PSN Review: Wheels of Destruction



Like any good car, it’s all well and good if a driving game has a fancy paintjob and a snazzy interior, but without solid components under the hood, it’s all for nothing. Wheels of Destruction has plenty of potential, but it’s the gaming equivalent of a car with a broken steering column, making the mere act of driving around feel like you’re trapped in the passenger seat with Mr. Magoo at the wheel.

Taking its cue from Twisted Metal and the like, Gelid Games’ PSN exclusive Wheels of Destruction is an arena-based car combat game where you pick up shield and bonus weapons and use them to destroy your foes. To mix things up slightly, Gelid attempt to weave class-based multiplayer a-la Team Fortress into the vehicular mayhem. You’re given a choice of five cars, each with their own “class” and corresponding strengths and weaknesses. The Heavy can soak up lots of damage, but at the cost of speed, while the scout moves quickly but isn’t well protected against attacks. The choice is welcome, but despite the names, the class system is an entirely hollow one: There’s no level progression, unique skills or perks for each one, so it’s no more than choosing a different car with slightly different stats and names that give the illusion of multiplayer depth.
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If you’re playing the game solo and hoping for some variety of single player campaign or content, you’ll be naturally disappointed. Wheels of Destruction adopts a Left 4 Dead approach to single player gaming, in that solo and multiplayer modes are the same, only with AI bots dropped in if you’re playing offline. It’s fine if you’re just after a standard multiplayer game, and the maps offer a decent enough level of variety, but with only three modes (Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag) it’s a game that could really use a helping of objective-based single player to round out the package more satisfyingly.

There’s a handful of weapons to take your pick of, from the default machine gun to shotguns, flamethrowers and rockets, each with an alternate fire mode, but the relative uselessness of most of them means you’ll only ever really be using the rockets, which makes things a little dull. That aside, it’s a game that does satisfy the base cravings of a multiplayer shooter – it’s fast-paced, chaotic, you shoot things to death and get shot to death in return – but much of the fun is undone by some wonky design decisions.
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Instead of more traditional and comfortable driving controls, Wheels of Destruction adopts something akin to Halo’s Warthog mechanics, only infinitely more sluggish and cumbersome. The left stick controls the camera’s direction and pretty much everything along with it – whichever way you point the camera, your car will slowly turn and head in that direction, aiming your weapons along with it. An incredibly slow rate of turn and the needlessly botched controls means that navigation, especially in tight corridors, is a nightmarish chore. Even though the mechanics of steering are something you sort-of get used to after several matches of being a sitting duck for other players, it’s still something that never manages to feel comfortable.

One of the more redeeming aspects of the game is the level design. With lovely-looking multi-tiered maps full of laser launchpads that fire you into the air, full-pipes that you can twist around and onto the ceiling of, and curling ramps to hidden upper decks and arena rooms. Jump off a bounce pad or ramp and you can perform acrobatic boosts in mid-air to snag items or reach new areas. The controls scupper much of the fun, though, since getting to many sections of the maps requires tight precision to navigate curving, narrow tracks. Unfortunately, you spend far too much time sailing into the abyss at the cost of a life or bouncing off walls as you struggle to navigate through close quarters, and the controls are an unnecessary chore far too much of the time.
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There’s potential in Wheels of Destruction, but Gelid Games never really lives up to much of it. It’s a playable game that offers a diverting enough session of multiplayer vehicular combat. But while the level design is interestingly put together, it’s a disappointingly scant package hampered by some needlessly awkward controls that actively detract from the fun far too much of the time.

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Wheels of Destruction is available to buy now exclusively on PlayStation Network.