In part two of our interview with Wheelman executive producer, Shaun Himmerick, and lead mission designer, Mark Thompson, we look at the game’s amazing scenery, the mission structure and the car vs car fighting. (Check out part one here)
Yep, Wheelman has a combat system. When you’re up against another car, you can pull alongside and hit the left analogue stick to barge them. In some missions, your passenger can also hang out the window providing you with shooting capabilities, too.
And then there are the special movies. Power-up the Focus metre (by driving in an extravagant and generally dangerous manner) and you gain access to a variety of spectacular attacking manoeuvres. Himmerick has a particular favourite…
You’ve modeled several well-known areas of Barcelona and the detail is hugely impressive. How have you achieved this?
SH: We had to stream in an insane amount of things! If you go to a big plaza area, we load everything within one block - in every direction. Depending where I go, it’ll keep loading one block away; in order to get our texture resolution so high, there was no other way for us to do it. We didn’t want blocky textures or to force player’s down rigid pipes of gameplay all the time… We have to go some because the car can reach 100mph. We are streaming almost constantly.
Do the game missions reflect any of the scenes in the movie at all?
SH: They’re unrelated in that they’re not overlapping. The game and the movie are sequential, so we basically had a canon we had to stay in. Vin Diesel and his scriptwriters went though, wrote the game script, and then started the movie script – so they’re sequential stories. We got to have pretty much free-reign with our missions.
MT: This is not a typical movie franchise, it’s not ‘these are the characters, this is the plot, this is the internal logic of this world’s fiction, you have to live with that’. The IP was always pushed as a joint venture, it would exist as a videogame and as a movie and the two are intertwined like that. We were given the initial direction by the guys at Tigon, they’re the link between game and movie - they gave us an initial high-level story treatment and we worked closely with them from that, planning the story, gameplay, cinematics and how everything ties together. It’s very much driven by the gameplay, we wanted to create the ultimate car chase so whatever’s required to achieve that, we’ve done it.
Can you describe some of the missions?
MT: We’ve got standard chase, we’ve got ‘be chased’, onfoot and arena scenarios. We have what we call ‘special beats’ where you have to transport a package or interview someone while driving, something that’s a little different from the other beats. We call these buckets of gameplay and we constructed the missions by weaving these together. We’ve got missions that are entirely constructed from that type of beat, but then we mix it up within missions, we change the pace dramatically depending on what the player’s done recently and what’s coming up next. We look at the story arc and pace things out accordingly.
But there are free-roaming elements, too?
MT: We’ve got the main cinematic thrust of the game, the main story arc - 8-10 hours book-ended with cinematics, it’s where the cinematic flavour of the game lies. Then we’ve also got the side events, the player can drop out of the story arc whenever they want and just explore the world in freeroam, and that’s when they come across the events.
What’s your favourite special movie in the game?
SH: The cyclone. This is the one where you’re driving away from the enemy and you basically do a J turn - you hit a button and come flying around backwards, the camera goes into the car – it’s just like the scene in Die Hard 3, where Bruce Willis jacks the car, turns it and is able to shoot back. We go into a very close camera so you have chance, if you hit the little icon on an enemy’s car, to take it out in one shot, then your car spins round and you’re right back in it. You can also do this forwards. If you’re approaching a roadblock you don’t think you’ll be able to smash through, you can hit the button, come into that camera, target a weak point, blow everything up and you’ll go flying in through the explosion!