Wheelman is a driving game with pretensions of being a movie.
It ‘stars’ actor Vin Diesel as Milo, a talented driver with a shady past. The game has no official connection with the latest Fast and Furious film, also starring Diesel, but both the game and the film share very similar subject matter.
The game is set in Barcelona. You’re thrown into the action pretty quickly, as you try to win the trust of a drug baron by proving your skill as a driver. There are 31 story missions, but each time you complete one, other side missions open up, which range from street races to car-jackings.
You’d be forgiven for comparing Wheelman to Grand Theft Auto, but the two games are actually very different. Wheelman isn’t about exploration and doesn’t try to simulate a ‘living’ city. In fact, there’s very little character to its Barcelona, despite the accurate graphical depiction. Although you can just drive around, there’s little point; instead, you’re encouraged to open up the map and hop directly to the next mission.
Where Wheelman excels is in its action, which it piles on in spades. It’s by no means an accurate driving simulation, and although it’s possible to lose control, there’s a high degree of driver assistance. As well as normal driving, you can ram sideways into cars by flicking your mouse to the side. You can also ‘air-jack’ other cars, which involves your virtual Vin jumping on to his bonnet, diving on to a speeding car and knocking the driver out of his seat in one fluid movement.
The onscreen presence of Vin Diesel actually helps things along, bringing a movie-stunt credibility to the in-game action. This helps you get caught up in the non-stop adrenaline on offer. Wheelman provides an exciting one-off ride, a popcorn movie in game form. Unlike GTA, however, there’s little to enjoy beyond the main thrust of the story.