Thursday, August 27, 2009


I've been playing Wheelman lately. I haven't gotten extremely far, in fact there are a few side mission types that I haven't unlocked yet. So far it's been pretty fun. It's like a simplified GTA 4 but with more emphasis on driving. I've been enjoying the driving combat. You can hit the right stick while you drive to slam the car in that direction, which can push other cars into walls or obstacles.

Here are some things they get right. The car combat action is fun. It's frenetic and you find yourself driving through all kinds of breakable objects, fighting back and forth, and it achieves the cinematic recluse driving scenes that they're going for. The PDA/map page is great in the fact that they let you just start a mission from there; no need to drive all around town to get to the starting point. The dialogue is nothing spectacular, but then again you don't go to an action movie for the words of wisdom. The voice acting is good, for the parts they were given.

Sounds like a fun game right? Well it is, but it's not a great game and it's because of the small things they miss. Little things that add aggravation and detract from the fun. One thing I could not believe is a problem with the y-invert option. Now, I had this problem in the demo, so I wasn't too surprised to still see it in the game. Here's the issue: in the options you can select whether the y-axis is inverted, like most games, but when you do any of the car-shooting special moves (either spin the car and in bullet time shoot at cars that were behind you, or just go into bullet time to shoot a blockade in front of you) the game has decided not to pay attention to your y-axis choice. This is ridiculous. If I want the y-axis inverted, I want it that way ALL the time, not just when I'm running around with a gun (which doesn't happen nearly as much as the driving, it is called Wheelman).

Another thing that's off-putting is you get emails after every story mission. They don't really add anything, it's just a reminder of what you have to do next. The problem is that to read emails you have to pull up your map and hit another button. Of course, while you're looking at your map there's no way of knowing if you've gotten any new mail. Combine this with the fact that after every mission, they take you to the map to show you where you're new mission is located, and you have an annoyance. This means you'll finish a mission, be in the map screen, see where your new mission is located, exit, and then be told "You have new email!" Now you have to go back into the map, and then from there go to the email screen where your email will basically say "You have a new mission!" There's no need for this. The only reason to have it is to try to disguise the map as a "PDA" screen. That's kind of pointless in my mind. Just keep it as a map, it shows where the next mission is, I don't need another reminder.

Another issue I have is the AI for street racing side missions. I enjoy some of the street races but the way it's set-up, it seems like it's me versus the pack and not a street race where everyone is fighting for first. When I'm in the middle of the group I get smacked around like nobody's business. But if I'm in the back, I don't see any of the cars slamming each other. With each other they'll play nice, but for me they try to shoot out my tires and slam me into walls. That is definitely not an example of taking care of the player.

Speaking of side missions, I can say that I approve of the way they have been doling them out. At the early point that I'm at now, they have been giving me a story mission that is basically the form of the new side mission. Once you complete the story mission, the side missions open up, all of them of that type in that area. I think that's just bad pacing. What I would have done is open the first side mission of that type, maybe two. After those have been completed, the player need to race another story mission. After that they have now unlocked a few more side missions of the old type as well as the new type. Just keep repeating this process until all side missions have been unlocked. This way the player switches back and forth between story missions and side missions. I understand that some people may enjoy the side missions more than the story mission, but the point of the game is the story, let's try to keep them down that path.

Bottom line, this game is a fun game and has some interesting takes on the criminal driving game, but it definitely has some missteps along the way.

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