Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Platforms: XBOX 360, PS3, PC
Just like an irritating rash, movie games just won’t go away. You can not cure it, but you can treat it. However, every now and then you just can’t help but reach down and scratch that itch. Wanted: Weapons of Fate is different though from the standard movie games that release in step with the film, rushed out the door without giving a second thought to creating anything more than what you’ve already seen. Wanted functions as both a prequel and a sequel to last year’s blockbuster action flick, bringing both familiar and new characters and plot twists to the fold. So with the developers and writers taking a fresh look and doing it the right way, have they managed to buck the trend of Hollywood tripe and deliver a game worth playing? Find out after the break
Wesley assumes the role of the game’s main protagonist once again. While he has the same likeness in the game, James McAvoy apparently could not be bothered to lend his voice to the nerd-turned-assassin. That job has fallen to the voice talent of Jimmi Simpson of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fame. While he does an admirable job of recreating the voice, there is no mistaking that this is not the same guy. The same cannot be said for the voice of Morgan Freeman’s character Sloan, which is mimicked impeccably. His character model, on the other hand, resembles Mr. Freeman were he to put on 20 pounds and suffer a stroke. Angelina Jolie, errr Fox is unfotunately nowhere to be found, both in voice and (much more importantly) likeness. Thankfully, some of the original cast did lend their voices as both Pekwarsky and Wesley’s dad Cross are indeed the genuine articles.
Speaking of Cross, he is your second playable character, providing the prequel portion of the game set as flashbacks while Wesley mows through hundreds of French goons. The story revolves around trying to get to the bottom of what happened to Wesley’s mother, who turns out, was also an assassin.
Who killed Wesley’s mom? Problem is, I never cared. While the movie did an excellent job of emotionally attaching you to Wesley’s quest for revenge, at no point does it even seem that Wesley himself genuinely cares what happened to her. He’s too busy spouting off cheesy songs or patting himself on the back for how big of a badass he has become. The game’s plot seems to be nothing more than “these guys are trying to kill me so I’m going to kill them instead.” This is where the game’s incredibly short length begins to internally destroy itself. While the movie achieved suspense in two hours, the game could not duplicate it in five hours.
However, the saving grace for any lackluster story is solid gameplay. Wanted falls just short here too. The game is riddled with solid design but poor implementation. Take the franchise’ signature draw: curving bullets. You can indeed curve bullets in the game with ease and accuracy. Pull it off and you may be treated to a slow motion view of the bullet spiraling through the air and into your enemy’s soon to be corpse. However, you don’t have the ability at first, leaving you to take down nearly the entire French police force (in Chicago?) by boringly shooting straight. I don’t remember if I’ve told you yet but the Wesley parts of this game are a sequel to the movie, you know, the one where he learned to bend bullets already! While they give no earthly reason why he mysteriously momentarily seemed to forget this talent it shouldn’t have been a big deal since it was only the opening act of the game. However, in a game that is only five hours long, that’s a significant amount of time that you’re not experiencing the most enjoyable part of the combat. You can use this time to learn to use blind firing as a way to quickly flank your enemy but don’t bother. Once you can curve bullets, not only will you never need to flank, the environment rarely gives you the chance.
You can also slow down time after the second act, allowing you to to take down multiple enemies in a single dash between cover points and even shoot their bullets out of midair. While “bullet time” has certainly become a staple in the video game action genre, the film made it a necessity to dust it off and insert it here. And, while the ability is invaluable to say the least, again, you don’t have it right away. Also, it is again poorly implemented. You don’t so much slow down time as you freeze it completely requiring you to merely move a cursor to your desired bullet and/or enemy, pull the trigger and wait for time to catch up, turning what should be a harrowing suspenseful moment into an easy couple of button presses.
Speaking of easy button presses, every so often you’ll also encounter some melee duels with some knife wielding screaching maniacs that require you to throw down on the melee button. Another opportunity at suspense crumpled up and thrown away as you will never lose this fight and are forced to watch the exact same takedown animation every time. I found myself actually looking forward to the screams of these pushovers as I knew that taking them down would give me the opportunity to refill my adrenaline so as to stop time and bend more bullets.
The tired video game cliches don’t stop with bullet time and contextual button presses. There are also exploding barrels! Just in case you’re not sure which barrels are the exploding ones, they’re all painted red for your convenience. Thankfully for you your enemies will take every opportunity to seek cover behind them. But, I guess, even elite squads of trained assassins are bound to have a few morons. Also, is it just me, or wouldn’t a few of these enemies trying to kill me, especially the uninteresting bosses, also have the ability to bend a few bullets my way? Apparently not. This simple oversight made for a no tactics necessary waiting game of just remaining behind cover until the time was right to take a shot. Even the boss battles were an exercise in figuring out when exactly to bend a bullet, slow down time, rinse and repeat.
For fans of the movie, and to a lesser extent the comic, I can’t say the game is not worth your time… hell, you’ll finish it in the time it would take to watch the movie and maybe check out the special features. I can say with unrelenting certainty that it is NOT worth your money. I can’t blame a rental for this one just to see what happens next and you may actually have some fun while doing it. The game makes you feel like every bit the assassin that Wesley has become. However, just when you’ve figured out the how to extract that fun, the game ends. Did I mention its only five hours?
Wanted turns out to be a very fitting title. I Wanted more gameplay. I Wanted more weapon variety. I wanted more interesting, smarter, and different enemies. I wanted a more engaging story. I wanted multiplayer. I wanted replay value. I wanted $60 worth. No dice.