Wheels of Destruction PS3
I’m not sure why, but recently there seems to be an increase in combat based racing games. Twisted Metal just came out, and I personally reviewed titles such as Smash ‘n’ Survive and Wrecked: Revenge Revisited, both titles not exactly the greatest representation of the genre. I’m here again with another combat racing game from the folks at Gelid Games. Titled Wheels of Destruction (I’ll call it Wheels from now on – X-Men reference anyone?), it’s a third-person arcade vehicle combat game that is set on a post-apocalyptic Earth. One difference between this and the other games I’ve covered is that Wheels is a multiplayer only game, but will the sole focus of multiplayer make it any better than the ones that came before it?
There’s no mention of story to be found of any kind, so your only set up for the game’s background is from the description of Wheels on the PSN store. As mentioned, the game is primarily multiplayer, but there are some offline components to it. To practice before going online, you can play against bots in any of the three game modes. These are deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture the flag, pretty much the old school modes from the late 90’s PC first-person shooter games. Battles take place across one of five maps set in Tokyo, London, Paris, Seattle or Rome. Sadly, offline is only limited to one person, a disappointment since split screen would work well with this game. A strange omission is that there is no hint of a tutorial in place; the game just assumes you’ve looked at the control system in the options screen and you’re ready to go. Thankfully, the game is easy to grasp.
It won’t be long till you’re bored of bots, so you’ll spend all your time online. Here you can pick either ranked or unranked matches, with ranked affecting your global rating. Unranked allows you to set conditions of the match like game type, how many players, and if bots should be allowed to play with humans. The online lobby system is none existent. In Wheels, you just select play and it will stick you straight into a server with other people or create a new one if it can’t match you up with the settings you’ve set. It’s simple, but it gets the job done. It’s a shame you can’t see how many people are actually playing. Ranked always seems to be empty, but unranked was popular enough if you set the settings to accept any kind of match.
Once in a match, you are greeted with the choice of five vehicle classes. The classes are badly named and misleading. You’ve got Soldier, Assassin, Heavy, Engineer and Scout, yet calling them this would seem to think that the Engineer could do some repairing or could drop some traps/turrets as defence. This isn’t the case. Names just mean the look and the stats (durability, shield, speed, jet power and ammo) of the vehicle you drive are different. The Heavy is slow as a tank and can take lots of hits and stock loads of ammo. The scout on the other hand is nimble and weak, but can speed around all over the place like the Looney Tunes Road Runner. Picking a class is mainly down to a personal preference; whichever one you feel suits your style of play will mostly likely be the one you stick with whenever you play online. For me, this was the Heavy because it could take so much damage before death that I was getting five or six kill streaks.
Control wise on the PS3, R2 and L2 are acceleration and brake, while you aim with the left stick. Right stick isn’t used for anything as the way you drive in Wheels is similar to how the warthog handles in the Halo games. Moving the left stick moves your aiming reticule. While you are driving, the camera will automatically turn to where the reticule is pointing. In a game like this, the reaction of the car turning to let the guns aim at the enemy is a bit slower than I would like. Twin sticks should have been used for this. If you’re stuck in a corner, you’ll find it frustrating trying and get out because the Halo style controls aren’t the best for precise movement in tight areas. Sure, it doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s annoying.
Weapons and power ups are scattered all around Wheels‘ complex level maps. You are never short of picking up rockets and flamethrowers, or that health pickup when your vehicle is on its last legs, struggling to move because two wheels have been blown off. Each weapon has two firing modes assigned to R1 and L1. Environments are littered with ramps, boost pads and jumping pads giving the player ways to attack and evade the opposition. I feel like Wheels is trying to be a first-person shooter in a third-person car combat game because the way this plays reminds me of the old days of first-person shooters like Unreal or Quake. Cars can even jump on command with a press of a button, giving them a low gravity feeling as they hover in the air for a second or two. This helps when you are in a fire fight as jumping will allow you to do 180 degree turns in the air. Drifting can help you turn sharply as well. Actually, apart from the aiming, the rest of the controls feel great and are thoroughly thought-out.
I came to the conclusion that some of the weapons feel unbalanced. Everyone starts with the machine gun, which is quite weak unless you use its alternative fire mode that can kill most classes with one shot in close range. There’s a rail gun that kills in one hit, but it only fires once before it needs to recharge. The one that seems super broken is the heat seeking missiles. There seems to be no way to dodge them once it’s locked on. I’ve tried drifting, jumping and everything else in the book, but I still seem to get hit. Maybe I am missing something? But with nothing telling me how to dodge, how do I know? When you’re low on health, you can say goodbye if someone has missiles aimed at you. It doesn’t help that weapons have a wide auto aiming area too, making you feel like you only did half the work when you blow someone up.
It’s a downer that things like the aiming controls, auto aiming and unbalanced weaponry throw a spanner into what is a fun game to play. It could have been a game that appealed to people who like the old classic way of doing deathmatch. No experience bars, no regenerating health, no unlockable weapons; just you, your weapons and skill reactions. It’s a cheap game at only £7.99, so the price of entry isn’t all that bad for the game; sadly, Wheels of Destruction messes some of the gameplay and becomes a car combat game that’s entertaining, but devoid of skill and only about who can blast each other first before getting shot. Lack of local or dual online multiplayer is disappointing, and having more car designs wouldn’t have hurt. Overall, Wheels of Destruction is a fair game that I did enjoy, but I can only see it being entertaining for a week or two.