When I first played Carmageddon back in 1997, I thought “Car combat is the wave of the future.” In many ways, thankfully I was wrong. Through the first quarter of 2012, car combat has made a bit of resurgence – first with the release of Twisted Metal, now with the arrival of the PlayStation Network exclusive Wheels of Destruction.
Developed by Gelid Games for Sony’s Spring Fever 2012 event, Wheels of Destruction is class-based car combat game focused on giving you the most bang for your buck (pun intended). There are five different car classes to choose from: Heavy (tank class), Scout (fast), Assassin (rapid fire), Soldier (middle of the road) and Engineer (able to see all vehicles on radar). I tried them all and while the Engineer was the most unique class, it is severely under-defended.
Balance is the heart of the problem with Wheels of Destruction. In the case of almost every feature, you get the impression that it’s “almost there.” The weapons are fun; shooting missiles, firing your main guns and using the sniper laser feel great, until you realize the flamethrower ignores the shields and decimates everything in your path. Then, you simply hone in on where the flame pickups are, allowing you to easily pick off three of the five classes who do not have a lot of hit points. The other feature where Wheels lacks is in the camera and aim control. Gamers have been using dual-analog sticks for over ten years now. Why the camera, aim and steering are all attached to the left analog stick with the right stick remaining dormant is beyond me. I cannot tell you how many times I found myself attempting to rotate the camera using the right stick, only to realize nothing was happening. This really hurt my overall experience.
Wheels of Destruction is not without its merits. Created using the Unreal engine, Wheels has great fidelity and an art style that made me reminisce on the joys I had playing Unreal Tournament 2k4. That is not to say it looks like UT2k4, just gives you that same feeling in combat. The real bright spot is in Gelid’s level design. Each map/arena feels different and provides multiple routes and points of entry with just the right amount of choke points to allow for some serious destruction and mayhem.
This game is all about the online component. The offline mode will provide bots and it’s moderately entertaining, but there’s no story to speak of and it gets old fast. I wasn’t able to get a great impression of the online system, because I rarely found anyone online. I did have a couple of matches against one other person, who mercilessly slaughtered me with the flamethrower time and time again.
Bottom line, I’m going to recommend against purchasing Wheels of Destruction unless you are absolutely in love with car combat games. With the aforementioned difficulties with class and weapons balance, my fear is that the online component will be a flash in the pan. I foresee people abandoning this endeavor quickly and unfortunately, the offline component will not sustain you.
Wheels of Destruction is available exclusively on the PlayStation Network for $9.99, $7.99 if you are a PlayStation Plus member.
Wheels of Destruction Official Soldier Trailer
Wheels of Destruction Official Engineer Trailer
Wheels of Destruction Official Scout Trailer