Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: 2009
As one of the most hyperkinetic action movies to come out this decade, "Wanted" was pretty much guaranteed to make the jump to the video game world. Developed under the watchful eye of the team at GRIN (the same company responsible for Capcom's new Bionic Commando, Wanted: Weapons of Fate serves as both a prequel and a sequel to the movie.
For those unfamiliar with the film, it follows the story of Wesley, an average nobody who has more or less been crapped on all his life. Out of the blue, Wesley finds out that he's the son of the world's best assassin, and over the course of two hours ends up going from zero to hero and taking out a corrupt group of killers in downtown Chicago known only as the Fraternity. This is where the game picks up. Although the viewer knows that the Chicago branch of the Fraternity was corrupt, the other branches don't. Now they're trying to eliminate Wesley because it's assumed he's the one who has gone rogue.
Because you're starting after the events of the film, you step right into the shoes of a fully trained Wesley. There's no boring part that involves training to be a badass. No, you simply start as a badass — a badass who can curve bullets, that is.
Building on the movie's key point of fiction, Wesley has the ability to curve a bullet, much in the same way a pitcher can curve a softball. This is a key gameplay mechanic and was repeated constantly throughout our time with a demo version of the game. In order to curve a bullet, you need to first build up your adrenaline meter by eliminating enemies in the traditional manner. Once your adrenaline has been topped off, it is possible to curve a bullet by aiming and then arcing the path with an analog stick. A white path indicates a hit; simply release the button to fire. It took a few minutes to get used to the aiming mechanic, but once you understand what's going on, curving shots can be a powerful asset.
In order to keep players from becoming too overpowered, the adrenaline meter automatically drops to zero if you miss a curved shot. When your opponents are standing still, it is pretty difficult to miss, but for those who are on patrol or moving behind cover, getting a hit becomes a matter of timing.
Standard third-person combat rules apply when you're not curving your shots, allowing you to run and gun as well as shoot behind cover. The cover aspect seems to be fairly well implemented, as it is easy to duck in and out of cover. You can't take a whole lot of damage directly, so environmental awareness is a necessity. One aspect that stood out is the ability to use blind fire to temporarily suppress enemies, allowing you to dart from one cover point to another in the middle of a firefight.
Switching to another level in the demo, we experienced an automated form of bullet time. Here, the game automatically triggered a series of bullet time sequences, with each one being a few seconds long. The goal in each was to quickly shoot both enemies and incoming bullets before the timer ran out. Both the timer and Wesley's movement were controlled by the computer, leaving us to focus on aiming. We were told by the developer that the game features a few of these automated set pieces, though the player will also have the ability to trigger a more limited version of bullet time based on his or her adrenaline level. The player-initiated bullet time was not enabled in the demo build on display so we couldn't check it out first hand.
When you're not playing as Wesley, the game has you taking control of Cross, Wesley's father. All of the Cross levels are set before the events of the film, and it is here that the developers plan on exploring some of the movie's backstory. Cross has the same skills and abilities as Wesley, so there shouldn't be a break in the action, though the levels are expected to intertwine, with the Cross missions appearing as flashbacks.
Environments are split, with brand new areas as well as revisiting some of the locations seen in the film. One of the demo levels highlighted the Chicago Fraternity courtyard, with another playing out in the destroyed factory area. References to the events of the film appeared both in the character commentary and visually on-screen. There appeared to be a bit of artistic license, but for the most part, the team at GRIN seems to have put a lot of effort into replicating the movie environments.
Playing through all three demo levels, it was obvious that the bullet-curving mechanic is going to be the focus of gameplay in Wanted: Weapons of Fate. Our biggest worry is that the game ends up being a one-trick pony with little variety. Bullet-curving is fun for 20 minutes, but it alone can't sustain a game for 20 hours. Assuming the developers can build up the secondary abilities, give us a good variety of levels, and ensure that bullet-curving doesn't become over-powered, things bode well for Wanted: Weapons of Fate.
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