Wanted: Dead | Review – All blood and no roast

Wanted: Dead | Review – All blood and no roast


What was the nature of Wanted: Dead was clear from the beginning, from the moment in which the game developed by Soleil was revealed in all its irreverent antiquity: the irreverence came from its outlandish tones and from an indulgent penchant for gore; the playful age, from identifying itself as a tribute to the action productions typical of the sixth generation of consoles, those a little (a lot) rude, in which the protagonists had a rather limited variety of attacks and solutions available, rather far from the technicalities to which we are accustomed today, made up of combos to be chained together and cancels to be exploited at the right moment.

It was equally clear which production was closest to Wanted: Dead in terms of concept, game structure, gameplay, or that Devil's Third, considered among the worst games ever on Wii U, with which it shares one of the producers, Yoshifuru Okamoto. The hopes, therefore, were simply that Wanted: Dead was a sort of slightly more refined and enjoyable spiritual sequel to Devil's Third, which had good ideas, but badly implemented. Not necessarily a great game, but at least a production capable of getting noticed and appreciated thanks to its eccentricity, and we hoped for immediate and addictive gameplay. Unfortunately, things turned out differently.

90s Cyber ​​Police

Everything that makes up the outline of Wanted: Dead represents the best part of it: story, characters, tones, they are exactly what one might expect from a similar production, so much inspired to the congeners of almost twenty years ago. Any pretense of seriousness is swept away by a narrative that is always high (despite passages poorly explained, or not explained at all); from a characterization of the characters that uses the stereotype as an axe, roughly cutting profiles that are still effective; from a setting that mixes the late 80s/early 90s detective story with a cyberpunk that is all prostheses and corporations, or rather its most easily expendable elements.

Despite the roughness with which everything is therefore packaged, one can really be interested in the story of the Zombie squad, a special police unit made up of four misfits: above all Hannah Stone, the protagonist of the game, the one who is used in action, but also her companions, namely the foul-mouthed Herzog, the restless Doc and the tough Cortez, with the support of the eccentric Vivienne and the classic police captain, rough outside but very fond of his men. The team finds itself embroiled in a plot that aims to overturn the balance of power in Hong Kong, with more forces in the field: the aforementioned corporations, of course, but also a group of rebel synthetics.

With these premises and given the ambitions of the game, rather far from the desire to ensnare the player thanks to an exciting and intelligent plot , things from a narrative point of view quickly fall into place, but it really isn't a problem, because if coherence is absolutely not a feature of the story, it is instead the presence of different moments which, despite their weirdness, have an impact . A game where you break into a nightclub, with the semi-realism of the art direction morphing into an anime, while playing the notes of Michael Sembello's Maniac (of a cover, to be more precise), you've never seen.

If this jumble of tacky, exaggerated, mockingly serious stuff, but all the same constituting a clear and recognizable identity, were associated with even a discreet gaming system, we would find ourselves in front of a small cult. Too bad that the gameplay is the main problem of Wanted: Dead, rambling and devoid of care as it is. There is not a single element in it that has been implemented in a decent way: everything is messy, imprecise, contrived.

Jammed shotgun

The idea behind it is to mix shootings and fights with white weapons, all from the perspective of the third person. It is immediately evident how this union on paper, potentially heralding a varied and intense action, is in reality afflicted by multiple problems. Shooting is, in most situations, an imprecise and unsatisfactory operation: such is the inconsistency of the guns that it is difficult to understand if the total lack of feedback from the shots is a problem with the hitboxes of the enemies or animations . A limiting but perfectly explanatory case is represented by the grenade launcher: it has happened to me several times that the shot has exploded in my face, despite having a totally free trajectory.

The best way to get rid of enemies is therefore the slice them with the sword, and here things go better, but still not good. The game encourages you to face them head-on through a system that allows you to recover small amounts of health: perhaps you suffer enemy fire, but thanks to the execution of the enemy in close combat, what is lost is restored. Running towards a bad guy, cutting him up, moving towards another, giving him the sword again, in a riot of dismembered limbs and blood splatters, all in all it works, at least until you run into the camera stumble. The shot really can't follow the action adequately, many times shots arrive from who knows where, and it suffices that things are just more crowded than normal for this to be almost completely lost.

In addition to the big problems of the basics of the gameplay, there are innumerable ones related to secondary aspects, but nonetheless relevant to the gaming experience. The combos that can be performed using the pistol (which aims automatically) and the sword do not add much to the standard attacks, on the contrary they are even counterproductive, because they lengthen the sequences and there is no cancel system: if a blow inflicted is parried, you are practically at the mercy of enemies. It happens often, because, another matter, certain enemies constantly parry and killing them takes almost more time than a boss. Guns tickle them, swords are parried, what to use? Maybe that grenade launcher taken from an enemy soldier? No, because the same grenade launcher needed to destroy a mechanical boss or a "miniboss" may not deal any damage at all. And you get killed. Where does it start from? From a save point perhaps placed totally at random, with some beautiful passages to repeat.

Here, this is the dimension of the game of Wanted: Dead, which confuses the inspiration with the action of yesteryear, which perhaps they were a bit naïve, but still they worked, with carelessness and total lack of care. Therefore, it is of little use that the very rude cyberpolice outline is spot on, or that the technique, although not at all astonishing, is in any case functional to the overall experience.

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