Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: March 24, 2009
It's been a few months since we had our first hands-on with Wanted: Weapons of Fate, so we decided to take another look at the game to see how it's been coming along. The core components of the game — curving bullets, adrenaline meter and plenty of crazy action — have remained the same, but the level of polish has been noticeably improved in terms of gameplay and visuals.
We started off the demo in the courtyard of the Chicago Fraternity, blasting up the place with a mounted mini-gun as the bad guys fired back. While the mounted gun was immovable, it packed quite a punch. The challenge here was in keeping the attacking forces completely suppressed with accurate fire. Fail to cover a target, and he'll quickly get a bead on you with return fire. These are all trained assassins after all, and they're not shy about shooting back.
Running and gunning in the center of the courtyard, there was plenty of room to move around. Bobbing and weaving from cover point to cover point, it started to become obvious that the bullet system had been toned down a bit. On our prior run through the game, curved bullets were pretty much unstoppable. All you had to do was lock on to an enemy and release the trigger for a guaranteed kill. This time around, curved bullets were still deadly, but they've been toned down to more reasonable levels. If an enemy is walking around, a curved bullet stands a chance of missing. When the curved bullets do hit, location matters. Not every hit is an instant kill, which has an impact on your adrenaline.
Wanted uses the adrenaline meter as a way to measure your current power level. Start killing bad guys, and the adrenaline meter goes up. Miss your shots, and the adrenaline is going to flatline. Basically, the game rewards you for being a good shot. Once you have adrenaline banked, you can start curving bullets as well as activate the game's version of bullet time.
Curving a bullet is done by locking on to a target and then using the analog stick to control the angle of the shot. A color-coded indicator reveals if you're on target or not, though as mentioned earlier, just because you have a hit lined up, the kill is not guaranteed. This is an important point because it cuts to the core of what makes a game fun. Sure, the earlier version made you feel awesome as you laid waste to guys left and right, but once you mastered curving bullets, you were basically playing EZ-Mode. Here the balance appears to be well-rounded, providing challenge without crossing the line into frustration. Kills feel earned, rather than simple gimmies.
Jumping into bullet time slows down everything on-screen, allowing you to pull off a precision shot while moving. It uses more adrenaline than curving a bullet, so the goal here is extreme accuracy. If you time your bullet time just right, it's possible to kill multiple enemies with a single bullet. It's not an easy feat, but it does look pretty sweet when it happens.
Another nifty move in the arsenal is the way the cover system works. There are two basic modes of moving through cover, which we'll refer to as manual mode and suppressed mode. In manual mode, you can activate a sticky cover system with an action button. This relies entirely on your reflexes to avoid getting hit as you move back and forth. Suppressed mode is enabled by firing upon enemies from cover. Once you have them hiding, a second action button is enabled, allowing you to rush from one cover point to another.
Manual activation of bullet time is a handy tool, though it's not the only time things will slow down in-game. Wanted also features a few set-piece moments where bullet time is activated automatically. At these points, everything but your gun is set on automatic. The object is simply to shoot down specific targets within your field of vision before time runs out. It's oddly reminiscent of the style used by the original Virtua Cop, only here you're using a controller rather than a light gun.
In addition to mowing down evildoers in the Chicago Fraternity, we also go to wreak some havoc aboard an airplane. The passengers had mysteriously disappeared (and every seat looked like first class — we want to know where to find an airline like that!), but there were plenty of bad guys for us to shoot. Drink carts and airline seats made for good cover in close quarters, while environmental damage upped the ante in a firefight. For example, at one point someone was standing in front of a door and shooting at us. Instead of shooting him, we shot the door. The result was an explosive decompression. It blew the door wide open and sucked him right out at 30,000 feet without a 'chute. Inside the plane, everything shook wildly for a few seconds with a pull toward the door until the pressure equalized and the air stopped rushing out.
Having played both versions of Wanted, it's obvious that GRIN has been focusing on more than just graphical polish over the past few months. The game still looks good, but the gameplay balance has been noticeably improved, and we're feeling a lot more confident about the title's long-term prospects. We'll have more details at the end of the month, when Wanted hits store shelves and asks the age-old question, "Are you a badass assassin, or are you a wuss?"
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