Vehicular combat has always been a mixed bag for me. I’ve dabbled with the likes of Twisted Metal, but never found it particularly satisfying. The most recent iteration, in fact, managed to keep my attention for about half an hour before I found myself feeling done. On the other hand, I absolutely LOVED Streets of Sim City, though that may have more to do with my adoration of Sim City than anything else. No, you know what? It was actually fun where Twisted Metal was not. There, I said it. All that now being said, Gelid Games’ Wheels of Destruction, releasing today as part of PSN’s Spring Fever, finds itself closer in my estimation to Twisted Metal than Streets of Sim City.
It’s not that Wheels of Destruction is bad, it just has a few serious flaws that hold it back from being really good. On the positive side, the maps are very well designed, the graphics are sharp, and you get some great post game stats. On the negative side, the number of game modes is incredibly low, the control mechanics are awkward and frustrating, and there is virtually no control customization. The flaws can be overlooked to a certain extent, but not forever, and not completely.
First, the positives. The maps, as I said, are very well designed. There are generally multiple paths to get you around the map, and power-up items are liberally sprinkled throughout. Certain parts of certain maps seem optimized for particular vehicle types, so you’re encouraged to discover which paths are most effective for which vehicles. Visually, the graphics are sharp. You’re not going to be disappointed by how the game looks, at the very least. Finally, the end-game stats, which reminded me a lot of the old Halo 2 stats page after a match. Kills, deaths, successful objective attempts/completions, etc. for each player in the game, with both a simple and a detailed view.
Now, the negatives. Wheels of Destruction gives you three modes to play, either online or offline. While Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag are fun game modes, there’s not a lot of variety in objective gameplay. Offline mode is filled with bots, which is great if you don’t want to deal with playing online, but it’s still limited by the quality of the AI (not bad, but not great) and the three game modes. That’s the least worrisome of the negatives, in my opinions. I can deal with repetitive gameplay, as long as it’s fun gameplay. Unfortunately, the control mechanics in Wheels of Destruction are downright frustrating. I want to be able to shoot in one direction while driving in another direction. If I’m in a lightly armored vehicle, such as the Scout, and I’ve got an enemy Heavy in my vicinity, my ass is driving the other way. While escaping to fight another day, I’m a sitting duck for any shots that Heavy may want to send my way, and there’s nothing I can do to even swat at it, because aiming is tied to driving direction. In fact, aiming controls driving direction, poorly, resulting in a lot of time spent facing a wall or trying to get through a narrow passage. Add to that the fact that you can only select from two pre-defined control schemes, and have no customization at all, and the oddly defined controls become another locked in con.
Wheels of Destruction does provide some entertainment. Like I said, it’s not a BAD game, just a flawed game that simply doesn’t live up to what it could have been. For $9.99, or $7.99 for PlayStation Plus members, you get a sharp looking game with well designed maps and the choice between offline and online play. You just have to be able to get over the poor controls, lack of control customization, and lack of game mode variety. If you think you can get a few hours of entertainment out of it in spite of those flaws, then give it a shot. If, like me, you think that vehicle controls in a vehicular combat game are pretty important, you may want to pass.
|Well designed maps|
Good game stats
|Poor control mechanics|
No control customization
Limited game modes