Wanted: Weapons of Fate Updated Hands-On
We check out the bullet-bending action in this Grin-developed game based on the Hollywood blockbuster.
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Comic book fans might have been taken aback by the cinematic reimagining of the Wanted comic series from creators Mark Millar and J.G. Jones, but there's little doubt that the movie, which starred Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman, had a vision all its own. Full of sexy assassins, global conspiracies, curving bullets, and bloody, bloody kills, the film was the kind of setting and story that just begs for a video game adaptation, and the developers at Grin have been hard at work on their latest project, Wanted: Weapons of Fate. We had a chance to play the game for the first time at a press event in San Francisco this week, and it seems like the game is bringing a good deal of the film's flair to consoles.
The press event featured three brief demo levels from Weapons of Fate, two of which starred Wesley Gibson, the weasely office-slug-turned-superassassin (played by James McAvoy in the film). The third mission starred Cross, Wesley's father. As it turns out, Weapons of Fate will have both Wesley and Cross as playable characters, and the plot of the game (which picks up where the movie leaves off) will focus on the mystery of Cross' background and what happened to Wesley's mother. The first demo level we played had Cross looking to rendezvous with an associate on the well-worn streets of a French village. Standing between him and his objective are a number of bad guys. As Cross, we had to wind our way through buildings and alleyways, taking down enemies in whatever way we could. Weapons of Fate is a third-person action game that makes heavy use of both gunplay and close-quarters kills. The close-quarters kills are vicious and easy to pull off; you simply sneak up on an enemy and press the B button (circle on the PS3) when the icon appears onscreen. If you pull it off, you'll be treated to a quick and bloody animation of a brutal takedown--a knee to the face, a knife to the junk, that kind of thing.
Close-quarters combat is fun, but the real meat of Weapons of Fate is when dealing lead. Both Wesley and Cross have the ability to bend bullets around corners, hitting enemies who otherwise would be safely tucked behind cover. As cool as this ability is, it takes some getting used to. First of all, the ability to curve bullets is mediated by your adrenaline level. To pump up your adrenaline, you need to make some standard kills. Once the adrenaline icon in the upper right-hand corner of the screen turns blue, you can pull off your curved shots.
The mechanics behind curving bullets take some practice. To start the process, you press and hold the right bumper (R1 on the PS3), which brings up potential targets in red (even if they're behind cover). A curved arc also appears, showing you the general trajectory the bullet will take once you fire; the goal is to move the left stick until the red target turns white, which indicates that your bullet will hit its intended target. Once the target turns white, you simply let go of the bumper, and Wesley (or Cross) will fire his weapon with the familiar sidearm whip.
While the first demo level featured some good bullet-curving action, it was the second demo that really put our lead-twisting skills to the test. Here, Wesley was caught in a small courtyard, outnumbered by a horde of bad guys. The first goal was to grab an unwitting enemy and use him as a human shield while the rest of the bad guys poured into the courtyard. Once the guy was riddled with bullets, we had to guide Wesley around the ample cover in the courtyard--the game has a cover system similar to that in the Gears of War series--spraying bullets around corners and cover to take down all of the baddies. The most challenging of the bunch were soldiers who came complete with huge riot shields. Curving bullets around the shields was effective, though it sometimes took more than one shot to finish them off. We found that getting close enough for some close quarters work was also an effective technique.
While the first two demos were fun, and the bullet-curving mechanic is undeniably cool, the stop-and-pop gameplay felt a bit derivative. The third demo, by contrast, was where Weapons of Fate came alive. It might have been because of the head-to-toe black leather assassin's getup that Wesley was rocking (a sartorial nod to the Millar/Jones comic series), or it could have been because of the large amounts of butt-kicking featured in the level. In this level, Wesley was invading a warehouse full of bad guys, and the gameplay cut between animated scenes of Wesley moving through the warehouse, causing mayhem as he went, and quick interactive bullet-time events, where we were tasked with taking out one or more bad guys or hitting a specific target with a bullet to set off a chain of explosions. Though the interactive sequence lasted for only a few encounters (followed by more straightforward action), it was a great change of pace that we hope continues throughout the entirety of the game.
The game is running off the same engine that's powering another Grin game, Bionic Commando, but while BC is focused on huge open levels, the action in Weapons of Fate is more personal and claustrophobic. With all of the great set pieces from the film (we're thinking in particular of the car chases and the fantastic sequence in the train), we're curious as to how the Grin folks will push the BC engine in different directions. Here's hoping that the combat action is mixed up with some great set pieces to give Weapons of Fate the momentum it needs to excel beyond a run-of-the-mill movie port. So far, the signs are encouraging, and we'll keep our sights trained on the game in the coming months to follow its progress. Wanted: Weapons of Fate is currently scheduled for release in 2009.