Review: WET

32260-WEtshot-thumb-480x270-32259.jpg

WETshould be enjoyed with cold beer and leftover pizza at 3 a.m, in between the infomercials and badly dubbed kung-fu movies. It’s that kind of game.

Bethesda’s latest action shooter isn’t the first to use a gun-toting or blade-wielding blood vixen, but it might be the first to realize how much silly fun it could be. While gamers are busy ogling the outrageous magical flash and exaggerated sexiness of an upcoming game like Bayonetta, the people at Artificial Mind and Movement hearken back to a simpler time, when bullets, blood and bad guys being killed in vicious fashion were more than enough. That was the “grindhouse” style of doing things, usually with an extreme hero leading the way.

Enter the heroine, Rubi Malone, a mercenary who finds herself in the middle of a power struggle between warring crime organizations. She’s got twin revolvers, a samurai sword, likes to drink and has a strange obsession with monkeys. Basically, she’s perfect for this game.

Her journey is more of a crazy collection of action scenes than an actual story, where she’s either jumping from car-to-car on the freeway, engaging in balletic gunplay with groups of armed thugs or killing everything in her path while in an anger-induced red haze.

The game’s visual flavor is that of ’70s grindhouse flicks, with lines and dirt specks littering the screen, as if you were watching old film. The film “melts” whenever Rubi dies, and load screens are old-school intermissions telling you to get refreshments – some of which are a little creepy, like the talking hot dog serving himself up on a bun.

32262-WETrubi-thumb-480x270-32261.jpg

The style works against the game in a way, as it can cloud some of the detail and work that went into building some of the levels. Gamers have been weaned on visual crispness, and nothing looks crisp here — just like nothing looks 100 percent in an old movie.

However, this looks also gives the game an unmistakable allure, cluing the player (or perhaps a fan of the style) as to exactly what kind of experience is in store.

You’re going to get a lot of dual-pistol, slow-motion, “bullet time” action. That’s how Rubi plies her trade, mainly because she wouldn’t be as hot or cool doing it any other way.
The spin here is that slow-motion automatically activates any time Rubi is jumping, running on a wall or sliding on the ground. She’s capable of shooting at two people at the same time, with one gun auto-targeting and the other being aimed by the player.

It’s a funky style of shooting that takes some learning, especially since Rubi’s gunfighting is practically useless if she’s not performing some kind of stunt. Killing without being cool is discouraged, and it opens the door for some forced action. For instance, it’s actually easier to jump away from dudes five feet in front of you (to get both guns blazing), instead of just standing still and shooting them.

The game throws some quick-time events at you to change up the gunning and slashing action. You’ll also get a taste of some “Prince of Persia” like wall-running and ledge jumping sequences, with some shooting-gallery action, courtesy of a mounted Gatling gun.

What robs the experience is goofy, inconsistent control. Rubi teases you with her apparent agility, but the off-center angle at which she appears makes it a little difficult to line up jumps. This’ll lead to a lot of stupid falls. Jumping from wall runs and trying to grab onto nearby ledges also doesn’t feel as responsive as it should, which can screw up timing and also put Rubi into some bad situations. Like dying.

32264-WETrage-thumb-480x270-32263.jpg

Mandatory weapon challenges were also a point of frustration, since the only reason they are there is to introduce you to another piece of Rubi’s arsenal. The fact that someone’s progress in an action game could be stopped because they don’t run fast enough through a mini-challenge course — for a weapon they don’t HAVE to use — is silly and unnecessary.

A final point deals with major character confrontations – they are all handled via QTEs (quick-time events), so there’s a sense of cinematic flavor to them, but it takes away the joy of the combat.

Even with those issues, I found more than a few moments of satisfaction within the game. I enjoyed a lot of it in the same sense I enjoyed God Hand or Afro Samurai, two other beat-em-ups that didn’t take themselves too seriously. After all, the game’s called WET. It’s worth a weekend at the very least – preferably one that involves food runs past midnight.

WET
Bethesda / Artificial Mind & Movement
PS3, Xbox 360
Rated M for Mature
Notes: Features the voices of Eliza Dushku, Malcolm McDowell and Alan Cumming