Developer: Gelid Games
Publisher: Gelid Games
Car combat titles seem to suddenly be in vogue these days, with a number of smaller titles looking to ride the coattails of Twisted Metal to some semblance of marketplace success. Wheels of Destruction follows in the footsteps of Wrecked: Revenge Revisited and Smash N Survive, though no doubt hoping to achieve at least a solid showing to warrant a glance, unlike the latter two.
Although rocking a budget price point, with marketplace offerings delivering more comprehensive experiences these days, it's a shame to see Wheels of Destruction falling a little flat in the content department. For starters, there are only three game modes to speak of - Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag - across five maps. It's important to remember that this is a marketplace title, but even so...the lack of variety is somewhat distressing.
Sadly, that becomes something of a theme.
There's not really a singleplayer mode to speak of, apart from allowing the player to indulge in the three modes with bots, so most of the action takes place online. This wouldn't normally be too much of an issue, but finding players has proven to be something of an exercise in severe patience at times, and the AI isn't exactly stellar company.
In an attempt to spice things up a bit, before the start of each game, you get to choose between five "classes" of vehicle: Heavy, Engineer, Soldier, Assassin, or Scout. Gelid made a big deal of comparing the game to Unreal Tournament and Team Fortress 2 before release, and indeed a game that could boast five distinct classes of vehicle, packing unique, innovative abilities, special weapons, and varied handling, would certainly make an impression. Wheels of Destruction is not that game.
Sadly the only real differences between the five classes all boil down to speed and durability...and that's about it.
Things don't really get any better when you finally get into the game itself, either, as you realise that Gelid have ignored years of driving game precedent, abandoning well-worn genre staples, to follow the Halo school of steering. Instead of sticking with using the left stick to veer left and right, aiming and steering are both governed by the right.
As if anticipating the clunkiness that using such an outdated system provokes, the game also features an oppressively helpful auto-aim system, which completely levels the playing field, negates the need for actual skill, and means that you can indulge in destroying everything in front of you without much exertion. Sadly, this also means that games prove to be incredibly unsatisfying beyond the first round or two, with none of the delight that comes with knowing that a player's out of the game because of your own skill, determination, and precision.
The weapons are a bit out of kilter too. There are four primary types, each with secondary functions, but the only one you ever really need to focus on getting is the railgun, which is absurdly overpowered. Balancing is a real issue here, and when placed hand in hand with the babysitting auto-aim, games quickly lose their appeal. There's no real strategy, not enough dimensions to the combat to make for any real sense of lasting fun, and it's a shame really because the arenas are actually varied enough to make the paucity of options more bearable.
Wheels of Destruction isn't especially bad. It looks pretty lovely, thanks to the Unreal Engine, and there's a little bit of appeal that simply comes from being a game where you can rag vehicles around arenas, blowing other vehicles up. Additionally, with Twisted Metal being a rather fiddly, uncompromising title, there's certainly room for a more accessible game, with gentler difficulty curve. But Wheels shuffles into view in rather unconvincing fashion, and although it might be the best of the recent crop of arcade vehicular wreck-'em-ups, that's not saying much.
There's nothing here that's terribly offensive, Wheels isn't a game that'll make you particularly angry, and it's not like there's really anything that's broken here. But the sins of omission are simply too great. That might not be too much of an issue for someone who just wants a relatively solid car-combat title, and the price point might help it shift a few units. But it won't take long for any curious souls to realise that the aesthetic slickness is hardly matched in the technical department, and that Wheels of Destruction has about as much depth as a cheese sandwich.
- Looks shiny
- Highly accessible
- Low price point
- Uninspired class system
- Archaic controls
- Grossly lacking in content and depth
The Short Version: Although there's nothing particularly wrong with Wheels of Destruction, there's little to recommend here either. A glossy sheen can't detract from a game that's cripplingly short of ideas, and provides little incentive to keep playing.