Format played: Xbox 360

Current CEX Price: £1

I’m not going to lie – despite reaching my 100 consecutive daily article goal yesterday, it’s been a bit weird to consider not writing anything at all today.

So here I am with what may well be a regular feature for me – games picked up on the cheap that I’ve never tried before, with a CEX link in the price details.

Not quite reviews, because I won’t have played enough of the games I look at to give them a fair assessment, but more than just first impressions or a preview. So – shall we get started with today’s game then?

The Wheelman had a bit of a tortured development; I remember seeing the announcement trailer, way back in 2006 if I recall that correctly, and it looked less than impressive even then. The trailer used what appeared to be in-engine graphics slightly buffed up to look more cinematic, but there was no getting around the fact that the model representing the star of the game, Vin Diesel, looked comically awful in the scenes shown. I don’t recall there being any hype for the game in the following years.

An accompanying film was announced, intended to be a sequel to the game. It never surfaced.

The game itself finally limped over the finish line to – at best – mixed reviews in 2009. It sank without trace from what I recall at the time.

I picked The Wheelman up recently in Game’s XBox 360 clearance sale – all of their last gen stock was (and still is, in some locations) being sold off for 99p or less. The Wheelman was 49p. I figured, finally, why not try it?

And you know something? I’m glad I did. Though it’s trying a little too hard to be an edgy GTA-alike, there are some really interesting and well-implemented ideas in The Wheelman that make it worth checking out at its current price.

Though the in-engine cutscenes feature awful animation, lip-sync and low detail on the featured characters, the game itself generally looks pretty nice and runs well. The Barcelona setting lends The Wheelman a different feel to other open world, crime-based, US-set titles; the ‘car combat’ mechanics, which see you using your vehicle as a weapon (and even give your car finishing moves!) are interesting, brilliantly satisfying and well-implemented.

Likewise the silly but oh-so-awesome ‘air-jacking’, which sees your character leaping from his own car onto and into another vehicle, stealing it while each car is still in motion. The driving itself is satisfyingly weighty too, with a real feeling of power behind your vehicles, especially when engaging in swiping other cars into obstacles and off the road.

The on-foot action isn’t great. Side missions can feel incredibly challenging, with tight time limits and ridiculously tough objectives. There’s some truly repellent violence in cut scenes, which is completely unnecessary.

So far, however, I’ve had a blast working my way through the missions in a variety of cars (many of which have Midway game references as their number plates – you start off in a car with MRTL KMBT plates, for example) and yes, I’ve definitely had my money’s worth already – even with just a few hours of gameplay under my belt so far.

Despite its many flaws, I do think The Wheelman was unfairly maligned upon release, though releasing so soon after GTA IV is unlikely to have helped the situation. There’s a lot of content here and it is fun being in Vin Diesel’s shoes for the duration of the game (even if his character’s actions in the story don’t often ring true, given who he’s really working for).

Worth picking up at its current price? That’s a definite yes from me.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this – or any of my other content – it’d be much appreciated if you’re able to share this article via social media. I’d also be forever grateful if you’re able to support me via: Ko-Fi.com/geekmid – which would assist me in writing even more content just like this. Above all else though, thanks for reading – I truly appreciate it!

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