Hello there! Are you from the past? Would you like to be able to revisit those lost years? When games were simple and built in a way that’s different from today, for better or for worse? Well, Wheels of Destruction allows you to do just that, constructed as it is from antiquated design ideas that now feel out of place and bland.
Wheels of Destruction is, as you may guess from the name, an arena based car combat game. Picture a sort of budget price Twisted Metal, but mix in a bad take on the Warthog sections from Halo and the design and narrative from Dreamcast classic Trickstyle (a game that felt dated even back in the day). Then you’ll begin to get an idea of what to expect.
It’s an entirely multiplayer game with options for playing online in the standard ranked and unranked modes. There’s just three match types to pick from, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag. Having trouble in finding a game online? Well, you can also play offline by yourself against bots. These can also be used also in online multiplayer but really defeat the point of playing online at all.
That’s because their AI is exceptionally simplistic and overly aggressive. Some matches can just a case of every other car hunting you down relentlessly, with no variation between how each one behaves, or mindlessly sitting in one area shooting at random. Solo player games against bots end up feel unfair and lacking imagination, while team games lumber you with worthless opponents and worthless teammates. For solo play offline or even a training option, they’re sorely lacking to say the least.
No matter what mode you pick, even if your fortunate enough to find a good game with or without players, the game is so utterly awkward that playing with any competence is a fluke. The control scheme is the sole problem here, working out as a mix between a racer and an FPS, it’s made terrible use of the buttons on offer. Much like the aforementioned Warthog in Halo, the cars turn and move based on where the reticule faces. While this is OK as long as you’re moving forward, if you become stuck in a corner and need to turn you’ll find reversing a clunky experience. Instead of turning left to twist your car right (like in a racer) you have to point the other way.
It’s a simple issue that, after a little while, can be worked around and even adapted to, but it’s enough in the first matches to sour your experience. It’ll always bother you too, if you happen to play any other car based game at all and then come back to this, you’ll instantly have problems again.
It’s easy to see why the game is like this, allowing for free aiming of the selection of weapons on offer. You’ll find yourself starting out with a machine gun with infinite ammo but can pick up a rocket launcher, flamethrower and plasma weapon. The missile launcher is the only weapon that gets used though, as it’s overly effective and ends fights in seconds.
The second control issue comes in the management and deploying of your weapons. While R2 is your accelerator and L2 your brake, R1 is you primary weapon button. Yes that’s right, R1, which is right next to acceleration, is used for attack. On top of that every weapon has a special attack mapped to, you guessed it, L1.
This requires you to shape your hand into a highly uncomfortable claw like shape on both sides to enable full access to the necessary controls. If the game had been on the Xbox 360, the pad might have been better suited, but the closeness of the four shoulder buttons on this PS3 exclusive make it too much of a strain on your hands over an extended time.
The arenas on offer are based on real world areas, not that you could really tell. Apparently the game is set in a post apocalyptic future and everything has been laid to waste. At least that’s the best excuse that the team seems to have come up with for the bland and confused level design.
So far the only level even close to recognisable is London; we can only ascertain this from the inclusion of the Big Ben clock in the level. Which has apparently been relocated to a cave underground and then surrounded with acid… No buildings or other recognisable markings. It’s just the clock face.
Exactly what the level designers were thinking during the design stage boggles the mind. If you were to ask anyone, anyone at all, what they pictured of a future London after an apocalypse, they could not in their wildest dreams have come up with this.
It’s not even that the level layout is interesting, since many sections are just filled with greys of different tones. Often levels are sprawling and without direction. You might find yourself battling eleven opponents and not seeing any of them for extended sections of time, thanks to badly thought out respawn points and level design.
Let’s not forget the soundtrack either, seemingly looted from older dance-centric game soundtracks of the 90’s. Almost all the music in the game is terrible. At best you could call the musical quality what you might expect if you went to a junkyard rave, should such a thing exist. Actually it may be the one element of the game that’s quite fitting, conjuring up images of junk as you play this garbage pile of a game.
That’s the overall thing about Wheels of Destruction; nearly every aspect of the game is frustrating. Unlike the games it’s modeled on, it lacks even the most basic charm to pull you through. The smallest parts feel boring or outright annoying. Every play is filled with little issues that chip away at the intended fun. Every moment feels like one you could have spent doing something else.
With that in mind, do yourself a favor and give this a wide berth.