Armed with one sword and two of lots of other things, Rubi Malone is a leather-pants wearing, wall-running, pole-spinning death machine. She can shoot two shotguns while flipping through the air, slide under tables to hamstring and gut with her sword, and regains health by swigging liquor.
But does the heroine deliver enough fun in third-person shooter WET to justify the price, or is the game all flash and little substance?
Acrobatics: That's really what this game is all about: Flipping, sliding, tumbling, spinning, all while blasting away at bad guys in slow-mo, often with two guns. Rubi's talent for acrobatic gunplay is most often tested in arena-like maps which require players not only to kill off an absurdly large group of enemies, but also block or jam doors that act as spawn points in the game.
It is in these acrobatic moments that the game sings. The controls are deftly tuned and making Rubi do spectacular things is as easy as pushing a button to slide on the ground, another to jump and then aiming her motion with a controller. The rest is nearly automatic.
While you don't have to constantly jump, wall run or slide under and around objects, it would be hard to survive without doing so. That's because when you're doing these acrobatics the game automatically slips into slow motion. It also takes over the aiming for one of your guns, allowing you to focus on aiming the other so you can blast enemies down two at a time.
As the game progresses, the challenge increases drastically, shifting a gamer's attention from scoring lots of points with strung-together attacks to simply surviving the onslaught. And it is always a satisfying challenge.
Weapons and Ammo: Rubi starts the game armed with just two six-shooters and a sword. As she progresses through the game you unlock dual shotguns, dual submachineguns and even an explosive-firing crossbow. All of the weapons serve different purposes, so you'll find yourself switching between them quite a bit on the fly.
While the ammo for the three unlockable weapons is limited, the six-shooter's ammo is not. That's a key to some of the game's success, I think. Because you don't have to worry about ammo conservation while using the six shooter, you can instead focus on doing spectacular moves while spraying the room with unending gunfire.
Style: The game oozes style. From the apt "face-melting, musical debauchery" of the soundtrack to the quirky little retro movie theater ads that run at odd moments between pivotal scenes in the game.
The design choices of WET pushes what could have been a generic title into something with flavor; something that's so enjoyable to watch at times you may lose a life or two doing so.
Rage Mode: WET is essentially broken up into three types of game play: Those enemy-spewing arenas that force gamers to focus on acrobatics as much as gunplay, sections that feel like a platformer with some gunplay, and rage modes.
Every rage mode kicks off with a splash of blood. The music goes psycho, the graphics shift to highly-stylized silhouettes of black, red and white and the action unhooks from its already weak grasp of reality. In essence, Rubi loses it. This turns the sections you typically play through into pulse-pounding, over-the-top moments of exuberant thrill kills.
While by the end of the game I found the arena sections of WET to be the most satisfying, the rage modes were always a welcome diversion.
Ending: Finally a game that doesn't spoil a tight plot with a self-indulgent, rambling ending. WET ends as it plays: Quickly and brutally.
Wonky Controls: While the acrobatic controls of Rubi in flight and during gameplay work quite well. Controlling her during the sections when you have to maneuver through hazardous objects and leap across sections of maps can be a challenge. It feels like Rubi is never ready to run straight forward and always sort of veers to the left or right, making it hard to hit the right spot on some of these controlled jumps.
Wonky Camera: Again, the camera works mostly fine in the arena, but get Rubi in a confined area and you start running into problems. It probably would have been a good idea to limit gameplay to what WET does best, wide open scenes.
Platforming: The forced platforming sections of WET not only slow down the action, combined with the controls, they really deflate the entire game. It's annoying to survive hand-bruising, intense encounters with crowds of thugs only to miss a simple jump from open doorway to nearby wall.
Worse still, many of these moments don't do a good job of explaining where exactly you're supposed to be moving Rubi, leading to death by confusion. Something that shouldn't be happening in a game like this.
Graphics: While the style of the game is an undeniable attraction for WET, the graphics are not. Even with the deliberate, scratchy film effect it's hard to miss that the characters look hollow, like skin wrapped around air. This is most noticeable in the cut-scenes that still manage to deliver an intriguing plot. It's unfortunate that bad graphics plague the game, because it distracts from an otherwise engaging experience.
One would think that being essentially forced to turn every sequence, every bit of action, every moment of confrontation into something you'd expect to see in Cirque de Solei would get tedious. It should get tedious. Why does Rubi need to slide across the pavement on her knees in slow motion to plug a guy standing with his back to her. Or wall run and flip over a lacksidasical henchmen before gutting him with her sword. She doesn't, but man is it fun. And no, it never gets old.
WET is an oddly satisfying experience. Despite its many flaws, some critical to gameplay, WET delivers a quick run through a fun story that delights in shocking, but doesn't take itself too seriously. It's a little short, a little wonky, but when it delivers, it delivers big.
WET was developed by Artificial Mind and Movement and published by Bethesda for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 on Sept. 15. Retails for $59.99 USD. Played through entire campaign and several challenges on the Playstation 3 version of the game.
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