Wheels Of Destruction PlayStation 3 review

The wheels on the bus go round and round…and then out pop the weapons of chaos, ready to cause mass destruction. Welcome to Wheels of Destruction.

Download formats give smaller developers the chance to flex their muscle in a world where striking a deal for brand new games is growing ever more difficult, especially as publishers such as THQ are being forced to tighten the purse strings considerably for fear of going under. However, be it WiiWare, Xbox Live Arcade, Steam, or the Sony Entertainment Network in the case of Wheels of Destruction, it can also mean that any old self-published nonsense can ooze onto the marketplace, ready to swallow up unsuspecting fools’ hard-earned pennies.

Recent release Smash ‘N’ Survive proved to be of the stinker variety, with Indian outfit Version2Games really needing to take its idea back to the drawing board for a massive overhaul. Thankfully, genre stable-mate Wheels of Destruction, from US start-up company Gelid Games, is a step in the right direction, albeit a stuttering one.

Fierce, devastating, brutal, ferocious, all are words that could be used when looking at Wheels of Destruction. It exudes attitude from every pore, yet it’s somewhat immature. In other words, it tries far too hard to be cutting edge and sleek, ultimately taking itself far too seriously for its own good. Some tongue-in-cheek humour, a heavy dose of sarcasm, and plenty of wit would have been preferable in such as multiplayer-centric arcade combat-shooting experience. Instead, gamers are treated to a straight hardcore feel with no personality, although admittedly, one that brings with it five impressively detailed vehicular beasts to race around the five gruesome regions of Europe, and a downright groovy underground ambience thanks to the dark beats of the rocking soundtrack.

This is no casual, easy-going Mario Kart ride, by any means, being set in a post-apocalyptic world full of disaster and mayhem. In fact, Gelid Games has gone a little too far in the opposite direction in its endeavour to avoid a mass market appeal, flinging Wheels of Destruction into a somewhat antiquated category, back to an age where smooth control systems for racing-style affairs were not always the norm. The strange control mechanic tarnishes what could otherwise have been an enjoyable jaunt, with the camera viewpoint and four-wheeled wreckage machine’s movements actually being mapped to the same analogue stick, resulting in ridiculously slow turning circles, even with the nippiest of craft at your disposal. In fact, the entire button layout for both control schemes on offer is the least intuitive I’ve seen in many years. The DualShock 3 must be held in an extremely awkward claw-handed, cramp-inducing manner in order to be able to successfully accelerate and break with L2 and R2, whilst also being able to utilise the various types of weapons on offer via the other buttons.

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Also, inexplicably, there is no explanation as to what is going on, how to get the best out of each vehicle, or anything else for that matter, with Wheels of Destruction expecting players to get the gist of the action almost immediately without any introduction or guidance. Given how befuddling the controls can be, some assistance would have been a lifesaver. Instead, you will likely have been blown to smithereens several times before even figuring out what buttons do what, and identifying the purpose of the numerous icons dotted around a stage. As for being able to capture an opponent’s flag without extensive trial and error beforehand, or even lock-on and annihilate them, good luck with that!

This true demolition derby is reminiscent of past arena-based ‘destroy or be destroyed’ titles, yet for all its great presentation and funky score, plus the modicum of potential underneath the surface, the carnage is sadly nowhere near as thrilling as its variety of pre-release press pieces made it out to be. Neither are the differences between vehicles as stark as anticipated, with the differentiation between them being minimal to say the least.

Want to play online only against eleven others? Wheels of Destruction attempts to cater for people of that mindset, nearly ditching the solo play aspect entirely, with only the option for solo play being to compete against cheating AI bots in Capture the Flag or (Team) Death Match (gained ground on an opponent? Think again!).

However, finding a positive online experience at the moment is nigh on impossible as well, possibly down to lack of penetration into the market for the moment, but most definitely also because of it being hampered by technical bugs that will deter early entrants from ever wanting to return to the arena, instead marking it up as £7.99 wasted.


2 out of 5