Eliza Dushku in a tight leather outfit? Check. Gratuitous language? Check. Swords, guns and gore? Check. Evil creepy old dude? Check. Pretty much everything you need for an over-the-top action extravaganza has been packed into Wet. Combined with a smooth control scheme, the game is a treat to play when it's firing on all cylinders, though the occasional hiccup prevents it from being a true masterpiece.
Stepping into the shoes of Rubi Malone, you're about to be thrust on a globe-trotting adventure that traverses San Francisco, Texas, Hong Kong and London. The goal is ostensibly about discovering why you were set up and getting revenge on those who have done you wrong, but ultimately, it's all about killing bad guys in some of the most creative ways possible — oh, and looking hot while you do it.
Armed with a set of pistols, a shotgun, a submachine gun, a crossbow and a sword, Rubi is both a trained killer and an acrobat. Whenever you fire a weapon while performing some sort of acrobatic move, Rubi automatically enters bullet time. So long as you don't stop moving, you can continue firing on the bad guys. While you're moving, they can still shoot at you, so standing in one place and jumping up and down isn't recommended, but you definitely have the advantage in a gunfight. Keeping a combo going increases your multiplier, which in turn increases your health regeneration. In short, the game rewards you for playing aggressively. The harder you go after the bad guys, the more damage you can take. A big multiplier also means a bigger score. The points you earn on each level are used for upgrades, which include new moves for Rubi as well as improvements to her weapons.
Wet features three primary types of gameplay: adventuring through a level, arena fighting and on-rails shooting. Of the three, the arena fighting is perhaps the most finely tuned part of the game and the one segment that most feels like you're playing through a summer action flick. In these segments, Rubi is dropped into a sealed arena with a number of enemies and a set of doors that will continue to spawn more bad guys. In order to move on to the next area, you have to barricade the doors by hitting lit targets and then eliminating the remaining opponents. Of course, these arenas are loaded with ledges, ramps, bars and randomly placed walls — everything Rubi needs to transform into a death-dealing version of Mary Lou Retton. The initial challenge in the arena sections is learning the map, but after you figure out where all the paths lead, surviving is simply a matter of timing and skillful shooting.
By and large, the adventuring segments are just as much fun as the arena segments, though they do suffer from the occasional bit of illogical map design. For the most part, the level layouts are easy to navigate, but there are more than a handful of places where you need to make a precision jump (as compared to most of the game, where Rubi can be a bit loose with the jumping) or where you need to progress in a very specific way, lest you fall to your death. A good example of the latter occurs when you are running through a burning building and get to the end of the area. You can see a platform one floor below. Try to jump down, and the fall kills you instantly. Wall-run forward about 10 feet, then drop the exact same distance and you survive. It's illogical and inconsistent. While not all the problem areas are identical, there are just enough similar situations to cause a bit of frustration. In a game like this, where the purpose is blowing up stuff, you don't want to be sitting around trying to figure out the right path through an area. You just want to run-and-gun your little heart out.
The last type of gameplay is the on-rails shooting. This consists of three relatively short levels, two of which are riding on vehicles with the third being freeform skydiving. The vehicle segments have you jumping from vehicle to vehicle in a series of Quick Time Events (QTEs) as you shoot down pursing bad guys in real time. The challenge here is simply to shoot the baddies before they shoot you. Take too many hits, and it's game over for Rubi. Accuracy is key.
The skydiving level, on the other hand, is easily the game's biggest misstep. In the first half of the level, you are falling through the air with bits and pieces of an exploded plane falling around you. These bits and pieces include soldiers who want you dead so you need to shoot them out of the air. So far, so good. The second half, not so much. Here, you need to avoid falling debris in a pseudo-3-D setup. It sounds great in concept but is horrible in execution. Plane parts are coming up at you and you need to avoid them, but figuring out which parts are closer than others (and therefore about to collide with Rubi) is more or less a guessing game. Combine this with the fact that a single hit means instant death, and you have a recipe for frustration. Thankfully, it's over soon enough.
Making a small tweak on all three modes of gameplay is the rage mode. More visual than anything else, rage mode gives Rubi one-hit kills for a limited time, but it also turns the screen into a blood-red, modern art piece. As an artistic move, it looks great and makes for some amazing screenshots, but in practice how well it works depends on your TV more than anything else. When played on a high-contrast plasma or LCD, rage mode is very cool, but when played on a projector or projection TV, the lesser details and comparatively low contrast in rage mode can make it difficult to differentiate between the different things on-screen since they're all similar shades of red.
All in, it takes about six hours to complete Wet on normal difficulty. It's not a long game, so if you're just looking to finish the story, it's an easy rental. Finishing the story mode is where things really open up, however, and it's here that Wet shows its true appeal. Once you complete the game, two alternate modes of play unlock: Golden Bullets and Points Count.
In Golden Bullets mode, you take more damage, but every hit is a single-shot kill. It changes up the core feel of the game and almost requires you to barrel through things like a maniac on speed. With the increased damage, the only way to survive the later levels is to ensure that you've got a maxed-out multiplier and are killing enemies left and right in order to keep your health in a constant state of regeneration.
Points Count mode appeals to the old-school score whore in all of us. Here, you can choose individual levels to play through one at a time, with the goal being to maximize your combat and best the goal score for each level. When you play Points Count, Rubi starts each level fully loaded with all of her upgrades maxed out. The only thing between you and a high score is a fast trigger finger. For score attack fiends, Points Count offers a good deal of replay value.
Ultimately, Wet is a fun, if slightly flawed, single-player romp. In some ways, it's kind of like driving a beautiful sports car down the freeway. When the pavement is smooth, everything works and it's a sight to behold. Every so often, though, the ride gets rough when you hit a few potholes. How much you enjoy the ride is going to depend on your ability to overlook those small rough patches. If you don't mind the video game equivalent of a summer popcorn flick, then Wet is right up your alley. On the other hand, if you thought Kill Bill was juvenile and demented, you might want to look elsewhere.Score: 7.8/10
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