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Wheelman

Interview: A summer Hollywood blockbuster finally due in February

Midway Newcastle art director Cumron Ashtiani recently gave us the low down on the long delayed Wheelman, a new IP co-developed with shiny headed action star Vin Diesel, which he described as a "Hollywood summer blockbuster car chase action film as a game". Phew.

We found out why it has been delayed so long, why it's not going to include a softer side aimed at casual gamers, and why the studio's opting to neglect multiplayer game modes.

Wheelman mixes driving, combat and open-world elements. What genre excactly does it fit into?

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Ashtiani: One of the most interesting things we've come across with Wheelman is that no-one has really played a game that's exactly like it. It's a lot of different things and really it's more than a sum of all of its parts. I'd probably best describe it as being like a big Hollywood summer blockbuster car chase action film as a game, with the mechanics of vehicle combat and ballistic combat as well as special super moves.

With Vin Diesel and his production studio Tigon being heavily involved in Wheelman, where does ultimate control of the project lie?

Ashtiani: From an intellectual property point of view Vin's the driving force behind the IP and the franchise idea. From a development point of view Midway's not involved in the film process. From a game development point of view, if there s any link between the film IP that he's got and our game then it's not directly linked. We're not making a game of the film, but a game in its own right, using the idea that Vin Diesel plays Milo Burik, an undercover agent and elite driver who infiltrates the Barcelona underworld.

What more can you tell us about the story?

Ashtiani: Without giving too much away, there's some information Milo Burik must get hold of which is of international importance. The gangs don't really know the importance of the information so he's kind of playing them off against each other to get what he wants, so there's a whole kind of espionage angle in there as well.

What kind of combat elements and special moves should we be most excited about?

Ashtiani: We do a multitude of things but what we're probably best known for is the driving combat. We have vehicle melee, which is where you steer with the right hand stick and with the left hand stick you can ram other cars. Depending on what the distance was and the speed you were at it has a different effect on the cars, so if you give them a little nudge at the tail they'll spin out in one angle because you destabilised the back, or if you nudge them at the front they'll destabilise in a different way. When you get good at the game you can strategically knock a car off the road so that it hits another car and then the two of them barrel roll off and explode.

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We also have a currency which we call 'focus power' which you can use to pull off super moves like Cyclone, which is where you spin the car 360 degrees while firing out of the window first person style at the individual targets.

For a game about speed, Wheelman has taken its time in getting here. It was originally due out in 2007. Why has it been such a long development process?

Ashtiani: There are a number of reasons that the game's been in development for three years. We moved all of our technology onto next gen, so in the first year of development we had a lot of tech work. We're using our own modified version of Unreal Engine 3, so we've got open-world Barcelona with cars racing at 100 miles an hour, which UE3 isn't usually geared towards, so we've had to do a lot of modifications ourselves.

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