With the recent release of Twisted Metal, it’s obvious to draw comparisons when another vehicular combat game comes along. Wheels of Destruction though is about quarter of the price and still offers online multiplayer and different game modes. Weighing in at approximately 350mb, it leaves a small footprint on your PS3 too for those times when you just want to pick up your controller and quickly blow up other players with a roof-attached rocket launcher. But is it any good?
Wheels of Destruction can be described as Unreal Tournament with cars. Right down to the launch pads and respawning weapons and health pickups. Even then UT has more modes and is more enjoyable, your first impression will bring UT to mind though. WoD sticks with the basics of Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag.
The game uses a class based system in a attempt to add some depth to the gameplay. There are five different classes to choose from. While they have names you may as well just give them a number. One is big, VERY slow and really takes a beating. Five is small, fast and barely has any health whatsoever. Only problem I found is two of the classes are anything close to useful and since there is no way to modify the vehicles, the Soldier and Assassin classes (or “Three” and “Four” as I came to call them) will undoubtedly be the ones you will use.
The arsenal of five weapons you can utilise are similarly plagued with problems. It boils down to if an opponent has a rocket launcher and spots you, you’re pretty much dead. This is partially down to the controls that do not really help in making a quick getaway. It doesn’t help that auto-aim cannot be turned off so your opponent just needs to hit the fire button a few times. Getting away becomes more about falling off something than making a quick escape. If you are the one doing the auto-aiming, prepare to feel cheap and unrewarded when you deliver that rocket up the other players exhaust pipe. There is no skill involved in getting your crosshair “just near” another car since the game handles the hard part. The only other weapon worth mentioning is the flame thrower. Get hit and you gradually lose health, again if you are not using the Heavy class, you probably won’t have much of it anyway. The only way I could see to give any sort of balance was to apply the Firefight mod which only lets you use the default gatling gun/shotgun weapon.
All this is well and good if you could actually drive the cars. The archaic use of the “wherever you point, your car will go” mechanic makes steering feel floaty. Unless you are using the Heavy which is like trying to drive a heavy sack of potatoes and is of almost no use at all. In a game with 12 players you won’t have to worry though because as soon as you’re hit with a rocket you end up hurtling through the air so steering doesn’t really matter and you’ll die soon anyway.
WoD is powered by Unreal Engine so graphically you should know what to expect. In this case it is a mixed bunch. Some of the game looks fantastic, but some of it just lacks some polish in some environmental areas that make the game look lifeless. The loading times are very fast and the game is mostly free of bugs, always a good thing. Of the five maps on offer, three of them are simply too big and confusing depending on the mode being played. Some suit Capture the Flag well, others look more like a Deathmatch arena and make playing CtF something that comes down to almost pure luck than strategy.
The main focus of the game is online multiplayer. If you eventually get into a game with other people the game actually plays smoothly. Deathmatches quickly get boring and that only leaves Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag as the only game modes on offer that is worth playing, and on that front you will have some fun, especially with people you know. Online overall though feels plain old. The game is without any kind of upgrades, levelling system or features that make even free-to-play modern online games something to invest time in. There is a singleplayer mode that pits you against bots in any mode on any map of your choosing. Great for practice, if only the AI knew what they were doing. Depending on the map your teammates may decide to huddle together and do nothing or drive as slow as possible. They will try to capture and return flags but they act robotically, reversing to line up with a flag if they drove past it for example. The AI bots really know how to use the weaponry though, especially that pesky rocket launcher. The bots offer a challenge but online is the way to go.
With added modes — Tag, Race and King of the Hill are ideas that instantly spring to mind, along with some balancing of the weapons and fixes to the car classes could have made the game so much better. It’s definitely the best car combat game on SEN, but it is no Twisted Metal. It certainly tries and some kudos has to be given to Gelid Games for making the Unreal Engine look good. If you enjoy old school FPS like Unreal Tournament and Quake Arena then this will appeal. The attractive £7.99 price tag helps too. If you are looking for something with more modern mechanics though, you may be disappointed.
Oh and the BFG from Doom is in it. Nice touch.