish fulfilment and flattering Diesel as much as possible seems to be the name of the game here.
To be fair though, we can’t begrudge Vin Diesel all that much though. When you’re famous and you own a games studio it must be pretty tempting to tell your developers to make a game that just shows off how awesome you are, maybe by letting you bunny-hop from car to car on a Spanish motorway?
Looked at from this perspective, Wheelman makes perfect sense. If you’re designing a game where one of the main aims is to make the main character as badass as possible then you don’t really need an intelligent plot or truly innovative features – Duke Nukem is proof of that.
Like Duke, the main character from Wheelman is never really introduced either; his name is Milo Burik and he’s an undercover cop from Miami working for some only vaguely referred to agency and he’s here to get some briefcase from some criminals and...eh. We’re boring ourselves just thinking about it. All you really need to know is that Milo is a good guy who drives fast cars for bad people, but he does it for good reasons. That’s as deep as Wheelman gets.
On the plus side though, Wheelman at least doesn’t try putting on airs. It doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not and while the cutscenes and gravelly-voiced expositions are frequent, at least they aren’t very long. Wheelman knows how stupid it is and is happy to quickly give you a fix of Vin Diesel’s macho-man routine before funnelling you into the next car chase. In that regard it’s already miles better than the likes of Need for Speed: Undercover then.
Wheelman is remarkably similar to NFS: Undercover in terms of structure too. The fact that you can get out of the car and shoot things makes GTA spring to mind first, but those comparisons are flawed by the fact that there’s very little to actually do when you’re on foot. There are set missions where you have to get out of the car and gun down some goons, but other than that the city is better seen from your car window. Not only does walking take longer than the wait for the next Half-Life Episode, but there’s literally no reason to do so.