Thanks to the major release of Twisted Metal for the Playstation 3, it seems that car combat is the new genre du jour. In case Xbox 360 fans felt left out, Gelid Games has them covered with the release of a new downloadable game entitled Wheels of Destruction. The game takes car combat mechanics and mixes in the online arena modes of Unreal Tournament. The result is an action-packed, super-fast game, and if that was all that could be said about this title, it would be a good game. Unfortunately, there is more here than meets the eye.
Wheels of Destruction, at its core, is an arena-style car combat game. There is no story or single-player campaign – it is a pure multiplayer experience. There isn’t a lot of content in this game, and it shows from the beginning. The game also had the unfortunate problem of being released relatively close to Twisted Metal. Comparing the two would be unfair because Twisted Metal is a full-featured, triple-A title and this is a downloadable game. However, it is difficult to separate the two given their release dates.
The premise of Wheels of Destruction is simple: drive around the arena and kill the other team. Wheels of Destruction allows the player to choose between three modes (offline, capture the flag, and death match), five different car classes, and four different weapons, each with a primary and secondary firing mode. Each car handles differently from the next and each one suits a different style of play. You will have your choice of the typical multiplayer class offerings, including cars that are designed for snipers, tank characters, balanced characters, and so on. There are five different maps to choose from, and luckily they are all well-designed and work nicely for this type of game, but the severe lack of customization and variety makes this experience banal and repetitive.
From a graphical and design standpoint, the game fares well. The graphics run on the ever reliable Unreal engine – the game moves at a quick pace, and the game engine keeps up nicely. The time it takes to start a game, as well as the time it takes to start a new game if you feel the one you are in is not to your level, is very quick, which is always a good thing when playing multiplayer games. And we never experienced slow-down or graphical imperfections while playing offline, even under heavy combat situations. The maps, as mentioned earlier, are excellent and well-crafted. Most levels have several strategic nuances, and learning these levels can give you an edge over your opponents – there is a lot to discover from exploring these detailed levels.
Wheels of Destruction‘s controls are not intuitive and instead take some getting used to. Driving is tricky, and slow steering makes it especially difficult to navigate tight corners. When combined with having to aim and fire weapons, it makes for an initially frustrating control scheme. Luckily, most weapons will automatically target your enemies, so precise targeting is rarely necessary. You will learn that drifting is the key to keeping your weapons locked and your course true, and at this point, the difficulty curve flattens out a bit.
The multiplayer experience is also problematic, as there are some technical limitations that hold this experience back from reaching its potential. The one factor that you notice immediately is the lag, as whenever a player with a slow connection comes into the game, the rest of the players suffer the consequences. For a game that is predicated on speed and the multiplayer experience, the lag brings it to its knees. The matchmaking system also creates some problems. In addition to connecting you to lagging players, finding players of a similar skill level is difficult, and playing against gamers of a higher skill is frustrating, especially when you are trying to learn the game. The best way to deal with this problem is learning the game against computer-controlled bots in the offline mode. Unfortauntely, there isn’t much fun in playing a multiplayer game offline.
Overall, Wheels of Destruction falls short of its mark. The concept behind it was sound but the game failed in execution. On one hand, you have a strong graphics engine and wonderfully crafted levels, but on the other, you have an extremely limited game with only two viable game modes, subpar controls, lag issues and a poorly timed launch, all of which contribute heavily to a negative outlook on the game. Unless major changes are made to this game, we will have a hard time recommending it, since there are many better games within the genre.
This review is based on a review copy of the Playstation 3 version of Wheels of Destruction by Gelid Games