This is one of the hardest reviews I have had to write. BethSoft’s latest title, WET (short for Wetwork), isn’t really a bad game. But it’s one of those cases where there are some pieces I didn’t like, yet the stuff I did like was so impressive to me, that I don’t quite know how to score it. I will say it’s a unique game, certainly a long way away from the post-apocalyptic setting of Fallout 3. With a celebrity voice cast & a unique presentation, it was an attraction of a different kind than the one I felt for the Capitol Wastelands. I think what I’ll do is lay out what I liked & what I didn’t like & let you decide…
First up, the presentation is just striking. I’m a fan of the gritty, dark combative movies along the lines of the B-grade exploitation films of the 1970’s. Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez have collaborated a few times in recent years, bringing that feel back to the theaters. It’s that raw thematic touch that seems to have inspired the developers here. So much so, that the game plays like an interactive version of Grindhouse with a little bit of Desperado sprinkled in. From the ’scratched film’ visual filter (which you can turn off if you choose) to the seemingly random placement of various advertisements, intermissions & public service announcements, I was engulfed into the world of Rubi Malone (the main protagonist). The soundtrack, a mix mix of Psychobilly, Punk, Western Swing from artists like Knock Galley West, Long Tall Texans & Bert Selen completes the package perfectly. I found myself reaching for the popcorn several times.
Speaking of Rubi, her character & the whole story itself seemed like it was ripped from a classic B-movie script. She is basically a gun for hire whom after taking a fetch job, was double crossed & is now hell bent on revenge. Sure, it isn’t anything you haven’t played (or seen) before, but it fits the style & setting very well. Of course just killing her enemies can get quite dull, so she tackles it with flair, jumping, sliding & wall running in a bullet time slow motion opera of death. The gameplay is broken up into several flavors, which changed the experience quite a bit. If you’ve played the demo, then you’ve already had a taste of each of them. Every few levels, Rubi goes into what’s called ‘Rage Mode’. Basically, she gets so mad that she flies into a blood red rage. It’s the same gameplay as the regular levels with a new, distinctive blood red color scheme. These segments begin with Rubi taking out a thug at point blank range, coating her face with his blood. It really signifies the attitude shift when these parts occur. The other mode is a whole new take on the typical car chase scenes. Instead of getting behind the wheel & racing to another part of the city or chasing your target, Rubi rides on top of the car, shooting enemies & jumping around from vehicle to vehicle through context sensitive button presses. Big crashes plus the change in controls made it a nice break from the standard gymnastic gameplay. Even the little touches like having her drink a bottle of whiskey to regain her health really added to the ambiance.
The story will take you about 10 hours (from China to England) depending on how well you can master the controls (more on that in a bit) on normal difficulty (there are 4 difficulties altogether). Extras include a bunch of toy monkeys & scorpions to find, character bios displayed like 1970’s baseball cards (which I though was completely awesome), concept art, the Boneyard Challenge mode & a Points Count mode (both of which are unlocked after completing the story). The Points Challenge mode basically lets you play through each level trying to score a certain number of style points (acquired by killing with, what else, style). This mode also gives you time to pick up any collectible toy monkeys you may have missed. Rubi’s base of operations is called the Boneyard. It’s a eclectic mix of things like an airplane fuselage, old vehicles, a garage, ect… out in the middle of the desert (almost like a junk yard). As each new weapon is introduced in the story mode (there are 4 weapons overall; pistol, shotgun, dart bow, & sub machine gun), Rubi flashes back to the Boneyard where she has trained with each one. The Boneyard Challenge mode allows you to go back & replay each training challenge, not only to beat your previous times, but so you can find all the scorpions around the map. Both the toy monkeys & the scorpions don’t really have any gameplay effects, but they do add a bit of replay value when trying to find them all. The Extras menu even has a jukebox so you can go back & listen to all the songs from the soundtrack.
The question is, will I play again? I don’t know. While Rubi’s moves are like a graceful acrobat (who happens to be spilling massive amounts of blood), the controls themselves were hit & miss for me. Let me put it this way: I only died because I ran out of health a few times. But, I would bet that my death count from the irregular controls numbered over 50 easily. The combat wasn’t bad. It was just getting from point A to point B that I had trouble because it wasn’t a matter of just running. I had to use the Cirque de Soleil move set to get there. Some parts were nothing but long bouts of frustration as I struggled to find just the right point to start my wall run so I could make it across the chasm. Especially considering this control style isn’t new. Stranglehold (a game I thoroughly enjoyed) had the same gameplay & did it much better. I will say that it did get a lot easier after the first play through though. Rubi’s moves are upgradable along with her weapons, but I didn’t really see the point. I can understand upgrading the weapons, but the physical skills really should have been available right from the beginning. I also ran into a few places (read: bugs) where I needed to kill all the enemies to progress, yet no enemies were left. On one occasion, I found a baddie stuck next to a box in the corner of the map, but the other times I had to actually reload a save. Also, the voice acting was hit & miss for me. While Malcolm McDowell & Alan Cumming were both fantastic, I I found nothing I liked about Eliza Dushku’s performance. Her voice acting sounded fake (I didn’t believe she was the character the way I did with the rest of the cast) & her death “sounds” were some of the most annoying I have ever heard in a game (& as I said, I died A LOT). Rubi as a character was cool, but if a sequel gets green lit, I hope they find someone else to handle her voice. Lastly, after finishing the story, I have determined that Rubi doesn’t understand the concept of using a door handle. When she needs to open a door, she pries it open with her sword. After doing this three or four times, it got very old, very fast & felt like it was a tacked on for no real reason other than to make you use the ‘X’ button more.
So you see, I’m torn on how to score it. On one hand, the gameplay isn’t new & was very loose for me at some points. Even though it got easier, the amount of deaths due to poor handling were still more than I could justify. A few random bugs & the less than enjoyable voice acting of the main character were both turn offs. On the other hand, the setting & presentation were just fantastic & hit the genre dead on. I was awed every time I saw the snack bar ads & the PSAs or when it literally showed me the end of the film reel as it transitioned to another stage. I also loved the liberal (but not overwhelming) & unexpected use of the context sensitive quick time controls as they spiced up the gameplay & kept things fresh. But in the end, WET won’t be for everyone. Folks who dig the B-movie film style will love this. As I said, it feels more like an interactive experience than an actual game. But if you don’t, well, there isn’t much here to recommend. The demo pretty much says it all. If you’ve played that & liked it, you’ll really want WET. If you didn’t like it, then your gonna want to pass on this one.
Oh, I almost forgot, I have a couple of XL WET shirts to hand out (two to be exact). Just leave me a comment below telling me your favorite Eliza Dushku, Malcolm McDowell or Alan Cumming performance. The contest will end on Monday, September 21st at 11:59pm PST. Then, I’ll randomly select two of you for the shirts. Be sure your email address is correct, as I won’t have a way to contact you otherwise.