Wheels of Destruction is a class-based car combat game from GelidGames aiming to blast its way to the front of a genre that’s become somewhat bloated of late. With Smash ‘N’ Survive and Wrecked: Revenge Revisited already available as downloadable titles, how will this game fare against these, as well as the classic genre leader, Twisted Metal.
At its core Wheels of Destruction focuses on a very simple premise – action and plenty of it. Whether it’s through the two deathmatch options or the moderately more strategic capture the flag mode, it’s clear that the developers don’t want to waste time on often unnecessary storytelling or character introductions. This may disappoint those that enjoy playing through an absorbing narrative, however if you prefer to get straight into the thick of things then Wheels of Destruction might be for you.
Combat is basic but gives enough variety so that most matches play out different to the last. There are a mere four weapons to choose from with missiles, a mini-gun, flamethrower and a rail gun which offer their own strengths and alternate firing modes. These are all obtained as pickups, apart from the mini gun which you start each spawn with. These weapons are switchable on the fly and pop out of the roof of your vehicle with an almost Transformers style materialisation.
The controls are something that will surely split opinion, with a configuration that goes against most people’s idea of how this game should play. Rather than using one thumbstick to move your car and one to aim your gun turret, GelidGames have the left stick doing both. Basically wherever you point your camera the vehicle will head. This does involve an unwieldy turning circle, but this can be executed much faster using the jump or drift buttons. The weapon firing uses an auto-aim system that sees the turret react faster to the direction change than the car so the skill generally comes in the form of timing your shot right or dodging it if you’re on the receiving end. It may sound absurd, and to be honest at first it feels it, but it doesn’t take too much effort to grasp before your racing round the level picking off foes with ease.
Classes are a big component of most competitive games these days and although GelidGames haven’t neglected it, they simply haven’t capitalised on it as much as they could. There are five categories to choose from: Assassin, Soldier, Heavy, Engineer and Scout. Each look visually different but only seem to have either their speed or resilience to attacks modified slightly. A Heavy will not be as fast but has increased armour instead, whereas the Scout is quick but won’t take as much damage before bursting into a ball of flame. There are other distinctions such as weapon switching speed, firing rate and increased lock on distance, but they simply don’t feel significant enough. There’s just a missed opportunity to perhaps add a special attack exclusive to each class that could have gone a long way to separating them out further.
Conflicts take place on five sizable arenas inspired by real world locations embellished with an apocalyptic tone. Levels feature both outdoor and indoor environments with a whole host of jump pads, portals, ramps and multi-tiered platforms to keep things interesting. Unfortunately, despite the possibility for 12 players in a match, some arenas feel too big and it makes the close-combat action sporadically few and far between.
The Unreal Engine has been put to good use here and makes the vehicles look suitably detailed with a metallic sheen that fits the feel of the game perfectly, that and it all runs smoothly despite the often frantic action. Sound effects are satisfying with the crunch of metal and firing of weapons giving the impression that they pack a serious punch, however the soundtrack itself is a little bland.
Wheels of Destruction is an entertaining little title that manages to combine pleasing visuals with just about enough solid gameplay to warrant its £7.99 price tag. The controls take some getting used to but once they click into place there’s plenty of skill to the combat despite the hand-holding auto aim. However, if you are looking for an engaging story driven singleplayer then you might want to look elsewhere as this game is focused solely on arena battles and carnage.