Developer Soleil and publisher 110 Industries have a new game out. A stylised hack ‘n slash-shooter called Wanted: Dead. Do you want guns, swords and plenty of blood? This game had that and so much more, most of it not at all good.
“Wanted: Dead is a new hybrid slasher/shooter from the makers of Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive. The game follows a week in life of the Zombie Unit, an elite Hong Kong police squad on a mission to uncover a major corporate conspiracy. Play as Lt. Hannah Stone, a hardboiled Hong Kong cop, and plow through mercenaries, gang members and private military contractors in a spectacular cyberpunk adventure.”
I’ve been pondering how best to get this review started and after a while, I felt that honesty is the best policy. Wanted: Dead is fucking awful. See how the marketing blurb up there name-dropped both Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive? Don’t let that marketing bollocks fool you. It may be very tenuously true, but it’s still utter bollocks. The trailer looked awesome and is doing all of the heavy lifting here, trust me. Don’t be fooled by the hyper-stylised flashy trailer. What you actually get is a broken game that feels more like a joke and not a homage to an era of gaming.
The big problem I had with Wanted: Dead was that it all felt very clunky and massively unpolished. Now, I was sent (what was called) a ‘review build’ of the game. I don’t know if the issues I found were because it’s not a final build of the game, or if the devs were going for a homage-type thing. This is the best way to sum this title up. Did you ever play The Fifth Element on the PlayStation? If so, that is exactly what Wanted: Dead put me in mind of. If you never did play The Fifth Element, then you are one lucky bastard.
It is clear that Wanted: Dead is paying ‘homage’ to that late 90s/early 00s third-person action game. Only it is not paying homage to the good things about those games. It has taken everything that was terrible about that era of gaming and built a whole new level of shit based on it. The controls just did not feel fluid enough which, when you are playing a fast action-packed title like this, is crippling. Enemies are complete bullet sponges and seeing as ammo is scarce in this game, it ruins the flow when you have to use 30 bullets to take out one bad guy. The aiming mechanics feel very off and not smooth at all and very imprecise. This is ten-fold for the melee combat, which will be your main choice here as ammo for your gun is harder to come by than a truth-telling politician.
When you are indulging in melee combat, enemies will attack from all angles, without warning and often from off camera. This is one of those games where one hit and you will be caught in a combo attack or stuck between multiple enemies as they pummel the shit out of you. three or four hits and your health bar is all but gone. Games can be hard, I have no problem with that. But they have to be fair and Wanted: Dead is far from being fair.
I saw several graphical glitches such as blood sprays turning static and remaining stuck in the air, textures not loading in and more, including some really obvious and very distracting pop-up. Like entire walls of a building just popping up out of nowhere. There is a cover system and it is atrocious, only choosing to work 50% of the time. It’s one of those auto-systems where your character will just snap to cover when you get close. Only, your character will often decide not to go into cover and you’ll just stand there, pushing yourself against a wall as enemies use your face as target practice. As I said, I was sent a review build and it may not have been 100% finished. But, I have to review what I was given and not what something may be in the future. And so, this is that review.
There are some elements that are enjoyable about Wanted: Dead. There’s a real Japanese quirkiness and sense of humour all through it. In between missions, you can walk around and explore the police HQ. You’ll find loads to see and do, claw machines to play with and nab some trinkets. A shooting range mini-game where you can sharpen your skills and try for the best score (it’s just a shame that the aiming is awful). There’s a rhythm-based ramen eating mini-game, you can play arcade games and more. The police HQ is really good fun, if I am being honest.
But the main and core gameplay is an absolute mess. There is a way to homage days gone by in gaming and Wanted: Dead is a perfect example of how to homage badly. Framerate drops and stuttering, in a game where button-pressing combos and timing are key, just kills the gameplay dead. The janky-ness of this game gets to the point where Wanted: Dead becomes simply unplayable. I got to the second boss and just had to stop playing as I have better things to do with my time. The game is just straight-up broken, homage or not.
This isn’t a love letter to a bygone era of gaming. It’s a poison pen letter full of bile and vitriol… with really shitty handwriting too. I get the feeling that this is perhaps, trying to be the next cult hit, the next Deadly Premonition. Only Wanted: Dead has none of Swery’s charm and personality. It’s not one of those ‘so bad that it’s good’ games. Wanted: Dead is just plain bad.
Available for PC, PlayStation and Xbox now, with a £50 price tag. I’d be really pissed off with spending that much money on a game that is this rough and as broken as it is. Wanted: Dead has few elements to like but is let down by its core gameplay and many issues that make the game feel about 20 years out of date. Maybe leave it a while and pick this up in a sale for around £10, that feels a bit more reasonable to me. Even then it’ll still be a bitter disappointment.
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