Set shortly after the events of last year's Wanted movie, Weapons of Fate is a stylish third-person shooter in which you play predominantly as movie protagonist Wesley Gibson. Armed with skills inherited from your also-playable super-assassin father, you spend much of the game gunning down goons while effortlessly moving between positions of cover, bending bullets around corners, and slowing down time so dramatically that you can shoot enemies' bullets out of the air. This is as fun as it sounds, but the action becomes repetitive after a couple of hours, and after five or six you'll have avenged your mother's murder, beaten the game, and have little reason to ever pick it up again.
From the outset, it's clear that using cover effectively is the only way to succeed in Weapons of Fate, because when you put an object between yourself and your enemies, it's almost impossible for them to attack you. The flipside is that enemies in cover gain a similar immunity and, frustratingly, often can't be hit even when their heads or other extremities are clearly visible. Getting into cover and even moving between areas of cover is as easy as pushing a single button while facing the object that you want to hide behind--even if it's some distance away from you. Getting out again requires you to either push the button again or turn to look behind you, which is a little clumsy, but the controls certainly aren't bad enough that they detract from the gameplay.
Suppressing and subsequently flanking enemies is another key to success, particularly in the levels prior to when you learn how to bend bullets. When you fire blindly from behind an object in the direction of an enemy, you invariably force that enemy to take cover, which affords you an opportunity (clearly indicated by an unnecessary glow around the edge of your screen) to move to a different position unseen. It's satisfying to outmaneuver enemies in this way, especially when you can clearly see them still firing on your previous position, but it also feels a little too easy and mechanical at times, given that almost every enemy will fall for the exact same trick.
That's because many of the enemies in Weapons of Fate exhibit similar and ultimately very predictable behavior. Enemies who look the same also behave the same, so you quickly learn which guys are going to pop in and out of cover, which have the ability to dodge bullets Matrix-style, and which are crazy enough to charge at you and initiate a button-mashing melee minigame. Enemies also habitually hide out close to exploding barrels or, when aboard a doomed passenger plane in one of the more memorable levels, explosive fire extinguishers. Occasionally you'll encounter snipers whose laser sights you have to avoid while moving in close enough to kill them, and there are a handful of undemanding bosses to take down, but though the scenery changes, the action, sadly, does not.
What variety there is comes courtesy of turret, sniper, and slow-motion sequences, but there aren't many and they're not always a lot of fun. The problem with turret and sniper sequences is that, by default, you spend all of your time in cover and can't see much of what's going on around you. Consequently, when you pop up to take your shots, you're not entirely sure what's waiting at the dangerous end of your crosshair. Oddly, though you're required to clear an area of enemies in these sequences, there's never any real sense of urgency, so you can regenerate health by ducking back into cover as often as you like. Slow-motion sequences look impressive; they're over-the-top enough that playing them at regular speed would be impossible. Typically, when the action slows down to a crawl, you have to shoot down bullets that are headed your way as well as take down the enemies who fired them. The problem is that, looking past the flashy visuals, all you're doing is moving a crosshair around the screen to target a number of barely moving objects before a timer runs out. Any challenge in these sequences comes not from needing fast reflexes but from struggling to locate enemies in the often dimly lit locales.
Even the most satisfying kills in Weapons of Fate--bending bullets and being treated to slow-motion close-ups of them spiraling through the air--are rarely challenging. Killing just one enemy the old-fashioned way earns you enough adrenaline (which is also the resource for slowing time) to use the bullet-bending skill, and at that point you can even lock on to enemies who are completely hidden. Then, while locked on, you simply use the analog stick to find a curved trajectory that will reach your intended target without hitting anything else en route. This can be tricky if your enemy is moving around a lot, but the enemies you use this skill to eliminate tend to be those who stubbornly stay in cover.
Additionally, you might need to use bullet curving if, for some reason, your aiming reticle disappears completely--a bug that we experienced toward the end of the game, but which was corrected after we resorted to using a bullet-bending shot to kill an enemy directly in front of us. You won't necessarily encounter that same bug or any other when you play through the game, but technically Weapons of Fate is a bit of a mess regardless. Visuals are uniformly rough around the edges (more so on the Xbox 360 than on the PS3), dead bodies occasionally writhe around on the ground, the frame rate is inconsistent, and the load times are just long and frequent enough to be irritating. Cutscenes recorded in-engine look noticeably worse than actual gameplay because they're compressed to the point that, at times, they look like mosaics. Those same cutscenes also detract from the unlockable option to play through the game as bosses that you've defeated; regardless of who you play as, you always appear as Wesley in the cutscenes. This is sadly fitting, though, because regardless of who you play as, you always use the exact same moves and weapons as Wesley--a missed opportunity for sure.
Playable bosses don't add much to the replay value, but if you're a completionist, you might at least have some fun tracking down unlockable pieces of concept art and comic-book covers that are hidden around every level. Finding one triggers a sound effect that all but mutes the more useful sound effects in the world (a nearby explosion, for example) and, unfortunately, that's indicative of how lackluster the sound design is throughout. Wesley singing softly to himself during a sniper sequence muffles the otherwise loud noise of gunfire, the voice acting is unremarkable, and the soundtrack is heavy-handed in the way that it rises and falls to let you know when the action is about to heat up or has come to an end. There's no chance of you feeling any suspense as you progress through an area after a gunfight, unsure of whether or not you got everyone, because the second you kill the last enemy, the music dramatically changes.
Wanted: Weapons of Fate isn't just a short game; it's an easy one. Checkpoints are scattered liberally throughout each of the linear levels, but given the prevalence of cover and the predictability of enemies, you'll rarely need to use them. Even the unlikely event of running out of ammo doesn't pose a big problem because, if you can get close enough to an enemy to melee him, just a single button press is enough to kill. There's undoubtedly some fun to be had in Wanted: Weapons of Fate, but there are so many superior shooters giving you more bang for your buck out there that it's tough to recommend.