Review: Wheelman (Sony PS3)

Genre: Sandbox/Racing
Developer: Midway Studios
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: 3/24/2009

Ever wonder what it might be like if someone made a open world game without the detail that a Rockstar studio might put into it? Perhaps if they used the Unreal Engine and some sloppy version of Ridge Racer with borrowed drift controls to serve as the racing component?

If they said that this was made by a hipster development team making an ironic open world game without the physics cardboard standup characters and environments reminiscent of a PSX game and graphics from a PS2?

If they , just to kick it up a notch, throw in some cheeseball dialogue from Vin Diesel as a reward for passing one of the primary missions, would you buy it?

wheelman_leipzig_02Midway and Ubisoft would hope that you would.

The first impressions of this game are particularly annoying. It literally takes about 30 minutes to be able to play this game after putting it in the console. The back of the title says that it requires “At least 2990 kb” in space, but that is just not true. It is a lot more.

It spends these 30 minutes installing itself on your hard drive while explaining that that this is mandatory, so you had better free up many gigs of space. You might even want to play another game on another console or perhaps learn nuclear physics while you wait for this game to install. It will be a while.

Guess what? There’s more waiting to be had! Every time you start this game after install, you get to wait for half a minute or so for it to check “game data.” This isn’t your save game. It is “some data.” Afterwards, the game proceeds to load further. I’m sure this exists in other games, but with Wheelman, there isn’t some splash, attract movie, or anything else happening while it performs this task. This just adds more to the feeling of this game being unfinished and rushed out the door.

Story / Modes

wheelman_111908_01 The story begins in Spain where you are helping some leggy thief who talks like a nympho and encourages you to get away from the cops by promising to bang you like a screen door in a Kansas twister if you manage it. Vin says something at the end of the scene about, “Hey how about that pounding” and then leaves her to start randomly harassing people because he’s some international agent working for “The Agency.” Cliche after cliche.

It’s like they combined all of the acting optional Vin Desiel movie characters together to form a Voltron of cheesy BS canned lines contained in a New York t-shirt with a body that his 40 years of age frame could never hope to acquire again. Then they unleashed him upon an unsuspecting video game audience.

Have some mercy, Midway. Think of the children, since this is a T-for-teen rated release. Think of the bored bored children!

You can almost hear the pitch for this game when playing. “Alright alright! So the kids love Vin Diesel. We’ll put him in GTA with the Unreal Engine and throw in Burnout racing! IT WILL BE THE ALL CAPS BLOCKBUSTER GAME OF THE YEAR!!111″ If there was a story to speak of, better details for the characters and people in the game, and the world was better, it might have been so. Sadly, this isn’t how it turned out.

wheelman_111908_02The main story mode is not interesting. The Vin character, if you can call him a character, is a randomly doing acts of violence for no clear purpose. It’s confused like everyone else in the game.

In some areas of the storyline, you see things happen that are then immediately ignored in the following scenes. What does an electronics schematic have to do with a political riot for instance? I have no idea. The story seems a loose construct taped together around a bunch of levels made by people who didn’t talk to each other.

This is an open world game, but the world is Barcelona and there are no characters in it. There are only a few kinds of cars which perform nearly the same in all respects, the people on the street do nothing. Shooting them or the cops literally does nothing. They just stand there or continue milling around like ants.

Seriously. Just to see what happened, I took an AK-47 and shot a variety of people on the street. They just stood there. Soon afterwards the police were summoned and promptly exited their cars and started shooting at me. Emptying weapons at the police and bathing them in hot lead, also accomplished absolutely nothing. They continued to stand there and shoot at me feeling no effects of the hail of lead I was throwing at them.

I think it would be good to take this time to mention that there is no health in this game. There is some kind of Gears/Killzone, “You are kind of hurt-o-meter” where damage is completely irrelevant. You never seem to need to worry about when you’re being hurt, being shot, or being hit by a bus. It doesn’t matter at all. You just keep going, stealing cars, shooting the designated-people-who-can-be-killed in the game who live amongst the legions of immortals, and driving around. Who knew there were so many immortal gods driving garbage cars in Spain? Not me!

This title is very much the realization of “GTA + Burnout Paradise – A production budget.” This would be great if this game out a few years ago or if you have never played Burnout Paradise or GTA4. If you have, you’re pretty much going to be disappointed.

Story Rating: Poor


The environments look basic and without interesting shadow or realism. All of the characters look oddly plastic and somewhat badly rendered.

The explosions were nice. The cars weren’t interesting. The screen caps that were included seem like they were generated on a system that I do not have. I think I would have much rather have played the game that I see depicted in them than the one that I put into my PS3.

Graphics Rating: Below Average


The thing I liked most about this game is the teaser screen at load. There are scenes of Barcelona, some spanish guitar and percussion happening, and a bunch of tranquil shots of the city in video game rendered form. Oh. Thanks for having a giant MIDWAY logo all over everything. Who developed this game again? Oh yeah. It’s Midway. I almost forgot. Thanks.

Sadly, this is about the last time you will notice the music.

Who knew that everyone in Spain talks like a Mexican gangster? I didn’t. This was all a very educational process to me.

Sound Rating: Mediocre

Control and Gameplay

This is really simple to explain. In the car, you’re in Burnout only with ramming controls for one of the thumbsticks and the airjack move, which I did enjoy.

If you get out of the car, you’re in a low quality GTA clone except there are buttons for stand and crouch.

You need to have played the hell out of both of these games already to appreciate this review. If you haven’t, why are you reading this? Go out and get those two games right now and forget all about this game.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Enjoyable


The side missions for powerups are almost more entertaining than the main storyline. Once again, this game borrows very very heavily from the Burnout series. The achievements are not worth the replay.

I’d think anyone who got the “I Live For This Stuff” gold trophy/achievement would be a highly disturbed individual and I would want a restraining order against them.

Replayability Rating: Poor


Nothing interesting to speak of. There is no multiplayer, so there wasn’t a whole lot to do. It’s also hard enough that not everyone would like it, but easy enough for you to almost never fail a mission.

Balance Rating: Decent


There is no originality in this title. Complely void. Everything is a cliche, a borrowed theme, or a low rent knockoff. Additionally, I think every game with a celebrity on the cover should have this grade in originality

Originality Rating: Worthless


Low. I never really felt any connection to want to accomplish the goals of this game. My motivation was only that I was going to write this review and didn’t want to miss some redeeming quality of the storyline or a possible neat game dynamic. This did not occur.

Addictiveness Rating: Pretty Poor

Appeal Factor

This title will appeal to Vin Diesel fans whose parents bought it for them.

Appeal Factor: Poor


I wanted everyone in this game to die at the end. That is how annoying this game was.

This could have been a good game. It has some good ideas in it, such as the vehicular combat functionality, but it is very clearly slapped together. By watching the game scenes, it looks like they changed the storyline around a lot to make the title work as well. I suspect that a title like this is what happens when too many corners are cut in development.

I was listening to a podcast of “The Economist” a while ago about how the game industry was supposed to be recession proof. This was then contrasted by profiles of companies like Midway which were churning out a lot of unprofitable low quality titles. Based on the halfassedness of this one, I suspect that this will be more of the same. They were on to something with Wheelman, but it seems clear that where this could have been a labor of love by someone, something else was made a priority; budget or release schedule seem likely suspects. Not sure why Ubisoft decided to pick this one up.

Miscellaneous Rating: Worthless.

The Scores
Story: Poor
Below Average`
Sound: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay:
Originality: Worthless
Pretty Poor
Appeal Factor:

Short Attention Span Summary

If Rockstar and Criterion games had an sorority mixer style orgy, and had a bunch of inbread retards who founded a development team, they would likely make this game as a shameful homage to their parents. Seriously though, this is a below average Burnout style game mixed with a poor GTA sandbox game mixed in. The title feels rushed and under developed.



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