25 May 2009

Wanted: Weapons of Fate Review

Let's face it, if you watched the movie Wanted, chances are that there was at least one moment in it where you said to yourself 'that'd make an awesome moment in a video game'. Well, you'd be right - Wanted does lend itself to a technically proficient and thoroughly entertaining game. Unfortunately, it's completely crippled by a miniscule running time, as well as being so easy that sometimes you wonder why they didn't just make a sequel instead of a video game.

We'll get more or less the one truly bad thing about the game out the way first - yes, you can finish the game in less time than it takes to watch through the movie, that's how short it is. Even playing through it a second time for achievements/trophies adds barely any time onto the experience whatsoever - I got 46/50 achievements from the mere 7 hours I spent with the game.

There is, however, a flipside to the shortness coin - W:WoF never outstays its welcome. Just when you start to realise how inept some elements are: BAM! The game's over and you don't care any more. It does seem to be a new style of video-game development – as Peter Jackson put it: the line between movies and video-games is getting slightly blurry.

This is because this is where the game really shines - in emulating its source material. Ulf Anderson - creative director of the project – presents us with an orgy of amusingly profane one-liners, tense, bullet-curving gunfights and brutal melee takedowns. The story, too, whilst a little on the half-baked side, is still in keeping with the style of the film, and is more or less an excuse to propel Wesley Gibson from firefight to firefight in a quest to find the man who killed his mother.

Easily the best thing about the game is the gun-fighting, incorporating such original concepts as cover-use, and limited weapon slots. Despite a lack of weapons – there’s only really three to choose from – the fact that the game is so short means that they’re always fun to fire, and once you've unlocked the bullet-curving technique, the combat becomes that little bit more fun.
Activated by holding the right bumper, this causes Wesley to assume the bullet-curving position, a line extending from his weapon to his current target. You’ve then got to manipulate the trajectory of the bullet, twisting it around obstacles so that it can reach the bastard who just won’t pop out of cover. Endless fun can be have trying to rack up as many kills as possible with a single bullet – with them having the contrived but brilliant property of never losing speed as they plough through enemies. Place a bullet particularly well, and the camera will break off from Wesley, following in a bullets-eye view as it wreaks its havoc on your enemies. The range is a little limited, but again – the game’s simply too short for you to really realise this over how freaking awesome it looks and feels to pull off.

Also of note is the game's excellent take on quick-time events. No mere random addition, here they are a core part of the gameplay - taking inspiration from that scene in the movie where Wesley runs through the textile mill, blowing away baddies with military precision. The QTEs are essentially a riff on this - movement control is taken from you, and instead you have to watch as Wesley powers his way through the situation, slowing down every so often for you to pick off bad guys and incoming bullets. It’s brutally cinematic, and shows exactly how useful QTEs can be when they’re implemented correctly. You can also implement them in a more limited fashion in the normal run of things, using up adrenaline to slow down time as you bolt from cover to cover, allowing you to pick-off absent-minded enemies before they even realise someone’s shooting at them.

But the minor niggles do start to creep in even in such a short time - the movement controls simply don't feel right, almost like Wesley is walking through treacle, though fortunately this is made up for by the slick cover-swapping system I mentioned earlier. The AI is a little cheap too, relying on enemies who’re super-tough (we’re talking 4-5 headshots here) instead of presenting intelligent, adaptive opponents. It’s also almost insultingly easy, with Wesley soaking up damage like a particularly suicidal sponge – I played through it twice and only died four times total! This is perhaps a method of - as I said - blurring the line between film and game, keeping in line with Wesley's new 'super-assassin' credentials, but some challenge would be more than welcome next time.

As you've probably gathered, 'doesn't outstay its welcome' is something of a theme in this review, and that pretty much sums up the game. In a longer iteration, the lack of content coupled with the rough controls outside of the core gunplay and quick-time events would be a massive source of frustration, but in W:WoF you barely notice it as you effortlessly power through the main campaign. If you can grab it from a bargain bin or second hand for the same price as a DVD, do so – but otherwise you can leave it to its fated disappearance into the annals of history.

Ross' Rating: 70%

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