Wanted: Weapons of Fate
The Club suffered badly for its distinct indistinctness. Its core was somewhat original and enjoyable, but otherwise the title was intolerably bland – lifeless, even. Wanted: Weapons of Fate fails for a reason that is at once similar and entirely different to the former’s problem. Where in The Club, the player’s efforts were rewarded with no more than a whimpering flop, in Wanted, the slightest input seems to trigger a stream of wild, impressive animations that are effectively removed from its user’s manipulation. It’s as if the game interprets each button press as a cue to execute a series of flashy cut scenes, and although there are some neat, if not earth-shattering, ideas introduced in the package, it’s an almost entirely vacuous experience because of the detachment between player and player character.
Weapons of Fate presents itself as both a prequel and sequel to the events of the 2008 film, however the plot as a whole is largely simplistic and lacking in depth. It’s not an essential element, as GRIN are doubtless abundantly aware, so why there is an insistence on overly protracted story scenes remains a mystery. Even more puzzling is the inconsistency; all are captured using the game’s engine and output as videos, but they’re of an oddly erratic picture quality. Some look fine – albeit not as crisp as they would have been if rendered in real-time – whereas others run at a wince-inducingly low bit rate. This understandably gives rise to a suspicion that it’s not quite ready for retail yet, one that will refuse to yield even as the end credits roll.
Similar irregularities permeate the entire experience, from the very base combat upwards. For a start, the blasting itself lacks the imperative accuracy, the feeling that every shot can be relied upon to register a hit should it find a target. Shooting from the hip is not a workable option, but even when using the aimed view there are difficulties. Firing at enemies’ protruding body parts is highly unlikely to generate a single hit, and it becomes clear that cover is rigidly scripted – hiding behind any of the conveniently waist high surfaces littered throughout will render any bullets useless regardless of how perceptively they have passed through a character’s skull. Even ignoring the fact that the reticule is impractically large and imprecise, it’s a dumbfoundingly irresponsible design choice that makes the combat feel surprisingly weak and unpleasant.
Wesley’s array of techniques does salvage the action to an extent, and bullet bending is undeniably cool. The mechanic makes a valiant fist of the ability, but it’s by no means perfect, and the inability to move whilst attempting the trick is unfortunate. The fact every shot must be teed up to perfection also defies the cursory wrist flicking on display in the film, and it doesn’t look particularly astounding after repeated attempts. This and other skills are gained throughout the game and deployed during firefights by consuming “adrenaline”, which boils down to a maximum of four slots that are filled by killing enemies. All of these powers are remarkably similar in effect, most hinging on some sort of slow-motion dive or bullet-time effect.
This is just the first of several components that contribute to the user’s dictated role of viewer rather than player. These feats happen on screen, but are just barely influenced by what buttons are pressed. Melee attacks are a fantastic example, and another instance of Wanted bathing in excess where The Club was all too reserved. When the current player character finds himself within touching distance of an enemy, a prompt appears to tap the hand-to-hand button. The camera cuts to a stylish angle, a knife is pulled, the opponent tries to fight back, a short struggle ensues and blood is sprayed on to the screen. It’s overcomplicated, and leaves the person who is by all accounts meant to feel like a badass assassin gawping blankly at what has just occurred. It barely qualifies as interaction, and the quick diving between cover has much the same effect. Although certain later enemies require a tad more input to defeat, it’s nothing beyond hammering a single button for roughly four seconds.
Length is not usually a major issue any more. We expect at least a six hour campaign mode in most action games, but Wanted barely scrapes half of that. It’s the shortest of short videogames, and for one with no multiplayer mode to speak of and little in the way of replay value, to charge full retail price is unacceptable. Incredibly, it manages to repeat itself many times over in the process, with recurring adversaries, identikit level setups and a meagre, unspectacular range of weapons diluting an already feeble offering. Even the music is repetitious, an enormous step down from the majesty of Simon Viklund’s stellar Bionic Commando Rearmed soundtrack. Despite all of the above, the visuals are nicely crafted, with some very pretty rim-lighting and detailed environments adding a hyper-real sheen to the player’s surroundings.
There’s a mixed bag of ideas present in Wanted: Weapons of Fate, but as a whole it feels terribly rushed. In the gameplay area, it’s just about competent, but still lacking some vital ingredients. The mechanics surrounding cover and the various techniques the player can utilise are there, but the execution is really nowhere to be found, and despite its stylish appearance and outward level of polish, it’s incredibly light on content. Don’t let it be confused for a polished turd, because it’s rather a polished nothingness, a great big hole where someone left a few useful tools and mysteriously departed. Style is by no means a bad thing, but when it’s too distanced from the player they simply become another spectator, and if Wanted is guilty of nothing else – which, by the way, it is – it’s this.