I am well known amongst my peers for enjoying movies of questionable artistic merit. I’ll admit it right now, I even enjoyed watching Doom. I think it’s important to watch the odd “stupid” film from time to time, to satisfy the more basic and juvenile parts of the human brain which, for men, seems to mean EXPLOSIONS.
As a result, I am quite forgiving when it comes to ridiculous films full of stupid Kung Fu, explosions and gun play, and that can carry over to games. WANTED was a daft film that was marketed almost exclusively on Angelina Jolie getting nekkid at various points and the laughable bullet-curve gimmick, but I liked it. However, with the film having spawned a game, are we in for yet more movie inspired dross or something a little more Riddick-like in its design, i.e. something halfway decent.
I’ll get my biggest problem with the game out the way right now, and it is a pretty big one. WANTED: Weapons of Fate costs round about £30, which is about PC game price, but only lasts for four hours. In my last review I was quite harsh on the length of the Red Alert 3 expansion, but that was negated by its budget pricing, WANTED doesn’t have that fall back. WANTED is marketed at a standard price but is only half as long as it should be. It is, as a fellow reticuleer pointed out to me, only a little bit longer than the film that spawned it. This is ridiculous and an insult to gamers.
The biggest reason this annoys me? WANTED is so damn fun.
From the get go, WANTED taps into the bit of your brain that enjoys Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, the bit that made you buy Stranglehold, or watch the Matrix sequels even though they were rubbish. It drops you into an action film setting and says “Go on, fill your boots”. It presents you with explosive barrels, expendable foes, killcams and all manner of over the top madness, and it works. The gameplay is heavily repetitive, consisting mostly of sliding into cover and popping off a few rounds, but it never really feels dull.
Like all action films, the bulk of the experience comes from getting a cool kill, and if you’ve ever watched a Seagal film you’ll know the sort of things I mean. Yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to hide behind a nearby door frame and dispatch your enemy with a head shot, but wouldn’t it be cooler to sprint round the corner, vault your opponent’s cover and stab him in the testicles? I think we both know the answer to that, hmm?
However, explosions and nut-stabs aren’t the only thing you’ll find in an action movie/game thing, there has to be a plot to drive the carnage, and WANTED doesn’t disappoint. Well, it disappoints in substance, but it does have a plot. Happily, it’s a new story and not a retelling of the film, unlike most licensed games, and that allows it to free itself up a bit. This is both a blessing and a curse, however, as although the story is original and fresh it isn’t given enough time to mature. As a result, characterisation and motivation often feels stunted and incomplete.
The abridged plot does have a saving grace thought. The voice acting is outstanding, combining a couple of actors from the film (including Terrence Stamp) with voice acting royalty like Tom Kane and Peter Stormare. The result is a situation where it is impossible to tell whether the developers managed to grab hold of the actor from the film or not, which is exactly how it should be. It gives the game some cohesion with the film, and allows it to function as a legitimate sequel.
It’s a shame then that the game is so unbearably short. It’s good, simple fun that could have been another nail out of the coffin of licensed games. In a way, it sort of achieves this anyway, but it just doesn’t quite have the same impact. Given some extra time to expand the storyline to the minimum requirement of eight hours would have benefited the game enormously, and resulted in a better score, but four hours just isn’t good enough.
It’s the ties that come with a license that brings the game down, I think. The story could certainly survive being extended, but doing so would add to the development length, making it less likely the game would release anywhere near the DVD release of the movie. Licensed properties must, by definition, cash in off the back of the main product, which clearly impedes development. Still, whichever way you look at it, WANTED is at least a step in the right direction.
Also, the generic enemies look quite a bit like chavs with their hoodies. Nothing like nut-stabbing the White Lightning brigade to earn some points with me.