I thought I'd seen the last of Wanted after
seeing falling asleep during the film — but, nope! Warner Bros. Interactive is determined to do better with the game than they did with the movie.
Movie games tend to leave a bad taste in my mouth. They're most often cheap cash-ins Hollywood studios use to wring extra money from the huddled masses. Graphics are crap, controls are shoddy and you're lucky if there's even a soundbite from the original actors, let along a full voice over.
Wanted: Weapons of Fate is only really guilty of one of those things, and luckily it's the least important.
What Is It?
Wanted: Weapons of Fate is a third person action shooter that's "based on" the box office flop Wanted, starring Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman (and others, but those are the only two I care about). Some elements of the original graphic novel made it into the game, according to Associate Producer Ryan French, but not much. ("90 percent film, 10 percent comic," he says.) This PS3/360/PC title is meant to be a sequel to the events of the movie, picking up five hours after the film's end, but it covers events that occurred before the film via "flashbacks" where you play as Wesley Gibson's dad, Cross. Most of the game, you're moving through linear levels, manipulating curving bullets, toggling assassin time (read: bullet time, but with knives) and racking up adrenaline points so you can do more of the same.
What We Saw
I saw about 40 minutes of the first three levels or so in a hotel booked by Warner Bros. Interactive for their showcase. These levels include one playing as Wesley and more or less two as Cross. I played the Cross level boss fight on Xbox 360, which took a little more than five minutes.
How Far Along Is it?
The game is due out March 24. The build I saw looked very, very close to final.
What Needs Improvement?
The script: And you thought the movie dialog was bad. I'm to understand the writing in the original comic was edgy, clever and unpretentious; but from what I saw, the only parts of it that made it into Weapons of Fate were the swear words. It doesn't help matters that the stilted dialog is coming out of the mouths of voice actors who sound like they can't act their collective way out of a paper bag. Except the Morgan Freeman voice twin; he was good. And I also have to give the writers credit for promising not to retcon The Loom.
The face models: It's very hard to take a cut scene seriously when our hero's facial expression resembles a melted Ken doll. The unrealistic, waxy faces are especially jarring when paired off with body models that were motion-captured from people who actually know how to fight.
What Should Stay The Same?
The combat: Executive Producer Pete Wanat said it best, "When you do a movie-based game, you have to continue to innovate." And so Weapons of Fate does, turning bullet-bending from the movie into an interesting gameplay mechanic that forces you to "read negative space" in a level the way you'd solve a puzzle. To make bullet-bending work, you have to be in cover and holding down the R1 button. A line will appear between you and your target – it's red if the shot is no good and white if the shot will hit. Manipulating the line with the left or right analog sticks will eventually yield a shot (if there aren't too many obstacles in the way), but the real art of the game comes from looking at the layout of a level and just knowing you can make a shot based on where everything is. Then you can whip out from behind cover, hold R1, tap the analog stick and release R1 to fire — while already moving to the next cover. Once you've mastered this, you'll never need to wait and see if the shot hits and you'll actually feel immersed in the game.
Offensive cover system: The last thing the developer wanted gamers to do was sit behind cover and wait for the AI to come to them. Not only is the AI too smart to do that, but the game rewards you for using cover offensively; the faster you go, the easier it is to "fool" the AI into shooting at where you used to be instead of where you are. Aside from being a good gameplay mechanic, the cover system also explains something from the film: how assassins could suddenly appear behind somebody without seeming to move.
Movie games have a horrible stigma that I don't think will ever go away. The mandate of making a game fit exactly within a film's timeline (and release the same day) stifles the creativity of development teams and often doesn't leave time for the innovation Wanat wants. Weapons of Fate does do something right by rejecting typical models of movie-game development and going for gameplay originality. But even if they escape the stigma of "lousy movie-game," they'll never escape the stigma of "worst Morgan Freeman movie ever."