Wheels of Destruction Review [PlayStation Network]

Off-road vehicles and roof-mounted gattling guns fuel your online combat in the latest PSN exclusive. Does it have enough in the tank to make it to the finish line?


PlayStation Network exclusive Wheels of Destruction aims to scratch two itches at once - the deeply-ingrained need to blow-up your mates online, and the pure tactile joy of a well-executed power slide. If merely running and gunning isn€™t enough for your online entertainment, why not try Gelid Games€™ suggestion: strap into an SUV and fire rockets from its roof? Wheels of Destruction offers you five types of these gun-toting off-road vehicles to choose from; you have the Heavy (slow and indestructible), Engineer(nimble, better on-screen radar), Assassin (quick firing rate), Scout (fragile and quick) and the Soldier (jack of all trades - think Mario in Mario Kart). This isn€™t Team Fortress 2, but it€™s starting to sound like it. Each childhood dream of a car comes complete with an arsenal of flamethrowers, gattling guns, rocket launchers, and the Quake favourite: the rail gun. Each weapon has an alt-fire mode that provides a variety of melee and long-range options. The flamethrower throws out a burnin€™ ring of fire to anything nearby, the gattling gun turns into a devastating shotgun, the rocket launcher fires, er, rockets(at a different angle) and the Rail Gun turns into... the BFG. That€™s right - the BFG. From Doom. I wept retro pixellated tears when I first used it, completely annihilating an enemy in the process. It was an emotional moment. Wheels of Destruction As you fling these vehicles around, there will come a point when you string together a satisfying chain of moves that encapsulate this game at its best. After a round or two, you will find yourself being chased by an enemy, power-sliding into rocket launcher ammo, switching to the now-enabled rocket launcher, continuing the slide into a 180 degree turn to face your pursuer, firing rockets at them, jumping up into the air and boosting forwards through the sky to dodge the already incoming fire - all in one move - and you will laugh like a child. The first time you do this, the game seems to opens up in front of you. The levels no longer seem constrained to the ground, transforming into a much more vertical experience where leaping and jumping becomes essential. It is in these moments that Wheels of Destruction is at its strongest - providing a fluidity of movement and a real sense of momentum that regular online shooters lack. However, woe betide you if you need to stop and pull off a three point turn. The controls are counter-intuitive when you need to manoeuvre from a standing start, and it can feel like the car goes exactly where you don€™t want it to. Up-close combat in these situations can be a nightmare unless you employ the alt-fire weapons. The low-speed controls make sense eventually, but expect to be cursing the controller (and nursing a lot of defeats) until you figure it out. Wheels of Destructions€™s action unfolds in the same old post-apocalyptic wasteland that everything takes place in these days. The environment is knackered - London is surrounded by green ooze, Tokyo is flooded, Rome is covered in volcanic ash, all the coffee shops in Seattle are snowed in and Paris has been reduced to a weed-covered car park. The blue-skies Sega loved in the 90s are long gone and we are left to pick up the brown and grey pieces. Although it shouldn€™t put anyone off, there isn€™t any sort of narrative set-up for the events of the game. Pointing out a lack of story in a driving game, let alone a driving-combat game, might seem a bit over the top, but comparable series Twisted Metal managed it. Even a basic one-liner telling us we€™re part of a large post-apocalyptic reality show would have made clear the link between environmental catastrophe and flamethrowing Land Rovers. As it stands we drive and fight for no reason - and that ain€™t no way to live. The game sports the usual modes you€™d expect: Deathmatch (every car for themselves), Team Deathmatch (red cars versus the blue cars - familiar to anyone who watched Milky Way Ads in the 90s) and Capture the Flag (steal their flag, don€™t get blown-up, get a point). You can play online against human beings in ranked matches, online in unranked matches against both humans and AI, or offline solely against AI. Split-screen two player isn€™t available, which is a real shame as the pick-up-and-play nature of the combat lends itself to sessions with uninitiated friends. As you won€™t be playing friends in your house, you€™ve got to face the merciless hoards on PSN for your entertainment but, unfortunately, Wheels of Destruction doesn€™t offer any means of progression. When you€™ve killed your thousandth virtual enemy in an online shooter, an important motivation to keep coming back is the promise of more goodies and character customization. Wheels of Destruction lacks any ongoing rewards, upgrade paths, or options to fine-tune your vehicle and loadout. Once you€™ve got the rocket launcher (of which there are many to pick up in each level), that€™s it. There€™s no advanced versions of the weapons, or perhaps what would have been even better - vehicle-specific versions. The player€™s scope to become engaged in the game at a deeper level than they did on their first go is very limited. What you find on day one here is the same stuff you€™ll be playing with a week later. Wheels of Destruction is a fun and very accessible vehicular combat game, but when you€™ve handed someone their ass (or been handed yours) for the umpteenth time, it unfortunately doesn€™t have a lot in its arsenal to tempt you back for more. Wheels of Destruction is available to download now on PSN
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Earliest gaming memory: Being terrible at a pong ripoff with a turny-dial controller. Earliest gaming defeat: Jumped up out of bed to turn off the bedroom TV after a marathon (sneaky) Mario Bros session at 3am. Got dizzy, fell over. Biggest gaming victory: As a 12 year old dished out a SF2 Turbo pummelling to much older opponents. All game experiences since have contained these three elements - being rubbish, falling over, and sweet, sweet victory.