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Review – Wanted: Weapons of Fate

posted on August 31st, 2009 by christian

These days, it does not take much to get a 3rd person, cover based action game greenlighted for production. Do you have some sort of licensed property to link it to? Then you’re golden! But if you really want to spice it up, find a property that has some sort of silly gimmick for you to work with. That will help justify having the publisher spend millions (and the consumer $60) on a disposable six hour experience. This is exactly the kind of mentality behind Wanted: Weapons of Fate, the tie in game to 2008’s Angelina Jolie vehicle developed by recently defunct developer GriN. In such a crowded genre, Weapons of Fate likes to think of itself as being different and better from the rest, similarly to its source material, this is nothing more than a case of self delusion.

Both the Wanted film and the comic book it itself is based on are blatant examples of power fantasies for young men. In both works, twenty something desk jockey Wesley Gibson discovers that he is the son of a legendary assassin for an underworld society, and after some “brutal” (read ignorable) training, he becomes one himself, stepping into a world in which killing is easy, the law is meaningless, and people like you and me are less than worthless. It brings to mind a classic passage from the novel Snow Crash, and depending on whether you fall into the game’s prime demographic, you will either be insulted by the hero’s smarmy and depraved attitude, or will fall in love. As a 24 year old desk jockey myself, I know which side of the line it thinks I should be standing on, but having already gotten in touch with reality, I could not stand Wesley’s character. At the very least I knew that playing the game might involve him being killed multiple times over, which was enough to convince me to take the plunge.

A full description of Weapons of Fate would sound like most every other game of its ilk, so we might as well go through a bulleted list of all its gimmicks and see how well they pan out.

– Bullet curving: This is straight out of the film, in which the secret assassins like Wesley are able to fire shots with unrealistic trajectories in order to hit targets that are obscured by walls or cover. In the game, it works by targeting an enemy with a shoulder button and using the joystick to manipulate the shot’s path until you find one that will connect, then releasing the button for an instant kill. Unfortunately the targeting system is finicky, and will often fail to lock on to anyone, even if they are close by. Furthermore, the late game goons can take multiple curved shots before they die, making it less useful. Bullet curving can help make firefights easier, but it cannot be relied on as a primary means of combat.

– Moving between cover: Like in Gears of War, Weapons of Fate allows you to move between pieces of cover in such a way as to help you outflank enemies and avoid fire. It is heavily emphasized here, allowing you to move great lengths without being exposed. It makes sense in the context of the game, and is the most useful tool the player has at his disposal.

– Bullet Time: This game’s version of bullet time allows you to move between cover in slow motion. It happens a bit too quickly to be useful in all but a few limited situations, and like Bullet Curving, it relies on your Adrenaline meter, which is filled via kills. The only time it ever stands out is during two boss battles where it is required.

– Cinematic gunfight thingies: This isn’t actually the name for this concept, but describes it well enough. At predetermined points, your character will get out of a seemingly inescapable situation via crazy assassin stunts. They play out as cutscenes during which you shoot enemies and incoming bullets in slow motion before a timer runs out. These could have been interesting if they happened more than three times during the whole game.

– One shot knife kills: Once you can take advantage of the AI’s faults, these become an unfair way of taking out the toughest foes.

– Choice of weapon: There are only two weapons the player can use. A standard pistol, and dual machine pistols that are picked up later on. Having such a limited arsenal is potentially appealing, but your main gun is so capable that it ends up making the game too easy. Well, that and the fact that the hardest difficulty is initially locked away.

And that’s about it. Each one of these elements has a purpose, and as usual some are better implemented than others, and none were interesting enough to coax more than one play through out of me. Considering the game can be finished in five hours, this is the kind of rental you can get after lunch and finish before dinner.

In my mind, that is a problem. Weapons of Fate may be solid enough for a rental, but if everyone rented it the game would never come close to recouping its cost. Apparently this kind of experience, one that is barely more than double the length of a film, is worth six times more money. This is what the industry has decided is worth pouring the current generation’s massive development costs into. A depraved, disposable bit of fantasy for young men who have yet to grasp the fact that their lives are going to be more mundane than their childhoods dreams implied. It was interesting to play this game so soon after the 2009 San Diego Comicon, during which the nerds of the world decided to rally against young women who had fallen in love with Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight novels. I have news for those people – Wanted is Twilight for boys.  Nothing more, nothing less.

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