Preview Impressions: Vin Diesel’s Wheelman

I never thought that I would be impressed by anything Vin Diesel would ever do. In my mind, his track record isn’t that great; “The Fast and the Furious,” “xXx,” “Boiler Room,” and as the list goes on and on, I get more and more unimpressed. Like I said, I never thought that I would be impressed by anything Vin Diesel did, but then I saw “Wheelman,” his upcoming game from Midway, and honestly, I was a bit impressed.

“Wheelman” is a Hollywood inspired, open world game set in Barcelona that aims to make players feel like they are immersed in a movie, while giving them control of the big guns, and by that I mean Vin. Mr. Muscles plays an American getaway driver (a.k.a. a “wheelman” - get it?) that uses his driving skills, and a well stocked arsenal, to survive the mean streets of Spain.

The game starts off the way all games should - by throwing you right into the action - behind the wheel as you speed away from a bank heist with a female accomplice, doing your best to evade the police and make it to your safe house. As you navigate the streets of Barcelona in a high speed chase, you car takes damage as you crash into things, and you run the risk of not making it to your destination. If something gets in your way, there’s always a way to get around it, or at least through it, and if you can’t crash through it, there’s a good chance you can shoot your way through.

Sounds a bit familiar right? Well, it is, but “Wheelman” has done a great job of marrying the best parts of three of four other great games together to create a unique experience. The car crashing, that’s from “Burnout,” but in “Wheelman” you get to see the cops go flying from their cruisers - a level or realism yet to be seen in that franchise. While you’re taking out those cruisers, your car is bound to take a little bit of damage crashing in to things at 100 MPH (or 160.93 KPH), but it’s okay, you can steal any car on the road (”GTA”), but, the best part is, you can do it without stopping. Jumping and jacking from car to car as you speed down the highway may have originated in “Pursuit Force” but it never really gets old.

While “Wheelman” may take borrow from some other great games, it also takes a lesson or two from some of the great car chase movies of the last few decades. While your burning rubber you have the ability to pull of stuntman-esque super moves that increase your chances of getting away. The easiest of these moves is simply a take down of a car adjacent to you, but they range to a full 360 spin that allows you to gun down the cars behind you. These “attacks” make getting from point A to point B significantly more interesting.

I spent a few minutes playing through the opening level of the game, and I walked away convinced that the gameplay (which was entirely driving based) was, for the most part, pretty solid. The car in the first mission was uncharacteristically durable, and allowed for you to complete the tutorial without really needing to worry about your car crapping out. As you might expect for a game called “Wheelman” tight turns and narrow escapes are constantly present, and that’s what make the game challenging, but it’s the over-the-top explosions, and cinematic take downs that bring the flare of a Hollywood summer blockbuster to the game.

Unlike some of Diesel’s past projects, there’s hope for the story. I was told that the game was designed in tandem with the screenwriters that Vin brought in from Hollywood. Yes, Vin Diesel helped develop the script, and had some of his friends help write the game. On the plus side, I have faith that it will have a more satisfying story than “Gears of War,” but how hard is that?

All in all, “Wheelman” is shaping up to be good action-driving game, which is to say that it will be distinctly different from an action or driving game. Plus, there is the added fun of staring at the back of Vin Diesel’s bald head any time he isn’t in the car - it’s next-gen shiny. After all, it’s not like he hasn’t brought anything but class to everything he’s ever done.

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