Pontiac Remains In 'The Wheelman,' Despite Real-Life Car Collapse

One odd side-effect of the current recession is that Vin Diesel's new game this month features licensed General Motors cars that may soon cease to exist in the real world.


This month's "Wheelman" game may be fantastic. But it certainly seems to be suffering a string of troubled associations.

From a publisher that has gone into Chapter 11... attached to a movie that is MIA... comes "The Wheelman," a video game that features two cars that General Motors appeared to be bailing on last month.

The new game, which stars Vin Diesel and was developed by Midway and his gaming studio, Tigon, will feature a Pontiac G8 and an Opel Astra. The Astra has been sold in the Saturn line in the U.S. Normally that would be something to be proud of. But as of last month, the inclusion of those cars is a little awkward.

In February GM announced a drastic cutback to the Pontiac line and a discontinuation of the Saturn brand. Making things a little more ill-timed, the game's boxart prominently features a Pontiac, adorned with the line's famous red emblem.

Despite the real-world woes of GM, the game's creators are unfazed.

"There has been no change to the presence of GM or the GM cars in 'Wheelman,'"  Shaun Himmerick, executive producer at Midway, told me over e-mail on Monday. "The Pontiac G8 is still in the game as a featured car. We also still have the Opel Astra, as that is the name of the car as it is being sold in Europe."

Licensed cars are often a proud talking point for video games. They were a a bullet point worthy of discussion for this game, which, as its name suggests, is all about an action hero with some serious driving skills. It's a car chase game. But real-world automotive woes put the inclusion of licensed GM cars, particularly from the beloved but fading Pontiac brand in a different light.

This game may go from being a celebration of Pontiac to a nostalgia item.

"The Wheelman" is set for release later this month. In America, it will be published by Ubisoft, which took over U.S. publishing rights last month from Midway as that company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. A spin-off movie starring Diesel was announced a few years ago but the project has not been publicly discussed for some time.

None of this means the game will be bad -- the concept of a video game about car chases done right is worth cheering for -- but it does contribute to an unusually star-crossed birth for what is supposed to be a star-driven of a game.

For more information on the game, check out the official "Wheelman" site.