Introducing the Curved Bullet
As devoted CheatCC readers know, we were pretty impressed with Wanted: Weapons of Fate when the game’s PR people flew us out to L.A. to preview it. The third-person shooter takes the Gears of War cover system and turns it on its head: you can sneak up on enemies by dashing between barriers unseen; you can easily curve bullets to take out hiding enemies; you can jump between pieces of cover in slow motion to kill multiple enemies at once!
After spending more time with the game, we’re still loving those elements. Whereas Gears can get tedious at times, what with all the ducking and hiding, Wanted never loses its fast pace. We do find ourselves curving bullets (by locking on with a bumper button and setting a trajectory with a joystick) far more often than we use the other techniques, but this mechanic alone makes the game go markedly faster. It’s also a plus that basic cover-to-cover movements take place very, very quickly.
This game is unquestionably worth at least a rental, and other developers should take note of the fact that cover need not slow a player down. However, before plunking down the full $60, there are a few things a gamer should know.
First, the game consists solely of a single-player campaign, and said campaign is very short. The official estimate is eight to ten hours, but our first time (on “Assassin,” or medium difficulty) took us maybe six; on the second pass-through, playing on the unlocked hard difficulty (“The Killer”), we broke into the game’s built-in “Time Attack” records by finishing in less than four hours. The best score on that board is about two hours.
The campaign is also very easy. This is perhaps a technique for keeping the pace quick and the player not frustrated (and if so, we appreciate both sentiments), but it will give experienced shooter players a “that’s it?” feeling when they realize they’ve just beaten the whole thing. Many players could handle the hard difficulty right away if they didn’t have to unlock it, and the easy difficulty (endearingly called “Pussy”) makes almost comically low demands on the player. In fairness, we should note that the game steadily ramps up over time (rather than employing the more common hard part / couple easy parts / hard part pacing), so if you’re not feeling challenged at the beginning, it’s worth persevering.
If you rent the game and spend some time with it, then, you can easily beat it once or twice. Beyond that, it’s a question of replayability, and we can’t say Wanted really has much. You can thoroughly search the levels to find any unlockables you missed, but most of these are just pieces of artwork that only a hardcore devotee of the Wanted comic book could care about. You can play with unlocked characters, but these are mere graphical replacements (and lead to ridiculous situations where you’re playing as a new character, but then a cutscene hits featuring protagonist Wesley Gibson instead). Alternatively, you could go for Achievements/Trophies; there are some good ones (we’re still not quite sure how to kill two enemies with the same curved bullet), but that kind of thing has limited appeal.
Now that we’ve established the bottom-line, it’s time for our usual nitpicking. In terms of gameplay, while we love the idea of bullet-curving in general, it made the game way too easy (even easier than normal) in open areas. When there’s no ceiling to worry about, you can simply lock on to a target, hold up on the joystick, and shoot an arc to an almost-guaranteed headshot. Each curved bullet costs you one unit of “Adrenaline,” but you earn back one unit every time you kill someone, so you can do this indefinitely.
While the cover system was implemented well overall, we found ourselves unable to take cover behind many objects that looked big enough to hide us. Also, once you’re in cover, you can’t look behind you without popping out of cover. In addition, to make the later stages harder, the developers made some of the enemies simply evade your shots by wiggling really fast, which we found a bit cheap. Yet another annoyance we found is that the turret and quick-time event (on-rails shooting) scenes were far harder than the rest of the game, and they were downright infuriating once in awhile.
In terms of story, the game picks up where the movie left off, making it more a continuation than a re-telling or sequel. Wesley makes some rather important discoveries about his parents, so it will be interesting to see whether future Wanted movies (if they come out) factor in or ignore these developments. Not surprisingly, it’s not the best or most engrossing storyline ever (this is, after all, a video game, and it’s based on a so-so action movie based on a so-so comic book), but it’s entertaining enough that you’ll watch all the cutscenes on your first playthrough. If you’d rather not, you can skip them, so at the worst, the story doesn’t hurt the game.
The developers did bring in some of the actors from the movie to handle voice work, but the three biggest stars (Angelina Jolie, James McEvoy, and Morgan Freeman) didn’t participate. As Wesley, McEvoy has been replaced with Jimmi Simpson, which is actually a change for the better thanks to Simpson’s more weathered-sounding voice. Freeman’s pipes, unfortunately, are irreplaceable, and some poor guy named Tom Kane got stuck doing his best impersonation. It would have been better to divorce the game’s Sloan from his movie counterpart, and have voiceovers from someone who sounded nothing like Freeman. Notable voices from the movie that do show up include Terence Stamp (Pekwarsky), Thomas Kretschmann (Cross), and Common (the gunsmith in the movie, Brummel in the game). Newcomers include Spanish actress Paz Vega (Araña).
The rest of the sound work is acceptable. Since you play as a stealthy assassin, your gunshots are silenced, and your footsteps are understated. The music, meanwhile, consists of instrumental alternative-rock tracks that can get repetitive but usually don’t distract you.
Graphically, this game is a mixed bag. On some levels, Grin’s Diesel engine puts out sights that rival anything on Unreal Engine 3: overexposed sunlight, remarkably detailed landscapes, etc. At other points, though, the game looks a bit blurry, or even has visual hiccups. For what it’s worth to owners of both next-generation consoles, the time we spent playing the game on PS3 seemed less glitchy than our (admittedly much longer) experience with the 360 version.
In Wanted: Weapons of Fate, Grin has created a definite step forward for the “cover shooter” genre. It features a fast-paced campaign that we had a blast playing. Again, we suspect a rental will give most players all the value they’ll get from this game, but all fans of third-person shooters should at least give it a shot.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
Some levels feature truly great visuals, but others are fuzzy and/or glitchy. 4.8 Control
Most of the controls come from Gears of War, but the developers deserve credit for making the new mechanics, especially curving bullets, easy to execute. 3.1 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voiceovers are decent, except that a Morgan Freeman impersonator was brought in to do Sloan. The music is very repetitive, but it doesn’t hurt the gameplay much. 3.3 Play Value
It’s a lot of fun to play, but it’s very short and very easy, so there’s little substance in the end. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.