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The screen is ablaze with chaotic action. Our two heroes are on a barge, floating on a river surrounded by enemies. Massive apes swoop in from above, exact a toll, then quickly jump back to safety; meanwhile, ancient Asian wizards launch magical missiles straight at us and miniature mechs keep firing their lasers. Ruined debris blocks our path, so we desperately make our heavy gunner blast away at it while the telepathic heroine attempts to fend off the foes by dispensing lightning. Whether or not we make it to our destination will depend on cat-like reflexes, our partner’s battle awareness, and a little bit of luck. We don’t exactly love our chances.
Wanted Corp is nothing if not action-packed. As a top-down, twin-stick action-shooter pitting two players against a horde of different enemies, it succeeds at creating frenetic scenes. There is a story – something about bounty hunters chasing a hyper-intelligent monkey across a planet – but any pretense of storytelling is an excuse to get blasting.
You can play on your own or with a buddy (offline or online), but let’s be totally honest – teaming up with someone is a significantly better experience. While it’s cool that Wanted lets you play on your own, the hyper-charged action gets difficult to manage if you don’t have some help. In single-player mode, it’s nice to be able to switch between the two protagonists, as they each have wildly different complementary skills. It’s always better with a pal, though, because you can concentrate on the task at hand.
All the trappings of a loot-n-shoot are present; as you tear through the eight levels, credits are earned which go toward upgrading weapons and skills. The hero dude MadDogg is all about guns and grenades – which he giddily uses with reckless abandon – while female protagonist Irina has psychic powers and conjures lightning (among other mystical tools). Together, they’re a powerful team, which is a good thing - Wanted Corp is pretty darned tough. There’s a lot going on at once; it’s not uncommon for a dozen enemies to be attacking from all sides. While it’s not easy to always keep track of what’s happening (or even where your own character is), the game doesn’t suffer any technical issues at any point. Which is nice.
One of the more interesting twists is a decision you can make for any enemy – do you “capture” them to earn more credits, or blow ‘em away to get them out of your hair? It’s a lot easier just to kill them, but some enemies are worth half as much cash dead while others get you nothing if they’re pushing up daisies. Making the decision happens in two ways: first, you need to use alternate fire modes on your guns or powers to freeze instead of kill. Next, you need to wait until they’re stunned, get close to them and press X, all of which will get them transported to some prison ship in the sky. It’s kind of simple at first, but as the action heats up a few chapters in, deciding and executing becomes brutal.
Our biggest complaints are with the controls. Whether you’re using the standard controller or the Move, they never feel quite right. Switching weapons is clunky, and aiming MadDogg’s guns is a pain. To be fair, pointing his grenades or Irina’s lightning is easier with the Move or right stick, but with so many options (as well as the need to direct your partner in single-player with one of four commands) we felt like we were fighting the controller more than using it.
There does not appear to be much of a goal per level either. There’s a high score for credits as well as a time tracker, plus rewards if you capture certain numbers of key enemies. It seems like Wanted Corp wants you to keep upgrading your items and then re-play levels many times for better scores and times, but after a couple of tours of duty we were pretty much done. While there was a solid progression of new enemy types and weapons like mechs and robots, we never got truly pulled in.
Perhaps it’s the drab atmosphere, ordinary visuals, linear paths, and repetitive dialogue that kept us from loving it. Wanted Corp is decent, but not nearly decent enough for a recommendation this holiday season when there are already so many great titles to choose from (granted, it’s a $10 PSN download and not a full-price $60 retail disc). It didn’t quite hit the mark we hoped for.