It's been a while since I reviewed a demo from Xbox Live, so I've taken a look at Wet, which is described as a “highly stylized third person shooter that seamlessly blends gun play, sword kills and over-the-top acrobatics to create the ultimate interactive action experience.” Although none of that guff actually motivated me to download it. Instead, I downloaded it because the cover features a saucy leather clad fembot and the title is Wet. I'm gonna imagine 'Wet' refers to the gameplay being bloody, like CIA 'wet work', but let's be honest – this is the cynical internet world of teenage fantasies here and I'm absolutely convinced that 'Wet' is just subtle enough to maybe be a single entendre. Will it earn its 18 certificate?
I admit, I've never heard of this game, which is pretty rare for a new release. Booting it up for the first time, it clearly wants to play like a 70s exploitation movie. The splash screen has the main female hero, a sword toting MJ Smooth Criminal looking dude, a Sam Jackson shotgun guy with flatcap and aviators, a sword chick on a motorbike, and a Snake Pliskin eyepatch longhaired almost halo'd by the sun. The screen has film lines, pops and crackles and every 8 seconds on loop the whole thing blurs like the crummy projector lost focus as someone nudged it.
The tag line is “Get Read for Monkey Business”. I don't even know what monkeys have to do with stylized violence, but I'm gonna hit start and find out.
The Story Mode selection has a Bruce Lee (of course) looking character with a Triad suit, a sub machine gun and a suspiciously long cigarette. There's a real wild-west motif that permeates all the typeface and the background decals. I think it would be a bit obvious to say that this isn't an unfiltered view of exploitation movies, but rather it's once or twice removed through the hard boiled lens of a more contemporary filmmaker, who professes a deep-seated love for such Grindhouse cinema.
A title card explains Wet as being sort for Wetwork. The kind of work where you have to get your hands bloody. I get the feeling that this isn't going to be cold clinical execution carried out by well trained assassins, but pulpy messy squirty violent twitchy bloodbath stuff.
The demo opens with some kind of deal. An exchange of suitcases, guys brandishes large handguns and the inevitable double cross. The game's female lead observes all this from the rooftop and upon seeing the antagonist scarper with what she claims is her briefcase, she swan dives through the glass ceiling (feminists rejoice) with dual wielded pistols like a den-of-inequity Lara Croft. Before relinquishing control of this cutscene to me, the game helpfully freeze-frames the girl to identify her as “Rubi” and then explains “JUMPING: Attack enemies while jumping through the air.” Ok, here we go.
I shitcan one dude, whilst performing a floaty-light, no-physics-of-this-world jump and the game immediately cuts again to say “SLIDING: Attack enemies while sliding on the ground.” I already get the impression that this will be sort of game (like Max Payne) where every single person you meet will require you to dispatch them in relentlessly violent ways.
Next is Wall Running. So this demo is a glorified tutorial after all. Wait, what? I unnecessarily ran along a wall (inside no less), capped the bad guy in the gut and the whole thing rewinds with the timestamp reel (1, 2, 3...) and I get to try the thing over. It seems I didn't quite shoot him enough. Try again.
Ok, so once that's nailed, it drops you into it proper and asks you to take out the remaining baddies. So to recap, I can jump, I can slide along on my knees, and run up walls should I choose to. It's a good job that she can do all these things because she's gonna have to keep moving because there's no fucking cover system. Hey, that's a perfectly good table, why don't I flip it over and use it as cover, or movable cover? Nope, I can jump over it though (can't slide underneath it). The bad guys also take a lot of shooting. You really gotta fill these guys up before they keel over. So I found myself running up to them and shooting them in the face. Luckily Rubi can eat up a lot of lead too, and it's much easier to shoot them in the face from close range. I even managed to run up one dude and do a backflip off him whilst shooting him in the face and even though I was impressed by this acrobatic feat, I felt it was fairly unnecessary given that since I was close enough to run up him, I was already close enough to simply shoot his face off. I'm gonna assume that Rubi has had a high carb breakfast and needs to burn it off. I had a little fun with it by knee sliding across a table full of party cakes and glasses. I didn't shoot anyone, but it made me feel good.
The next section (as the main bad guy 'Simmons' legs it) introduces 'Split Targetting' whereby you can target two baddies whilst performing an acrobatic stunt, in this case, jumping. Jump up, click down the right stick and this will lock on one of the goons leaving you free to target the second guy and shoot them both. When your health gets low, or at least when it's down to one bar, the quality of the 'film' degrades. The jutter becomes pronounced, the lines and pops more constant and you begin to see the reel appear at the sides of the screen. Yeah, that's not fucking annoying at all. I'm gonna take a wild leap here, and predict that when you die, the film burns up as though the projector's stuck.
In the middle of the room is a toy monkey bashing a cymbal. In running over it, it breaks up and the caption reads something like, “try to find all the hidden toy monkeys”. Hidden? I couldn't help but run over it. I imagine that this 'collect them all' was added to the game for no other reason than they were short on achievements to include.
I guess that I'll have to find out what it does when you die later on, cos the very next thing shows how you get your health back. Now bearing in mind this is an 18 cert, what could it be? Munching down tylenol would be a bit too Max Payne, and injecting painkiller would be a bit pulp fiction, but booze? Hell yeah, it's whiskey just like the wild west! You are invited to 'take a swig' but given that she takes the bottle and tosses it in the air just to shoot it in half implies to me that she necked the whole lot. This chick is tanked. If only booze really did bestow young women with magical health gaining properties and allowed them to still function well enough to pull of remarkable acrobatic feats (and shoot straight). Friday nights in the city centres up and down the UK would make for pretty great CCTV clip shows on ITV3.
The next part involves standing on a glowing sigil on the floor and pressing Y which then prompts you to press X which makes Rubi stick her sword between the locked doors and prise it open. So far, so unnecessary, given that the doors are set in a wall barely 8ft high with no ceiling. If she's so acrobatic, why didn't she run up the adjacent wall and leap over this one? Jackie Chan could do that, and he's a good foot shorter than Rubi. The element of surprise would be retained, rather than 8 goons watching the door get slowly ripped open.
The game then introduces the sword, which from what I can tell it pretty much a one hit kill as she whips it around the bad guys. I could probably have put this to better use back in the first room, because it's a ton easier than trying to shoot them in the face. However it does suffer from wild targeting, as Rubi happily locks on to nearby crates (oh the crates!!) instead of slicing open the lower intestines of, you know, the guy with the gun.
You can slide down ladders backwards! Leaning backward and shooting people in the face from distance. It's difficult not to be impressed by this. Oh so now she can run up walls to vault over them. Just not when there are doors in them, huh? The sword has pretty much taken over here, given that it's easy to cut people up than to shoot them 12 times. I wondered earlier if you could slide under stuff, and it would appear that the answer is yes you can, but only when the game says you can. I knee slide (like Angelina Jolie in Wanted) under some pipe and then up a dude into an automatic backflip, completely failing to hit him anywhere near his face, so once back on my feet, cut him up with the sword. It occurs to me now that I haven't seen an ammo count, or even a reload. I think it might have dispensed with such processes as a sly nod to the exploitation films it apes. Or it's just been overlooked by the designers.
After a quick cutscene the game kicks in to what it refers to as 'arena combat'. A wide open space in Chinatown where bad guys endless pour out of doors until you can get above them and slash a junction box with your sword. Really? I have to lock the doors so that they can't get out? What kind of genius henchmen are we dealing with here? “Oh the door won't open, I guess we're stuck in here.” Well that was rubbish. You can pretty much just run around and ignore all the bad guys while you smash in the junction boxes to make the metal shutter fall. I then had about 4 guys to mop up after this was done. Inexplicably the game allows your health to automatically regenerate at this point, so the whole strategy of ignoring the baddies cost me only a quarter of my health. The perpetual flicker of the screen and vignetting of the edges has become an eyesore by this point. There's also no penalty for my just standing around while Simmons gets away. Rubi does nothing when left alone other than look left and right and unnaturally wave her arms.
I was tempted to exit to the dash at this point. This game seemed to offer nothing new and the controls are dreadful. Then it surprised me. Rubi goes into a corridor, shoots a guy in the face (he dies with one shot, mind) and his blood sprays all over her face. Rather than being horrified by this, it sends her into a bloody rage, and here is where it gets interesting. The game takes on a animated feel with a black, red and white motif, the environment turning red and all the character models silhouetted in black with dashes of white. It looks pretty cool, and sliding around on your knees in slow motion whilst shooting these black and white cut outs and watching them atomise into a black mist is pretty damn sweet. However, the sword is still your one-hit-kill friend here, and the controls are still like three day old leftovers. The music that kicks in at this point livens things up, with the memorable lyric “Zombie Killers of the Wild Wild West” which sounds like the kind of exploitation movie I'd like to see.
Unfortunately, Wet isn't. It's derivative in the worst way. I said it earlier, but this is twice removed from the source it tries to emulate. Once through the parody pastiche of Tarantino, and also through all the other games that tried before it. Playing through the demo, it's very hard not to think of Kill Bill, with Rubi aping the bride character, but without any of the charisma or motivation. Bad guys just appear for you to slice through while you try to chase down the suitcase mcguffin.
With the inclusion of a quicktime event along a highway, I've gotta bin this off. At least when you fail it shows Rubi's body ragdoll down the central lines, but there's nothing that can make me play a quicktime event these days. The game has style, there's no doubt about that, but it never really feels like a gelled experience. The weapons seem unbalanced, the signature acrobatics unwieldy, and the bad guys are flimsy stereotypes. Expect a sequel. read