Wanted: Weapons of Fate (PS3)
Publisher:Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Release Date: 03/17/2009
Ah, movie games. Yet another way to chisel an extra dollar or two out of confused grandparents and uninvolved parents. Bane of my existence, yet so fun to review and share the pain. But wait, there is a sub-genre of movie games that I haven’t yet had the pleasure of sharing with you. There are a small number of games that are inspired by the movie, or claim to continue the original story. Most of these are crap too, but they did produce the wonderful Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction game, so there’s potential.
Wanted: Weapons of Fate takes place five hours after the movie, and continues to tell the story of Wesley, a simple stable boy who grows up to be a faun, personal physician to a genocidal maniac, and finally, an assassin. Lets see where this goes next, shall we?
Like I said, Wanted: Weapons of Fate picks up shortly after the end of the movie. Wesley has been put on the hit list of the Fraternity for killing pretty much everyone involved with the Chicago branch. As the story unfolds, we learn more about the evil assassins guild, The Fraternity, Wesley’s parents, and a hidden prophecy about Wesley himself. The action jumps back and forth between Wesley in the present, and his dad, Cross, in the past in order to further fill in some of the blanks left in the character’s life.
I was surprised to find that the story actually worked pretty well with the game and the movie. It really did feel like a continuation of what happened during the film, and plays more like a sequel than anything else. I’d heard rumors beforehand that the game was supposed to link the story back to the comic book, which would have been quite a feat, and I’m kind of glad it didn’t. You have to view the movie as separate from the comic, and trying to tie the two together would have most likely sucked. Of course, if they ever wanted to make a game of the comic, that has potential.
Story/Modes Rating: Enjoyable
When I started playing, I was massively disappointed with the graphics. Terrible jaggies, choppy, pixelated video, and grainy playthrough. After a couple of hours of playing, I checked and found that it was running at 480p. The box said 720p, so I was confused. As it turns out, I had my PS3 set to auto-detect optimum running rate, and it ignored the game, so I had to manually add 720p to get it to run. I have no idea why this happened, as it’s never been a problem in the past, but just in case you’re having the same trouble, there you have it.
Once I fixed the graphics problem, things got a lot better, mostly. The color pallet is your normal shooter mix of grays and browns, with a few bright lights thrown in for fun. The backgrounds are well-detailed; mostly stone walls and wooden beams. Backgrounds start to blur, keeping you focused on what’s right in front of you, and since that’s usually lots of thugs with guns, it’s a good idea.
The thugs with guns, though, were sadly uniform. About five different body types in all, most of which are some variation of a kid wearing a hoodie. I know mobs of hoodies are fearsome in England, and if you listen to the tabloids, they will knife you 37 times in a row accidentally as you walk past. However, looking at gun-toting guys with their hoods up make me think that the local jogging population got cold and irate. Of course, most of the enemies are French, so this could be one of the games countless and hilarious French jokes.
Enemies aren’t the only repeated part. Up-close kills are limited to about two different animations, with different camera angles in hopes you won’t notice. There’s also a zoom-in part where you kill a knife wielding enemy by slitting their throat which is unabashedly the same every time. I also noticed all the knifey guys were black. No doubt a subtle commentary on the North African immigration problems France has been having. I get it. I like a bit of political nuance with my violence.
You know what else I like with my violence? Gore. Sad to say, there’s none to be found. Knife wounds stick into the chest like bad stage props, explosions simply throw the ragdolls around, and bullets may cause a spray of blood to appear, but there’s no wound, even up close. Maybe they thought about marketing the game to the Teen Rating crowd and wanted to be able to erase the blood easily from the game. Or maybe they were a bit squeamish about making body parts fly everywhere. Or maybe it just took to much work. The world may never know.
The highlight of the graphics, though, had to be the use of lighting. Not your standard, light room/dark room, but rather the use of the sun, and even lightning. There are several areas throughout the game where your enemy will have the sun to his back, blinding you. There’s nothing you can really do about it except look for the muzzle flash and aim in the general direction. It’s a great mechanic that looks good too. It felt incredibly natural, and I even found myself squinting sometimes, as if it would do any good. Later on, you fight in an old cathedral, while a dramatic storm rages outside. Lightning flareups (while few and far between) white-out your vision and add to the tenseness and urgency the game does so well.
On a final note, I do have to say that while I cleaned up the video problems, they still didn’t go away entirely. During the in-game rendered cinematics, the moving video would block up like I was watching a low quality flash movie on the web. Something like that is practically inexcusable with this generation of consoles. In fact, the one video I unlocked (an ad for the DVD) looked like it was lifted straight off the web, with terrible pixelation. There is no excuse for a 30 second advertisement on a blu-ray disc to be blocky and choppy. It just boggles the mind.
Graphics Rating: Decent
I don’t say this often, but I really liked the music for this game. It complimented the gameplay perfectly. Frantic, pounding, yet able to meld into the background at the same time, it became very much a part of the game itself. During the first level, while I was still finding my feet, so to speak, I could feel my heart-rate accelerating with the music. It made the whole experience that much more tense and claustrophobic, just like a good action soundtrack should.
It was an exercise in contrasts, then, to listen to the dialogue. It was delivered relatively well, (bad French and Morgan Freeman accents aside) but the actual words were awful. It was like a 14 year old went on a Mountain Dew bender while listening to nothing but Limp Bizkit for 24 hours, and then wrote an action movie script. Sure, some cool stuff blows up, but the main character sounds like Duke Nukem is trying to be suave and sophisticated. It never hits laugh out loud bad, thankfully, except for the part where Wesley uses the term, “What the F?” After 4 hours of hearing “shit” every other word, and the occasional f-bomb, all of a sudden he decides to clean up his act. Yes, *applause* well done, you.
Sound Rating: Good
Wanted: Weapons of Fate, is a simple little game at its core. Hide behind something, shoot people who are shooting and you, walk forward, repeat. Then repeat, and repeat again. Seriously, this thing is so straightforward that it could have been a rail-shooter and I don’t think anyone would have noticed. So what are we given to break up the monotony?
First off is the Cover mechanic. Pressing X near a column, doorway, conveniently stacked and abandoned stack of shipping containers, or what-have-you will make your character hide and take cover. You can use the left analogue stick to peek out and shoot, get a better view, or do a Quick Movement by hitting X again, causing you to dash to the next piece of cover. The right analogue stick will pan the camera a bit, but if you pan too much, Wesley jumps out from cover and stands there getting shot with a blank look on his face. Seriously, man, you stood up in a firefight, at least have the good graces to look like the killing hurts. Inconvenient pop-ups are the least of the problems here, as the dive for cover doesn’t quite work as well as it should. First off, you have to be directly facing the cover (no peripheral vision in those assassin suits, you know) and then you have to be close enough. How close? Well, lets just say it’s easier to walk into the wall than trust the game will help you out. Throw in the way that you shuffle like Torgo when the rain’s making his arthritis acts up, and you’ve got yourself a perfect recipe for bullet-riddled-corpse-of-you.
If you’re quick or stealthy enough, you can get up close and personal for some close combat, which causes a one-hit-kill knife strike, or even grab the guy for a meatshield. But mostly you’ll be shooting people. As you progress, you earn the ability to curve bullets and dart from cover to cover quickly while shooting. Both of these are really more fun than they should be. Every so often the Bullet Curving will go into a close-up, following the bullet (or bullets, from your SMGs) as they strike their target in a bloody, yet non-threatening way. It’ll put a smile on your face and help you forget some of the annoying features.
Like the fact that all the enemies move more quickly than you. This is great for AI, don’t get me wrong. They’ll move from cover to cover and even shift around when they’re out of sight so they don’t pop up in the same place each time. But this also means if you move to far and are next to an enemy, they whirl on you and open fire while you’re still shuffling around trying to face them. Because just like cover, melee attacks don’t work unless you’re looking directly at the enemy. Sounds like someone took William Prescott’s advice a bit too seriously. Of course, the Magical Hoodies of Doom don’t have this problem. In fact, they can hit you from anywhere on the screen at any time. There were several frustrating levels where someone would be at the very back, shooting you repeatedly, and your bullets simply don’t reach. Seriously, you could unload a clip into them and nothing would happen. Bullet Curving can’t even identify them to get a lock. It’s like they’re not there. Except for their bullets. Their bullets are definitely there.
For all it’s gameplay failings (I won’t waste your time with the aiming and sniping troubles), Wanted: Weapons of Fate does come across as a decent action movie. The scenes are tight and fast-paced with just the right amount of drama and tension. There’s an entire level that takes place on a jet in mid-air that I could easily see being in the next big Michael Bay film. It’s that popcorn-movie enjoyment that keeps it from being a miserable to mediocre experience.
Control/Gameplay Rating: Above Average
If you’ve ever read a review of mine before, you’ll know that I love me some collectibles. The more things to unlock, the better. They’re one of the cornerstones of replay value. And yet, just like all good things, there is a bad side as well. For instance, I love bacon, and yet I hear that if it’s not injected directly into the bloodstream in moderation, there could be some health issues in the future. (Who knew?) So too, does Wanted: Weapons of Fate show us that having collectibles and unlockables does not have to be a good thing.
Sure, there’s the usual artwork; pictures, comic art, concept art, comic covers, um, more comic artwork in a different section. But did you ever wonder what the development team looked like? Or what they look like at a party? Or some particularly inspiring quotes of theirs? No seriously, team quotes are an unlockable reward. The only one I managed to unlock is particularly poignant, “If we’re gonna make things wrong, let’s make them wrong in the right way,” complete with an giant, brooding, black and white photo of the inspiring gentleman.
On the other hand, the game has quite a few unlockable modes and skins, some of which need to be played in certain combination to earn trophies. So those trophy addicts out there (and really, are there any amongst the PS3-only crowd?) will have quite a lot more gameplay on their hands than the rest of us. This is especially handy, as the full game clocks in at around five hours of gameplay.
Replayability Rating: Mediocre
Unfairness of the bullet ranging aside, Wanted has a pretty decent difficulty curve. They use the old formula of simply using tougher enemies as you advance over any real change to the challenge of the game, but it works well so I can’t complain. You’ll find yourself dying a bit more often as you near the end, but it never feels unfair or overwhelming. There’s nothing fantastic here, but there’s nothing sadistic about it either.
Balance Rating: Good
I’d say Wanted gets some high marks for a movie game, but since it’s technically not a movie game, I think we can tone it down a bit. Even so, given what it is and what they had to work with, there is a decent amount of originality to be found here. Like I said, the storyline progresses nicely from the film adding to the history and mythos that was already set up. In fact, it’s done well enough that the game could potentially work as a bridge between the first movie and it’s sequel.
Originality Rating: Enjoyable
Well, the unlockables suck, and the gameplay is repetitive and short, but if you’re looking for some simple time-killing gameplay killing people, you could do worse. Of course, you could easily do better, but that’s neither here nor there. There’s nothing to glue you to this game, but even with all it’s flaws it doesn’t aggressively push you away either.
Addictiveness Rating: Mediocre
9. Appeal Factor
So what is it that will keep you coming back? At it’s best, Wanted: Weapons of Fate plays like a good popcorn action flick. Nothing too deep, lots of killing and explosions. Something to give your mind a rest and your eyes a treat. The gameplay (when it works) really does draw you in and make you feel like your part of the movie. I don’t know how a game that’s so bland in so many respects manages to pull this off, but they do. The most fun you’ll have with an above average movie game.
Appeal Factor Rating: Good
So, how does our not-quite-a-move-game stand up in the movie game genre? Pretty well, actually. Even if you ignore the story that they added, differentiating it from the rest of the movie tie-ins, you’ll find something that’s true to the roots, plays well, and keeps you entertained for a few hours. And in this category, that’s quite impressive.
Miscellaneous Rating: Very Good
Story / Modes: Enjoyable
Control / Gameplay: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Very Good
FINAL SCORE: ABOVE AVERAGE
Short Attention Span Summary
Finally, a movie game that won’t make me want to gouge my eyes out! It’s not a classic, nor is it even a permanent fixture on your shelf, but it’s a good way to kill a weekend and still have time to do something productive, like watch tv, or play another game.