Wet is just brilliant on so many levels. You have a stellar voice cast that includes Eliza Dushku, Alan Cummings and Malcolm McDowell. You have a game that plays out like a movie, replete with drive-in intermissions, camera angles and cut scenes. You have a soundtrack that is both original and absolutely fits the genre. Did I mention Eliza Dushku?
Wet, lest your pre-pubescent mind travel elsewhere, and as the game helpfully explains on startup, is short for wetworks: a euphemism referring to assassinations or killings that leave the killer's hands wet with blood. See, and you thought it was dirty. The killer in this case is Rubi Malone (voiced by Eliza Dushku!). She's every bit the drinkin', shootin', swearin', bad girl cliché you'd expect out of a spaghetti western or action movie. Just watching the game progress, you'd be hard-pressed to think it wasn't pulled right out of celluloid. There are so many elements in this game that are either huge homages to "Kill Bill" or "Jackie Brown" that you expect Quentin Tarantino to either make a guest appearance or sue somebody.
Without giving away too much of the game plot, which you've seen done dozens of times before in other games and movies, you're a hired hand sent to exact revenge and obtain certain items for each chapter of the game. It's not the story that makes this game, but rather the combined elements involved. You have an Assassin's Creed-meets-The Matrix set of game abilities that allow you to wall-run, slide, leap and slow down time to really focus on your shots. Oh, and you can also use a sword. And really, who doesn't like a hot chick with a sword? There aren't generic med packs to heal either; no, Rubi uses a bottle of whiskey that, through a heavily used cut scene, has her chug the bottle, toss it into the air and shoot it to pieces.
The game helpfully starts in a walk-through mode that gets you used to leaping, running, sliding, dodging, shooting and sword-slashing because it does take a little bit of getting used to. My biggest beef with the game is arguably what should be the most fun part: the time slowing. When you leap, time slows down and is supposed to allow you to crack-shot a number of enemies or targets on-screen. The problem is that most of the time, you'll end up fighting the camera more than anything else. At first I assumed it was just me getting used to the game, but after hours and hours of playing, I found that no matter how much I tweaked the controls or how often I tried to bull's-eye my shots, the constantly moving camera would always throw off my shots. Unfortunately, this means that most of the time you'll end up leaping and firing your unlimited-ammo pistols in the general direction of the baddies until they drop. It's unbelievably maddening that a game that looks this polished and with so many great qualities has such an awful camera and control system.
Early in the game, I found myself wishing that Rubi would shoot a little faster, had the ability to shoot while swinging gymnastics-style from conveniently placed horizontal poles, or perhaps could slide across the floor swording off kneecaps. I considered it a serious limitation in the game, not so much from limiting gameplay, but that it limited crazy killing options. Those sneaky folks at A2M knew what they were doing, though, as you can upgrade your skills, weapon speed and weapon damage between mission events, including all the aforementioned attack options. Unlike playing most other rail shooters or action games, you now have a vested interest in playing better to earn more experience to further upgrade your skills. I'm a huge fan of games that offer such upgrade paths, and while Wet's is far from robust or unique, it's a nice touch.
The movement of Rubi and most of the environments is fairly fluid, and while it's linear, you're given a wide range of movement options to navigate and annihilate your environments. My only complaint here is that many of the canned movements often make things very stiff. In a few cases, I appeared to be stuck on a level and didn't know how to proceed, so I began jumping or wall-running to find a ledge to grab onto. The problem with wall-running and jumping where there isn't a ledge is that you "helpfully" backflip and will often plummet to your death. You're stuck at that point, and often only after several reloads will you figure out what the programmers wanted you to do.
Spaced throughout the chapters are events called Arenas, which are exactly what they sound like. You'll be trapped in a typically wide-open area with a bunch of enemies that have spawn points. The object is to close those spawn points and eliminate all remaining enemies. It's tied into the story line, though very loosely, and mainly acts as a backdrop to allow you to just go into a crazy killing mode.
Speaking of crazy killing modes, there is also a rage mode that is denoted by a very Kill Bill-esque siren and a change of video filter to a red, black and white style similar to Killer 7. Things speed up a little bit, and as in the Arenas, you recharge your health based on your kill multiplier: The more you kill, the faster you regenerate your health. Really, aside from the visual difference, there isn't anything that's drastically altered from the rest of the game. I think to fully appreciate it, you have to look at the scenes as a whole, as part of a movie, rather than as a dynamic game element. This is probably best illustrated when you take damage. As you edge closer and closer to death, the game screen looks more and more like a celluloid movie coming off the projector, with everything getting a grainy wash to it.
Intermixed with the arena, rage and regular story line action are some Quick Time Events (QTEs) that add even more cinematic scenes to the game. Early in the story is a car chase that will have a flashing key appear on-screen, requiring you to press it to quickly jump to another car, or to swing your sword and lop the hand (and the gun he's holding) off onto the highway. It's frustrating from a gameplay perspective because I can't tell you how many times I screamed, "I DID press the [censored] X button!" only to have to replay the part again. From a cinematic standpoint, it looks gorgeous. Rubi hops from exploding car to jackknifing semi while swinging her sword and shooting her guns. It's less climactic when fighting the bosses, as you'll just do some damage while flipping and sliding about in slow-motion only to have to get close, press a button and watch the cut scene. It's fun to watch, but again, not a stellar gameplay mechanic.
All in all, Wet is a fun game, though it's marred by a terrible camera aiming system and the occasional stiff-feeling actions. I think this game is best enjoyed by a person sitting and watching someone else play. They'd get all the benefits of the cut scenes and cinematic sequences without the frustration that goes along with plummeting down the same building a dozen times because you can't find the next ledge to hop onto. The music is engaging and absolutely fits the theme, and the dialogue and voice work are stellar. If you really have no desire in playing or watching the game, I imagine you'll only have to wait three or four years for Hollywood to auction the script for "Wet: The Movie," starring Eliza Dushku.
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