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Gaming: WET

Rubi's sword dive

Wikipedia fact: "On July 29, 2008, Activision Blizzard announced that WET had been dropped along with many other games, thus putting its future into hiatus." ... "On April 27, 2009, Bethesda Softworks confirmed that they will publish WET."

Year of Release: 2009

Developed by: Artificial Mind and Movement

System(s): Xbox 360, Playstation 3 (version played)

Demo available: Yes, on both consoles (you can queue the Xbox 360 demo to download from here). Does a good job of showcasing the game’s strengths, covering the regular combat, rage mode and a vehicle sequence.

Summary: Gun-for-hire Rubi Malone travels the world doing dangerous work for money, until she is caught up in larger events.

Thoughts: It seems difficult to avoid referencing Quentin Tarantino when talking about WET (out of the ten highest reviews on Metacritic, exactly half mentioned him). It isn’t difficult to see why as the game draws from the same ‘grindhouse’ influences that Tarantino is fond of, in particular the over-the-top violence of the exploitation films. WET has an artificial film grain effect to look like it was filmed with old cameras (complete with flickering and scratchy artefacts), loading screens are often masked with promos to visit the concession stand, when you die the ‘film’ burns up, and the original soundtrack is filled with songs inspired by the ’70s.

As an actual game WET’s biggest influence is Max Payne and its third-person, slow-motion bullet time dives. Rubi is more acrobatic than Max, and as such can trigger slow-mo shooting from dives, wall runs, slides and while running along ledges or swinging from poles, and has a sword for up-close fighting. There’s a great flow to it all, being able to go from a wall run to a dive to a slide, all the time shooting in slow motion with a 360 degree range of movement. That’s important because multiple kills in succession builds up a multiplier, which both awards more points (for buying upgrades) and also controls the rate of health regen, offering none when there’s no multiplier and regenerating very quickly when maxed out, which becomes vital at later stages or at higher difficulties.

The combat is generally a success, but there are also some platform elements that are less so.  Functioning like a basic version of something out of Prince of Persia, these sections begin with a camera pan through the area to show where you should be going and the rough route of how to get there, generally through a mix of wall runs, pole vaults and ledge climbing. Generally it works fine, but the controls are just off enough that I suffered through many deaths when I’d pressed the correct buttons but the game didn’t do what it was supposed to. Things like pressing circle at a ledge to drop down but ending up sliding off, or pressing x at an edge to do a big jump to a handhold only to do a regular jump and tumbling down instead. It was never enough to halt progress for more than a few attempts, just enough to be regularly frustrated by the game not doing what it should.

Rage mode.

Wikipedia fact: "Edge magazine was more scathing, commenting: "Some cool things happen to crazy people in A2M's Wet, but unfortunately there are times in between where you're actually expected to play it.""

There are several other variants to help mix things up. At certain points Rubi will enter a rage mode where all the details fade away and everything is coloured in plain blacks, reds and whites, enemies shattering into pieces upon death and the goal being to amass a straight kill count instead of building up multipliers. There are two vaguely on-rails vehicles sections where Rubi is pursuing a vehicle by riding on the back of another, shooting enemies along the way and leaping from car to car (through button prompts) as vehicles inevitably start to collide and explode, and one level halfway through the game has Rubi engaged in a gunfight while plummeting from an exploding plane as she tries to obtain the only parachute.

The variety is important because the game pretty much plays its hand very early on with the combat, giving you all the variety in the first couple of levels thanks to there only being a couple of enemy types (essentially ones that shoot, ones that hit you with a club/sword and leaders with miniguns) and approaches (either kill enemies as you move through the level or destroy enemy spawn points in an arena). What variation there is comes from the arenas becoming more elaborate and enemies increasing the damage they can deal and withstand. When coupled with the scarce ammo for the special weapons, the high health levels occasionally resulted in me spending multiple dives/slides pouring pistol rounds into the face of just one enemy, and that was just on normal difficulty.

Rubi shooting.

Wikipedia fact: "Music for the game was composed by Brian LeBarton. The entire score was recorded live in four days in Los Angeles".

The final trick WET has up its sleeve is a selection of button-pressing quicktime events, popping up from time to time to cover the climactic battles. Indeed, the game ends with one such event, which left me feeling a little underwhelmed as the credits appeared and I realised that the actual final battle had taken place some time ago. The story is fairly typical for this sort of character, with Rubi being the kind of person who does dangerous work for money (called “wetwork” in fact, which is where the game’s title comes from) but otherwise avoids getting involved, only to have the game’s events very quickly get her personally involved on a quest for payment/revenge/stopping the bad guy. It’s mostly just a setup for the spectacle and big fights, but the cast of characters (including performances from Malcolm McDowell and Eliza Duskhu) help keep things interesting.

A2M (as Artificial Mind and Movement style themselves) clearly love the grindhouse aesthetic and that does shine through in the presentation and the way events unfold in the story. The combat has style but runs out of tricks quite rapidly, making WET a fairly fun romp but ultimately a little forgettable. With it being possible to pick up the game cheap it’s the kind of thing you can blitz through in a weekend and then put behind you, although there is a selection of unlockable difficulties and challenge modes to potentially extend your time with the game if you do find yourself enjoying it.

Trailer:

Game of the Year Status: As far as its place in my ongoing Game of the Year 2009 project is concerned, WET takes the current number ten spot, being not as over-the-top as Ninja Blade’s outright silliness or having moments of sheer fun as Red Faction: Guerilla’s destruction, but being ultimately more satisfying than MadWorld (with which WET shares a fondness for gratuitous swearing).

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  1. February 1, 2010 at 21:25
  2. February 6, 2010 at 02:14

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