‘Wanted: Weapons of Fate’ Xbox 360 Review

June 25, 2009 § Leave a comment

Score: 4 out of 5

From beginning to end, Wanted: Weapons of Fate is straight-up, meaningless fun. It’s a fleeting cheap thrill; a sweet, sugary high. Nevertheless, it’s also a game which fails to evolve past its primordial origins, and it never really goes that extra mile or promises a unique experience. It is what it is: a nicely crafted, slick, delightful morsel of hollow entertainment, which never surprises or astounds but very rarely frustrates, either.

It’s a third-person cover-based shooter – a mash-up between Gears of War and Stranglehold, if you will. Carrying straight on after the film’s bloody aftermath, you control Wesley, now being hunted by the French Fraternity, and seeking the truth behind his mother’s death. Throughout the game, you also play as Cross (in analepsis), as you discover more about his involvement with the Fraternity and with his wife’s death.

The game carries with it the film’s irreverent, puerile, nihilistic tone, but in the context of a video game it doesn’t seem anywhere near as offensively infantile as it appears in the film – on the contrary, it actually works much better here than it ever did on celluloid. While the exploration of Wesley and Cross’s backstory is somewhat interesting – if wholly predictable – it’s more a string of action scenes cut-and-pasted together rather than a coherently told story. On the whole, it’s a very disjointed narrative, but, luckily, that doesn’t matter, since the set-pieces themselves are very well designed and a blast to play through.

The gameplay consists mainly of getting behind cover, popping out for a few quick shots and then hiding again. The game allows you to move from cover to cover with ease, automatically doing most of the work for you by showing you where you can move from a position. There is also a “flanking” game mechanic, where you can press a button to blind fire, thereby suppressing the enemy, and move quickly around for where you have a better position; although, most levels are too linear and narrow to really allow you to exploit this option.

Wanted 2

Wow, worst plane journey ever.

Along with these more conventional moves, Wesley and Cross can – as in the film – bend bullets. This feature is implemented very nicely in the game, requiring you to manually curve the trajectory of the bullet with the right analogue stick. The auto-lock-on is a little squiffy sometimes, depending on where the camera is facing, but it’s not that much of an issue. While you can’t go into slow-mo willy-nilly – ala Max Payne or Stranglehold – you can use Acrobatic Moves in-between cover, slowing the action down long enough for you to take your time and shoot multiple enemies at once.

Wanted 3

Oh, I almost forgot about the Psychokinetic Mind Explosion Technique.

Finally, there’s Bullet Time, which is very similar to Stranglehold’s “Standoff” moments. At set points during the game, the player goes into Bullet Time, everything goes into slow-mo, and you have to aim with the analogue stick and take out the enemies in front of you (and their incoming bullets in mid-air) before time elapses. Unlike Stranglehold, the game takes away player movement, so you only have to concentrate on aiming and firing. It is, in essence, a Quick Time Event; fortunately, there aren’t that many of them and they are fairly easy to beat. On this occasion, I shall be lenient.

The presentation of the game is excellent. The graphics look great, with one exception being some of the character models. Wesley looks an awful lot like James McAvoy at times, but he looks plain weird when he starts talking because of the poor facial animation. Sloan just doesn’t look right as Morgan Freeman – like, at all. Also, while there’s some high quality voice support from Peter Stormare and Terence Stamp, both Wesley and Sloan are voiced by Jimmi Simpson and Tom Kane, respectively, and the absence of McAvoy and Freeman is rather noticeable. Weapons of Fate also sports Danny Elfman’s original score, and the sound design, for the guns and other effects, is of a high standard.

Weapons of Fate is great fun to play. One of its best features is that the pacing is entirely up to you. You can take a more methodical approach to combat, play more conservatively, wait to take the perfect shot; or you can play with reckless abandon, sliding from cover to cover and running up to opponents, pressing ‘B’ to knee them in the crotch and slice their throats open. Like the film, Weapons of Fate is highly gratuitous, and that’s certainly part of its sadistic charm. Watching half-a-dozen explosive bullets curve towards your unsuspecting foe’s head in slow-mo is just categorically awesome.

Hey, Face, meet Boot.

Hey, Face, meet Boot.

It’s a great game, but with only nine very short levels to complete, you’ll be seeing the end credits after around six to eight hours of play. It’s also conceptually stunted; towards the end of the game, specifically, there is a very large sense of GRIN having run out of ideas. Alarm bells went off when I started to see levels being re-used, when I realised that most, if not all, of the bosses could be defeated in essentially the same way. The gameplay is highly enjoyable, don’t get me wrong, but it’s still quite limited in depth. There are achievements to be gotten, unlockables to unlock and a few different game types, but, when all’s said and done, these features are just padding and nothing more. If I were to be brutally honest, it’s a game that lacks the substance you’d normally associate with a fully-priced release.

It comes across to me that Wanted: Weapons of Fate is a game which is betrayed by its price tag. If this were a downloadable title or perhaps some kind of episodic content, criticisms over the game’s overall lack of depth and length would disappear – expectations would be lower. At the full price tag, people expect more, and they have a right to. Yet, I cannot deny I really enjoyed this game, both times I played through it. It’s a really good game; it’s shallow and base, but it’s some damn good fun. And yes, it’s not great value for money in terms of content, but I’d rather play Weapons of Fate repeatedly, over and over, rather than touch Stranglehold for a second time.

My advice? Only buy if the price drops below thirty pounds.

(1048 words.)

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