[gameinfo title=”Game Info” game_name=”” developers=”Gelid Games” publishers=”Gelid Games” platforms=”” genres=”” release_date=”April 3, 2012″]
Vehicles? Check. Arena style combat ala Unreal Tournament? Check. Class system like Team Fortress 2? Check. Explosions? Check. On paper Wheels of Destruction, published and developed by Gelid Games exclusively for PlayStation Network, contains everything needed for a balls-to-the-wall car-on-car multiplayer slaughterfest. But as anyone who has been a gamer for most of their life knows, anything can be made to look good on paper and just the slightest thing can turn what could have been an AAA game into bargain bin clutter. Did Gelid Games make their list and check it twice so that their game is very nice or should they be expecting stockings of coal at the end of the year?
Just the term “vehicular combat” brings visions of Mad Max-esque car combat saddled with excitement, which leaves one to wonder why the genre is so under-represented in AAA video games. Unfortunately outside of the Twisted Metals and Vigilante 8’s, most vehicular combat games fail to capture the controls that allow the vehicle manipulation to crossover from the racing genre to arena style combat. Even more unfortunately, Wheels of Destruction falls into the same trap of lacking intuitive controls. The left analog stick controls both the turret, camera, and steering in the game. Intuition and past video game experience wants you to use the right analog stick for aiming. Stopping and aiming to shoot and then trying to drive again will leave you disoriented especially as you try to and fail at turning the turret with the right stick like any good little boy (or girl) has been conditioned to do. The game does have a jump button that will cause your vehicle to jump and face the camera. Luckily, unless you are an old dog that can’t learn new tricks, a few hours of gameplay will have you moving and shooting with the best of them. And as any veteran of first person shooter multiplayer will tell you, stopping and shooting is still a bad idea from a control and strategy standpoint.
Players drive and decimate around five different maps named after major world cities like Tokyo and Seattle. With 5 different classes that handle and shoot differently, Wheels of Destruction still feels less like Team Fortress 2 and more like Unreal Tournament. Combat tends to be fast paced with more time spent finding opponents on the map (even with 12 players) than actually fighting. Depending on class match ups, it isn’t unusual to be taken down in one or two shots. Roaming around as a team is definitely the preferred strategy to going lone wolf. You might think you are vehicle version of Chuck Norris, but you are no Lone Wolf McQuade. Aiming seems to be proximity lock-on based meaning if your reticle is close to the enemy and no sudden movements are made than you are locked on. While combat is the name of the game, you are driving vehicles and stunts such as flips and rotations are rewarded with a recharging of your shields. This leads to interesting encounters in fights where car chases occur just so the runner can flip to gain some extra shield to fight back. The turbo boost and jump buttons give the game a very arcade-y feel to the controls.
Wheels of Destruction is a multiplayer game. While it contains an offline mode, it is without any kind of single player structure and essentially is the multiplayer’s match creation with bots. Each match can be played with either deathmatch, team deathmatch, or capture the flag rules. These are the same rules experienced in first person shooters for nearly two decades. A more interesting variety of modes would have been nice for creative variety but the hardcore tend to stick to these core modes in most online communities. Each match can also have modified rules consisting of classic (no mods), firefight (gatling gun and shotgun only), random car (random class/car every spawn), and any modification (random mod every match). Once again a lack of variety leaves the pickings bare and basic. The matches can also consist of two, four, six, or twelve players. Why can’t you have eight or ten player matches too? Probably to keep up the theme of a lack of choices in match creation.
It is very hard to come out with a multiplayer-only game in this day and age. Gaming communities are spread over so many titles that the number of players online usually peaks within the first week or two of release and then you are lucky to find a game down the road. The games that do succeed have a wide variety of content with solid play mechanics to keep the players from getting bored. The low map count in a downloadable game is understandable but the lack of variety in rule sets and modifiers is almost inexcusable. Hopefully Wheels of Destruction will add more content via DLC but it just might be too little too late to save a solid game from gaming oblivion.