Vin Diesel’s Wheelman

Vin Diesel\'s Wheelman

You remember Vin Diesel right? Of course you do… big guy, moody looking, great voice?

Well, Mr. Diesel and his production company Tigon Studios have been working with the UK’s own Midway Studios on a new action driving game. A driving game which promises something a little bit beyond what’s available today. Allow me to elaborate!

The Vin Diesel’s Wheelman event was held on London’ Hospital club in trendy Covent Garden. It’s one of those places that you have to know where it is because there are no signs but it’s VERY nice inside. Anyway, I walked up to the first floor and was greeted by the team there very warmly indeed. ‘Oh, you’re from Ready-Up’ they said, ‘come on in, please help yourself to a drink!’. It’s nice to know that Ready-Up, just finishing our first year, already has a positive reputation but I digress.

I had a significant amount of floor space to wander around in for the first 15-20 minutes or so and spread throughout this area were five Xbox 360 demo stands all with Midway folks prepping, primping and generally making sure everything looked good. I grabbed a beer and grabbed one of the stand jockeys for a chat.

It turns out that my victim was one of the scenario designers and he was more than happy to take me through the thought processes behind the action and guide me though some levels.
The first level I tried is the tutorial level for the game and engages some of the basic moves that you execute, others I tried saw these basic moves and others being put to the test is a pretty significant way!

I’m not going to review the game itself here but as time goes by you’ll start to hear the phrase ‘vehicle melee’ more and more I would imagine! This is what Wheelman brings to the table, no more the gentle (!) sideswipes of GTA and Need for Speed now there are significant, purposeful and pretty spectacular attack and defence moves you can do while in vehicles to take on and take out others.
During my chat the venue was filling up and as I moved away and grabbed a nibble or two from the circulating tray-bearers I found myself bumping into camera crews from, amongst others, MTV! More circulating, note taking and nibbling later we were invited up to the viewing room on the 2nd floor for a presentation and preview of the game itself.

The presentation provided more depth about the collaboration work which has been undertaken by Midway and Tigon and the different way this game has been approached as a project. The story line has been written as if it were an action movie, this is to provide the game with a much more integrated and fully imagined feel. The idea here is that instead of having car chases, races and action crow-barred into a game-story, the plot actually revolves around these elements and they are immersive pieces as they would be in a movie. It was Vin Diesel himself who first proposed that it should be possible to bring the elements of a fighting game into a driving game (this becoming vehicle melee) and I was advised that he has had a constant input into, not only the artistic side of this (his game persona is a VERY good likeness) but into the game-play itself.

The presentation showed us a preview of the next trailer for the game and then we sped through a couple of levels in real time so we could see what the action really looks like. A goody bag with stickers, merchandising elements a t-shirt and a USB key with the trailers and other gubbins in it was provided too, it’s nice to get free stuff!

After the presentation we went back down to the main event area where things were pretty busy and I had a chance to speak to Mr Joe Neate the producer of ‘Vin Diesel’s Wheelman’ and although pressed for time (I believe I was keeping IGN waiting) he was very approachable and honest about the game, and it’s positioning. “We wanted the game-play to provide that kind of cinematic feel we wanted the player to play it rather than rely on cut scenes. We see Wheelman as being right in the middle between traditional driving games and shooters, we’ve brought the best elements form both and we think the fusion is great”

Joe joined Midway as a QA manager having cut his teeth in the gaming industry through the tried-and-tested route of play-tester and QA. Now in charge of production the pride he has in this game and in the team at Midway is easy to see. It’s also nice though that he’s still very much fired up about gaming and especially about collaborations like this one with Tigon and Vin Diesel. “On the cinematic side we met two or three times a week to develop the script and then the storyboards, and then the animatics – the sort of blocked out version of the action – and the cut scenes.” says Joe.

“The really good part was that if we had a idea for a mission which we really wanted to get in there and it didn’t quite fit with the story we could go back to them and there was give and take on both sides.” On the direct input from Vin, Joe explained “You know, Vin Diesel isn’t you typical name-on-the-box, he loves video games. He’s got however many characters in World of Warcraft at Level 60 or 70 now I would imagine. When Simon our Creative Director went over to Prague to meet with him, the first thing Vin did was throw an XBox controller at him and they played Dead or Alive for like two hours. Vin totally kicked his arse of course! But he was really interested in how we could get fighting stuff into a driving game and that helped us flesh out the whole vehicle melee thing”

Joe also said that Vin plays the game regularly and provides a lot of feedback to the Midway team, as do his Tigon studio team too. “We send them regular builds and it’s really cool to hear how much he loves certain things and we get ideas from him too.”

Joe and I spent 10 minutes or so talking and then I had to give ground to the waiting hordes. We were actually speaking next to the PS3 setup they had running, this had an earlier build of the game on than was running on the Xbox 360s as they had seen some ‘issues’ with the latest cut of the code. Everyone seemed to forgive them for it though.

With my game-time spent and interview done, I did a further circuit or two, grabbed a couple of tasty nibbles, took some shots and bid the organising team a fond adieu.

My overall thoughts are thus: The Hospital is a nice place to do something like this I enjoyed the venue. The girls who welcomed me and looked after everyone there were top. Helpful, cheery (even when interviews over-ran), and generally smiley folks.

The game is, at this stage, very playable. I’m looking forward to seeing it in February ’09. The mix of driving shooting, shooting while driving and driving while shooting was well executed and the controls transitioned easily from one phase to another. The T-shirts however were a little small, oh well we can’t have everything I suppose!







3 responses to “Vin Diesel’s Wheelman”

  1. arc14716 avatar

    Sounds interesting. At amped up Burnout game I suppose, with fighting and shooting thrown in. Hopefully a demo will find its way to XBL Marketplace for my downloading pleasure.

  2. John avatar

    That’s me in the spare room now! 🙂

  3. Skill avatar

    Not that I mind at all, but FYI I’m told that calling scantily-clad girls “tasty nibbles” isn’t considered policically correct. 😉

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