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WET

Whether it’s the search for the right outfit, a cool phone or the perfect girlfriend, the tug of war between style and substance often comes into play. Many games these days are heavy in either one or the other but the best ones find a way to balance them both. WET is an acrobatic third-person shooter that is so heavy on style that it’s very easy to overlook what it lacks in substance. However its over the top tone and nearly absurd amount of violence can’t hide some of the flaws that keep it from reaching the “cream of the crop” status.

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From the moment WET begins, it immediately feels like you’ve been thrust into the latest Quentin Tarantino grindhouse-style flick. From the graphics and sounds to the ridiculous story it’s clear that the developers worked hard to give the title a real B-movie atmosphere. Rubi Malone, the main character, will undoubtedly draw comparisons to The Bride from Kill Bill. In many ways though Rubi is a bit more of an anti-hero; she’s a gun for hire who for some reason has a penchant for stabbing every bad buy she can find in their family jewels. Her only concern is her next payday. She wields dual pistols and a sword and isn’t afraid to use them to shed as much blood as possible. Rubi’s character could have been developed a bit more though as this is about all we learn about her through the course of the game.

The majority of time in WET is spent engaged in slow motion, bullet-time based combat. This alone is certainly nothing innovative but the manner in which the shooting is performed during these times makes WET’s approach unique. Rubi enters the bullet-time mode by executing one of the many acrobatic skills that are at her disposal. She can slide across the ground on her knees, wall run, and jump off of enemies or walls into the air. During these periods one of her aforementioned dual pistols (which are eventually upgraded to shotguns, SMGs and crossbows) is automatically aimed by the AI while the other is free to be aimed at anyone else on the screen. This works well most of the time but the free aiming can be very loose making it difficult to hit your desired target on occasion.

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Also in many instances the auto aiming is very inconsistent with whom it chooses. Sometimes the enemy closest to you will be selected while at other times it just seems to be randomly picked. All too often this can lead to you having both guns aimed at one person while getting pummeled by the enemy that you thought the AI was going to pick up. And those previously mentioned acrobatic moves cannot be stopped until the animation/slo-mo sequence is over which will often lead to death via long falls off of cliffs, railings, and other elevated places. At the end of the day though, all of the jumping around and shooting turns WET into one long stream of action movie moments which is pretty damn cool, if just a bit repetitive.

WET isn’t all running around with dual guns a’ blazing though. Rubi’s monkey toys are hidden throughout each level and points are gained by collecting them all. There are also a number of platforming sequences mixed in and while they are simple and not incredibly impressive compared to similar sequences in other titles, they are effective enough at diversifying the action. Turret sequences are also thrown in for good measure in which the objective is to mow down tons of enemies with a stationary rail gun. In keeping with the over the top nature of the title the gun never overheats or runs out of bullets. These areas of the game are quite frankly not very fun at all after you do it the first time. They get awfully repetitive, the firing of the turret really has no feel of power, and enemies are way too easy to carve into with it. Add to the mix a number of brain-dead easy QTEs (every major boss battle consists entirely of these) and we have a pretty mediocre package of distractions outside of the standard running and gunning.

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At least the Rage Mode, something akin to Kill Bill’s siren-blaring moments of fury, is terrifically executed. At various times in the campaign Rubi enters this mode after killing an enemy at point blank range. Blood splatters on her face, the soundtrack gets pumped up with adrenaline, art style morphs over to a mixture of red and black, and dozens of enemies are sent your way. Luckily Rubi’s ability to kill them quickly is increased in this mode which makes for some beautifully excessive bloodshed that works well and provides a nice change of pace.

The graphical style in WET is grindhouse-themed to the core. An old school film scratch rests over everything in this game including even the title screen. This grainy filter definitely fits in with the overall presentation but it takes a while to get used to and can initially be somewhat annoying. I opted to turn it off at first but found that this only accentuated the mediocre graphics that were present underneath. The visuals are not horrible but just are not as good as they could have been. Backgrounds in most areas could use a lot more detail, character models are not very sharp, and the blood effects are average at best.

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Sounds, however, are a different story. Bullet sounds and explosions gratifyingly ring out above all other things. There’s a great selection of freaky rock and punk songs here that fit right in with the look and feel of the title. Voice work is top notch, however I must mention that the sounds that Rubi makes when she’s killed have to be some of the worst death effects I’ve ever heard in a game. These “Ahhhh” and “Ehhhh” sounds kind of give the impression that she just got her foot stepped on, not that she was just mortally wounded or fell to her death.

Although WET‘s campaign is not very lengthy (I finished it in about 6 hours on Hard), I’ve got to admit that it’s one of the few single-player games that I’d actually want to go back and replay a number of times. Sure going back to collect any monkey toys that were missed can keep you busy but there are actually a number of other reasons to keep playing even after completing it. Tackling the two additional unlocked difficulty levels, Femme Fatale (Ultra Hard) and Golden Bullets, make diving back in pretty worthwhile. In the Golden Bullets mode, enemies are taken down with one bullet but Rubi’s health is extremely limited. The mode is exceptionally challenging but equally rewarding. Training levels that are encountered throughout the campaign also get unlocked after completing the game and they are a ton of fun. Finally, the Points Count mode is also made available and allows you to go back and replay any chapter trying to get the highest score possible.

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When it’s all said and done, WET has a number of technical annoyances but the overall style and feverish gunplay outweigh the majority of them. If the ending of the game is any indication, there may be a sequel coming eventually and if the issues get addressed, Bethesda could have a killer franchise on its hands. For now though this is a nice, but flawed, distraction whose general approach and gunplay should at least make B-movie fans proud. We just need a bit more substance to go along with all of that style.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2008.

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