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Wanted: Weapons of Fate is like a cheeseburger. Okay. Bear with us. There’s nothing clever about it; no technical genius; and certainly nothing especially well-crafted. It’s a game you’ll blaze through in under four hours, with no multiplayer modes to bring you back for more. It’s a game filled with crummy art and design, looping music, terminally cretinous AI, heavy-handed visual effects, and polygons with edges so jagged you could use them to saw through a tree.
It’s a third-person stop-and-pop shooter long on gimmicks but short on ideas. You’ll curve bullets to fire around corners, navigate cover using a combo system that lets you make smooth transitions from point to point, sometimes dropping into slow motion to blaze through enemies as you move. You’ll suppress enemies with blind fire and loop around behind while the screen’s still smeary to flank them. It’s all artifice – all ‘gamey’ devices and mechanics which turn the space into something little more than pure game.
There’s no immersion here. You are in a game world using game mechanics to out-game the gamey enemies who are trying to end your game. These spaces aren’t worlds or architecture; they’re boxes placed in space for you to move around and fight in, often copied and pasted several times in a row – work your way down one corridor and the next is identical, right down to most of the enemy placement.
And Grin’s engine is a disgraceful piece of tech that makes both Wanted and their forthcoming Bionic Commando look worse than they already are with its frequent forced loads. With no streaming in either Wanted or Bionic, you’re tossed to a static load screen every four minutes. Like a cheeseburger straight from Burger Thing, it’s poorly made, slightly limp, and a shameful treat. And like a bargain-basement cheeseburger, it’s one you’ll enjoy every second of.
For four hours, Wanted makes you God. Can’t quite hit the guy behind cover? Curve a shot and you’ll get a slow-mo view tracking your bullet all the way to that perfect headshot. Up against a small army? Dodge from cover to cover, then bring time almost to a halt, blazing through half a dozen enemies in a single cover-to-cover jump. Burned out your bullet-time? Stab someone to top it back up.
Even on the hardest settings, the game is a stab frenzy if you’re a would-be ripper. The melee kills are brutal, instant, and easy. Jagged James McAvoy moves at such speed and there’s such an abundance of cover, it’s easy to close the gap and go for a dose of the old Corporal Stabbington on one of the ten million cloned bad guys. Wanted will make you feel strong; for one afternoon, it’ll turn you into an action hero like almost no other game – you look and sound like a wimp, but you’re an unstoppable truck, rushing through stages leaving stabbed faces and shattered kneecaps in your wake.
Those mechanics, which are so clearly gimmicks, keep every firefight just about fresh enough. Grin’s take on Quick Time Events – shooting bullets out of the air and blasting enemies in between scripted sequences – occasionally pop up, and are just enough that they never outstay their welcome. The boss fights are few enough that Grin never run out of ideas. The mounted gun bits are so rare you’ll barely remember them, four hundred bodies later.
There’s obvious game-extending ‘ctrl+c, ctrl+v’ action in later missions, as if Grin were desperate to get the game out the door, but any longer and Wanted would be too much. A junk meal rather than a junk snack. Nobody wants a quadruple cheeseburger with a quart of mayo, and nobody could bear more than nine levels of Wanted, but for those nine levels you’ll feel satisfied, even with the floppy lettuce baddies and processed cheese level design.
No critic could recommend Wanted: Weapons of Fate at full price, but for the cost of a couple of movie tickets or a DVD it’s one night’s worth of more-than-satisfactory bloodshed, cussing, overt sexual references, and ultraviolence. Like that Smackdonald’s burger, you’ll never look back on it as the best meal you ever had, but for that one guilty night it’ll leave your belly stuffed and satisfied.
Mar 31, 2009