Riddle me this: What do you get when you put a hot girl wielding a sword, a pair of guns, and acrobatic shooting in a mixer and hit the switch? A sure shot recipe for success?
Well, not quite. You get the Artifical Mind and Movement’s ticket into current-gen gaming – WET. Another abandoned child from the Activision-Blizzard marriage, the game happens to be the studio’s first foray into HD gaming, and it shows. Having primarily developed games for the Nintendo DS, PS2, Wii and the PSP before this, the studio hasn’t exactly come out with graphics to write home about. The textures are bland with a low level of detail, and the whole game, which predominantly jumps between London and Hong Kong, with some Texas thrown in for good measure, looks washed out with brown and grey.
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While graphics may not be the best aspect to start a review with, the whole look and feel of the game, despite the mediocre graphics, is what gives WET its identity. The Grindhousesque feel of the game, coupled with the Rock n’ Roll music seems to suggest that there’s more than one Tarantino fan in the studio. The menus look like the cover of a pulp magazine straight out of the 1950s. This, coupled with grain filter lifted from the era of grindhouse movies, and rounded off with the old school advertisements (“Eat me!” says the gleeful Hot Dog at the snack counter) interspersed between the 12 chapters of the game lend the game a measly sliver of uniqueness, which is mind-numbingly missing from everything else the game has to offer.
Yes, WET doesn’t take too long to fall flat on its face.
Here’s the thing about the game; it makes a great first impression. Many people were probably sucked in by the over-the-top gameplay of the demo. The sad part is that beyond that demo, the game has absolutely nothing more to offer. The player controls Rubi Malone, a drop-dead gorgeous, alcohol-swigging, blood-spilling hired gun with some great punch lines. These punch lines, however, are wasted on the remaining cast of dull and uninteresting characters who will fail to rise above the stature of cannon fodder in your mind. The mediocre story of the game does just about enough to pull you through the game. In fact, it’s highly probable that amidst the frantic shooting and murder in the game, you will pretty much forget (or stop caring) where the story is heading.
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So without a great story or intriguing characters to ride upon, the core gameplay is left all alone in the playing field to carry the game. And predictably enough, it doesn’t take long to miss a step. The combat is a mix of gunplay and sword slashing, though the player will predominantly shoot through the hordes of enemy that the game throws by combining shooting with acrobatic moves such as wall-running, sliding and jumping. When you pull the R1 button to shoot during one of the above mentioned acrobatic moves, the game will go into slow motion, and Rubi will automatically point one of her guns at the closest target. The other gun has a reticule for manual aim, which can be pointed at another enemy.
The player can also chain different acrobatic moves together and continue to mow down targets, which serve as one of the few high points of the game. It is absolutely exhilarating to jump down upon a group of enemies and then roll into a slide, shooting all this while, ending the move with a glorious slash of the sword to kill the last guy who somehow survived the rain of bullets. Doing this a thousand times over, however, isn’t so exhilarating.
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Through its series of corridor missions, the game keeps throwing more and more enemies with very little variety right through for Rubi’s killing pleasures. At the end of each mission, Rubi is judged on three parameters – time taken to complete the mission, style (which depends on how well the player chains acrobatic moves) and the score multiplier. Based on how she does on these parameters, the player gets points to invest in upgrades, which range from increased firepower and capacity of weapons to additional acrobatic moves. The score multiplier is a very important factor right through the game; it increases with each kill and reduces during the down time. Also, the health regeneration depends on how high the multiplier is. This comes into play especially during arena battle.
In each chapter, the game throws in a few arena battles, which are essentially open areas where enemies keep spawning until all entry points are closed down by Rubi. This is where another problem kicks into the game. These arenas can get extremely frustrating because while Rubi is a mean killing machine in slow-mo, she loses health very quickly in real time. When the player enters the arena, the multiplier is usually sitting at zero, which means there is zero health regeneration with a group of baddies raring to go at you. This leads to some very frustrating spikes in difficulty, where the only way out was to quickly make way to one of the few multiplier boosts interspersed within the arena, and hope that you don’t die while getting there.
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The game’s stab at introducing variety comes in three shapes and sizes. The first are training missions, which pop-up at Rubi’s base every time she acquires a new weapon (there are three weapons in the game apart from the sword – pistols, shot guns and sub-machine guns). These are nothing but checkpoint races, where the player has to complete the course within limited time, putting to use a combination of acrobatics and shooting (basically, what you do in the rest of the game).
The next one comes in the form of highway chases with Rubi riding atop moving vehicles, which wouldn’t look out of place in the Matrix movies. These segments could have been great, if the developers weren’t lazy enough to make the movement within these segments QTE-based. So essentially you press a button on time to progress the level, and keep shooting at bad guys before they shoot you down.
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Finally, there’s the rage mode. At random points during the game, a spastic idiot wielding a club would foolishly charge Rubi, causing her to shoot him down at point blank range and spilling his blood all over her face. Rubi explodes like a volcano at this, and the whole world becomes a haze of red, white and black. While it looks very cool, it is again, the same gameplay of jumping, sliding, shooting and slashing at a slightly increased pace.
When you are not killing, you are usually ledge-hopping to get to the next killzone. The controls in these segments are adequate, and there’s even a ‘Rubi-vision’ to help you along should you get stuck. The boss battles, or rather the lack of them, is another predictable disappointment in the game. While there are hardly any to speak of, the few that are there are 100% QTE based. Bah!
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In a festive season that is oozing with top-quality games, it is very hard to recommend WET. Six-to-seven hours of a boring campaign with no incentive to play through again and no multiplayer hardly justifies its price tag. The few positives like the unique art style and interesting gameplay mechanics are completely washed away by the banality of the game. This game held a lot of promise, but whether it was laziness, or the lack of experience on the part of the developers to deliver on that promise only time will tell.
(+) Unique presentation and art style
(+) Interesting and exhilarating gameplay mechanics
(+) Great scripting for the protagonist
(-) The game is completely killed by its repetition
(-) Unnecessary spikes in difficulty
(-) Mediocre story and forgettable characters
(-) Overuse of QTEs
Developer/Publisher: A2M/Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (Not officially available in India)