Ocean take a break from licences to invent football... with cars?
Since just about everyone else has had a go at 3D second-person perspective sports games (most recently Millennium with the execrable Stormball), Ocean have decided they might as well try it, and they've come up with Wild Wheels, from the same programming team (Red Rat) who brought you MicroProse's International Soccer Challenge. The basic concept is six-a-side football played with cars, and apart from being able to buy power-ups and better vehicles with prize money, that's about all the game amounts to.
You zip around using any one of a number of viewpoints (a bit like a flight sim, you can watch from inside your car, slightly behind it, zoom around or even use the overhead view, which as it happens is pretty much the only one where you get a halfway-decent idea of what's happening and where everything is. Unfortunately, since the overhead view only occupies a little box at the side of the screen, the graphics are all absolutely tiny, so it's tricky to make everything out anyway) and, er, punt the ball in the general direction of the goal, while trying simultaneously to wreck the opposition's cars and prevent them doing the same to you.
The most interesting variation on the norm is that the goals themselves are deadly to the touch, so you need to be pretty sharp on the brakes if you score from close in (which is where you get the most points). While moving up the leagues, buying new vehicles and trying out new tactics will keep you amused for a couple of hours initially, in the longer term there's very little to actually do. It's simply not really fast and zappy enough to supply much entertainment while you're doing it either.
While it's all perfectly well done and attractively presented (in what's fast becoming the standard TV show kind of set-up), Wild Wheels is let down by a basic game design that should have been too dull and shallow to have ever been allowed to get past the drawing board stage. It's certainly better than Stormball, but then again that's a bit like saying Attilla The Hun was better than Hitler.
Mediocrity is an improvement on outright crapness, but it's still nothing to fork out hard-earned (or even not-very-hard-earned) money for.
The Bottom Line
When you see the sort of stuff you can get from Ocean for £7.95 (things like Head Over Heels, say), Wild Wheels at £26 comes across as a bit of a joke.