Midway Games' 2007 was a mixed bag for the company with some solid releases such as Stranglehold and Unreal Tournament 3 and some not-so-good games like Hour of Victory and Blacksite: Area 51. The company's financial bottom line was bad enough that just a few weeks ago the company said farewell to their CEO David Zucker and brought in 17 year Midway veteran Matt Booty as its interim CEO. At Midway's press event, held on Thursday night at the Red Rock Casino hotel in Las Vegas the company showed off a number of playable builds upcoming games and made a couple of official announcements on new titles, including the next installment of their flagship Mortal Kombat series. While Midway's line-up of 2008 games isn't lengthy the games themselves look very promising and could finally bring Midway back to profitability.
We got a chance to go hands on with the games shown at Midway's event and have some initial impressions as well as some info on games that were announced but not yet playable
Previously announced and shown only as a pre-rendered CGI trailer, Midway's UK team was finally able to show off their work on this upcoming driving-combat game that is the second major collaboration between a game developer and actor Vin Diesel. The actor worked with developer Starbreeze back in 2005 on the creation of The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay, an impressive sci-fi shooter that showed that movie based games don't always have to be horrible.
This time, however, Diesel and his production company Tigon Studios are working with Midway on an all-original game title (although you have to think that a movie based on Wheelman is in development as well). Diesel lends his likeness and voice to the title character Milo Burik, a man who on the surface is a “wheelman” who is hired to help speed the getaway of criminals in his trusty sports car. In reality Burik is an undercover agent who has an assignment to learn about a big heist in the city of Barcelona, Spain.
The developers at Midway Newcastle have worked directly with Diesel on not just his character but on the game design and it's clear that both the dev team and the actor love action and chase movies like The Transporter, Bullitt, the Bourne series, Ronin and more. We got to play through a few mission in the game and came away impressed with what Wheelman will bring to the action-driving genre.
The first mission has you as Burik getting a female thief out of the area while tons of law enforcement are coming after them. The driving portion of the game is perhaps not quite as frantic as, say, a race in the Burnout series but its awful close and you have the added issue of police vehicles and other obstacles that are following you relentlessly through the Barcelona streets. The tracks themselves have tons of destructible items that you can drive through and while some tracks are linear in scope there is enough variety in them that you won't feel like its completely closed off to you. Sometimes in certain scenes (say if you are driving up a ramp with lots of explosions around you) the game will take over for a few second to give you an in-game cinematic.
The combat in the game is two fold. One is using the car itself to side swipe vehicles and crash them into building and each other. A quick flick of the Xbox 360 left analog stick in either the left or the right direction can send enemy vehicles flying and you might want to switch to the back camera to see how many vehicle you can take out with just one movie.
In some other missions we played, we got to see the in-car shooting portion. Sometimes your “partner” in missions will shoot for you while you drive; you just have to get in a certain point on the road for your partner to target the enemy vehicle. The most fun is shooting while driving yourself. You can shoot through the windshield at, say, an incoming roadblock to explode one of the cars and take them all out before you reach the barrier. You can even start a move that causes your car to turn 180 degrees and lets you shoot cars and other vehicles behind you. All the shooting is not car based, though; some points of Wheelman have you get out and shoot in third person to accomplish certain missions.
The game, which uses Unreal Engine 3 as its basis, looks terrific even at this early stage. The car and damage models are realistic and the design of the game's version of Barcelona is packed with detail. The eye candy in Wheelman is considerable.
Our quick demo of Wheelman was a ton of fun to play. If you love car combat games like Burnout mixed with a Hollywood actor and storyline, you should definitely keep this game on your radar. The game is scheduled for release for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC later this fall.