Suffers the same fate as your average licensed game.
You may have noticed a trend in that quick recap of the Wanted movie (hint: it rhymes with blood-spilling) - a trend movie reviewers were also quick to conclude: it's a hyper-stylized bullet-orgy that could very well have been a game. Lo and behold, a year after Wanted's release across theatres, the snarky, bullet-bending congregation found its way onto gaming platforms.
Wanted: Weapons of Fate picks up right where the movie left off. Wesley, having avenged his father's death, got the attention of not only the international Fraternities, but also of The Immortal, the nemesis of Wesley's father Cross. Wesley himself also has a bone to pick with The Immortal, believing him to be the shadowy figure that pulled the trigger on Wesley's mother. The mystery juxtaposes a vendetta that tries to implement a lesser-of-two-evils-twist much like in the movie, but not willing to reveal a key figure in an otherwise blunt exposition doesn't set up for a mystery at all. Instead it automatically tells us that the bad guy is not the bad guy. Boom goes the mystery.
Luckily, the Macguffin isn't the only thing that's chased out of the window. Any sense of class or restraint is cordially curb-stomped when you go from selecting your difficulty (the easiest of which is aptly named "P_ssy" -- sorry, Gamespot censors apparently hate cats) to being called clueless and pathetic in the game's longwinded tutorial. Wanted: Weapons of Fate could only work as a depraved, triggerhappy ode to bad-assery, and that's exactly what it became.
Unfortunately, Wanted also became not good. It bears the scars of a development team tasked with pushing three products out in as many months, and the lack of dedication is noticeable in every aspect: it's not long, it's not pretty and it doesn't control as smooth as it should. But while everything about it is painstakingly average, there is one redeeming element that makes this game worth playing: the bullet curve.
Yes, Wanted's signature gimmick actually makes for a very impressive gameplay mechanic, if you've got the adrenaline to pull it off, that is. You earn adrenaline by killing enemies, with melee attacks (an unnecessarily bloody affaire involving a chef's knife) doubling your rewarded dose. Once you have the adrenaline, simply holding the R-bumper will auto-target the enemy closest to your crosshairs. Then it's just a matter of using the thumbsticks to bend the bullet's arc, and releasing the bumper to send your bullet flying. If your curve kills the target, you'll get your spent adrenaline back too. It's a fast-paced and very rewarding mechanic that's made all the sweeter by a rare but exciting slow motion travel cam following your curved bullet. Neat stuff.
Cover movement too is both fast and flashy. When leaning from cover, you'll see an icon indicating whichever cover you can get to from that point. A simple press of the A-button will send Wesley knee-sliding over or tumbling out of cover to dash towards the next. When you have enough adrenaline, you can press Y instead of A to slow down time, allowing you to pick off any enemy in your line of sight as you sift between cover. Alternatively, you can start blindfiring to suppress an enemy - indicated by the white edges of the screen - which will allow you to move between cover unnoticed.
The cover-based shooting is punctuated by an occasional on-rails-segment that showcases the assassins' surreal abilities. An upward trek through a nose-diving airplane, or an escape from a two-story enemy-ridden library are exhilarating cutscenes interwoven with slow-motion shoot-outs in which you have to take care of flying bullets and enemies alike. For the remainder of the gameplay, Wanted sticks fairly close to the genre's conventions: there are turret- and sniper-sections sprinkled throughout and it doesn't take long for the melee battles to become button-mashing knife fights.
The action soon wears thin, though, as the game manages to rescind its best feature by overpowering some of the later henchmen, where even three curved shots don't necessarily warrant a death. The final two missions get particularly nasty by introducing snipers that break the flow of the combat, requiring you to stay in cover and time your movement until you reach them. You go from feeling like a highly-trained assassin when you start off to feeling like a rookie by the time you're done, the exact opposite of the movie's character arc.
Giving credit where credit is due, Wanted doesn't jerk around. You're automatically awarded one new power-up after completing a chapter so that you're not flipping between talent trees in the heat of battle, most of the game is spent with a single weapon at your disposal and there's a questionable amount of ammo, even in the most pedestrian of places. If your guns aren't blazing, you're playing it wrong.
But the slick of it all also works against it. With each of the nine chapters taking anywhere between fifteen to thirty minutes to complete, you don't need to be a math magician to know it's slim pickings when it comes to content. You can pad out the length if you hunt for every collectible comic book cover and the like, and beating the game on the highest difficulty level unlocks a Time Attack mode. Killing a boss unlocks a skin you can use in the campaign, but without any additional perks or weaponry they only serve as fodder for the achievement-hungry (or those wanting to look at a dame's derriere instead of Wesley's.) The game does get bonus points for including the lost art of cheat codes, allowing you to mess around with Cinematic Mode or Headshot Mode, among other neat features.
We've already established in my opening salvo that the game isn't very pretty. Character models look okay but the pre-rendered scenes seem straight out of 2004, and unless you have a strong affinity for yellow, you'll tire of the colour palette (or lack thereof) immediately. The levels themselves also aren't very inspired, not veering too far from the expected array of apartments, offices and warehouses. There are some pleasant detours - a trip through dusty church catacombs or the aforementioned plane ride manage to shake things up a bit - but with half the story unfolding as a playable flashback in which you control Cross, there really shouldn't have been a need to force players through quaint plazas and construction sites twice.
Audio doesn't fare much better. The close combat sounds deliciously grotesque and some of the movie's B-cast bring the videogame characters to life, but Wesley himself (voiced by a stand-in for James McAvoy) doesn't convince, wavering between drunken snide and a forced gravel in the throat. Most of the dialogue is brow-raising, though some of the lines made me scoff thinking "Did he really just say that?" The soundtrack consists of crunching guitars and what have you, but the run-of-the-mill power chording becomes white noise after a while. The end credits get a remix of Danny Elfman's "The Little Things" which, while not bad, doesn't hold a candle to the original track.
There's definitely fun to be had with Wanted despite its many shortcomings, but for a game that's trying to be as raw as a grazing cow, sweet apologetic rebuttals just don't cut it so I'll go for the tenders as well: Weapons of Fate is a drab, unpolished thrill ride for which I half-regret spending nine euros on a new copy.
Half-regret. That seems like a fitting score then.