Wanted: Weapons of Fate ReviewBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Apr 07, 2009
Movie-based video games almost never work out, but in this X-Play Review, we take a look at the multiplatform 'Wanted: Weapons of Fate' and see if bending bullets is enough to make an entertaining game.
- Curving bullets/stabbing from cover
- Smooth cover system
- Highly polished cinematic presentation
- Ridiculously short
- Curving bullets removes all challenge
- No multiplayer = makes no sense
- Only Wanted fans will care about the story
Wanted: Weapons of Fate, the video game “sequel” to the 2008 film Wanted, is a peculiar creation. On the one hand, it offers non-stop, beautifully rendered, cinematic action that makes you feel like a total badass from start to finish. On the other hand, it is one of the most intrinsically flawed (and consequently, shortest) big-budget, full priced games to come along in quite a while. The game wants to be a lot of great things. Sadly, it doesn’t want them bad enough.
Whoooo Killed My Mom. Who, Who? Who, Who?
Weapons of Fate picks up shortly after the end of the film, and ends up being more of an epilogue than a sequel. You play as normal-rube-turned-world’s-deadliest-assassin Wesley Gibson, on a mission to eliminate a rogue faction of the Fraternity of assassins, while at the same time find out the truth behind who murdered his mother when he was a baby. The story isn’t that great to begin with, and if you aren’t familiar with the comics or the movie, then you won’t really care about/understand what’s going on most of the time either.
Now, I can see where the developer’s were going by having you play several levels as Wesley’s father (the majority of which require you to protect Wesley’s mom as she tries to evade wave after wave of enemies, while she tries to get baby you to safety), especially given the big “twist” at the end, but there’s so little explanation as to why it’s all happening that the parallel stories both just end up falling flat. This is partly because the game relies quite a bit on the player having familiarity with the movie and/or comic books, and partly because the story, in addition to lacking depth and being told too quickly, just isn’t that interesting. Sure you find out the truth about who killed Wesley’s mom and revenge is exacted, but in the end, all I could ask myself was, “Who cares?” Even the game’s major twist isn’t all that affecting, since the events leading up to it and the reasons behind it are never explained in terms of why the “twist” had to happen at all.
Mine Curve to the Left
Of course, the game is quite unabashedly less concerned with telling a good story than it is making you feel like a world-class assassin; capable of defying the laws of physics with your trusty pistol and maneuvering around environments will cat-like prowess and agility. In this way, the game absolutely succeeds. Undoubtedly, bullet curving is the most well known aspect of the Wanted universe, and for as cool as it might have looked in the comic books or in the movie, there’s nothing quite like being able to do it yourself. Since every kill refills either one or two slots on your adrenaline meter, depending on the type of kill, you pretty much have unlimited use of the bullet curving mechanic (Adrenaline can also be used to slow down time to take out multiple targets at once). While the developers have done a fantastic job of capturing what it would look and feel like if you were able to pull off such remarkable feats of physics-defying death dealing, it ends up hurting the game in a surprising, yet logical, way.
Like most third-person action games these days, the combat in Wanted revolves around moving from cover to cover, popping out to take down enemies or moving in close to dish out a one-hit melee kill. The cover system is actually quite impressive, and it allows for some amazingly seamless transitions (i.e. with one push of the action button, Wesley can vault over the cover he is crouching behind and move into position behind the object on the other side of his current cover). It’s responsive and fluid, and that’s very much appreciated since 99 percent of the game is played while in cover. Enemies also do most of their fighting from behind cover, which under normal circumstances, would require constant physical maneuvering on your part in order to take them out. Of course, seeing as you’re an assassin capable of curving bullets, cover (at least for your enemies) ends up being utterly useless. Sure, cover might keep you from being hit from normal bullets, but when the guy shooting at you can curve his shots around the cover you’re in, what the hell chance do you have? The answer of course is you have no chance, and that’s precisely the situation your enemies find themselves in throughout the entire game.
As a result, every single shootout plays out the same way; either you curve a bullet and it kills the guy or you curve a bullet and it hits the guy, causing him to stumble out of cover, at which point you simply shoot him normally. Later on the in the game, you end up getting a weapon that lets you curve multiple, explosive bullets that can blow up multiple enemies at once, which makes things even easier. Even though you encounter enemies towards the end of the game that can kind of dodge bullets and require quite a lot of hits to kill, the game just isn’t that challenging. Again, this mainly has to do with fact that Wesley can curve bullets, and there’s nothing the enemies can do to stop it. Even if this is precisely the reason why Wesley is the greatest assassin in the world, it makes for a very repetitive and easy gaming experience.
Of course, the game does make a lousy attempt to add variety to the game by including a secret binary code feature that lets you input codes found throughout the game as well as the Wanted DVD. These codes unlock various character skins that you can then use during gameplay (although they disappear during cutscenes), cheats (unlimited adrenaline, one-hit kills, etc.) and a Close Combat mode, which forces you to kill a set number of enemies using only melee kills before you can progress to the next section. I appreciate not being able to rely solely on curving bullets, but I also have no desire to see the same three melee animations 1,000 times. Like the rest of the game, it gets old fast.
Two-and-a-Half Trick Pony
In addition to the superbly designed bullet-curving mechanic, there is another feature that I think is even more brilliant, simply because I can’t believe I’ve never seen it in a game before. When you find yourself in cover close enough to an enemy who is also is cover, you can reach over the cover, and stab the enemy to death. Now, it only seems to work when you’re either crouched on one side of low cover and the enemy is crouched on the other side, or when you’re standing just around the corner from an enemy. However, in spite of these limitations, it’s still a fantastic mechanic that I suspect will be ripped off in many third-person action games in the future.
The game also features several pseudo-quick time sequences, where Wesley (and Wesley’s dad in one particularly intense scene aboard an exploding jetliner) dives, jumps and rolls amid a group of enemies, while you aim and shoot them and their oncoming bullets. These moments offer a welcomed break from the often repetitive gameplay as they show you running along walls, rolling tables in front of you for cover, climbing the fiery entrails of a plane, and fighting in many more versatile ways than simply sitting behind yet another pylon and curving your one-thousandth bullet.
Curve Your Enthusiasm
Yet, despite everything the game offers in terms of stylish and cinematic action, it only lasts about four hours (cut scenes included) on the normal difficulty setting (Assassin), which you have to complete in order to unlock the hardest difficulty, Killer. And while the game says that Killer is only for the most skilled and elite players, it’s barely harder than Assassin. I beat the game two-and-a-half times in two sittings (jumping between the various difficulties), and I’m just a decent player. Truly hardcore gamers will be able to fly through it even faster.
Adding to the overall briefness of the experience is that fact that there is no multiplayer. Why there is no multiplayer is something I just can’t get my head around. Within the first 20 minutes of playing the game, I was already envisioning how cool it would be to be able to dispatch friends with curved bullets or stab friends hiding in cover.
So basically what you’re left with is a highly polished, well designed action title that lets you do two very neat tricks, lasts two hours longer than the movie on which it’s based, offers nothing beyond the single player experience, all for the low, low price of sixty bucks. If that doesn’t scream “serious rental material,” then consider the fact that GTA 4’s DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT Lost and Damned offers around seven hours of gameplay, contains tons of stuff to do outside the main story and includes several (new) multiplayer modes, and only cost twenty dollars. When another game’s DLC has more content than your entire game, you seriously need to reevaluate your product.
Rent One, Save $60
Games like Wanted: Weapons of Fate don’t come around very often. It looks and plays like a big budget, triple-A title, it has solid voice acting, it introduces and successfully pulls off two unique gameplay mechanics, and yet the entire thing is over in just a few very short hours. Of course, the story isn’t that engaging, the shootouts are repetitive, there is very little challenge to be had and there’s no multiplayer, so it has plenty of other problems as well. In the end, the game comes off sort of like a mediocre summer blockbuster that you’d rather rent because it’s not worth paying full price for at the theaters. Sure it’s good for a few hours of mindless entertainment, but once it’s over, chances are you’ll never think about it again.
By Jake Gaskill
Producer: Matt Keil