“Wanted: Dead is a new hybrid slasher/shooter from the makers of Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive.” That right there should be enough to titillate ( ͡- ͜ʖ ͡-) action fans like yours truly. From the look of things, Wanted: Dead is the janky, 7th gen B movie experience that’s hardly found these days. It definitely looks like a cult classic in the making. But then I played it…for 15 gruelling hours. I was right about a lot of things – it’s janky, it looks and sounds like a 7th gen action game and it tries to capture that B-movie vibe – but in the worst ways imaginable. “From the makers of Ninja Gaiden…”. What did they make, Ninja Gaiden 3?
Wanted: Dead is a hack n slash shooter developed by Soleil and published by 110 Industries. The game will be released for PS4/5, Xbox One, Series XIS and PC on February 14, 2023.
Pop Culture Popcorn
Wanted: Dead takes place in a retro-futuristic cyberpunk Hong Kong (You just have to take their word for it). The game puts you in the fashionable sneakers of Lt. Hannah Stone, a hard-boiled cop leading the elite Zombie squad. It depicts a week in their life as they tackle a nationwide conspiracy involving…stuff. The story tries to take itself very seriously but it hardly makes any sense most of the time. The Tarantino-esque storytelling of contrasting tones doesn’t do the game any favours. The story is extremely boring and the characters (including the PC) are the epitome of blandness. The story is full of generic, cliched dialogues, and cringe-worthy, crass humour. Look, no one expects the writing to be a masterpiece. But, it fails to even tick the “it’s so bad it’s good” box. The game is devoid of any charm that often accompanies Japanese action games.
But credit where it’s due. The developers did try to make the presentation as slick as possible by including short anime cutscenes in between. There are also plenty of badass moments during the story as you expect from a Japanese game. Sadly, the atrocious voice acting pulls it down. The voice work in this game makes Deadly Premonition look like a Shakespearean play. Again, these are not of the “so bad it’s good” variety and rather land on the corner between weird avenue and uncanny boulevard. The voice actors, including the PC, deliver their lines with even less energy and interest than me on a Monday morning. It almost feels as if the studio asked the first 10 people who walked by their office to voice the characters. Then there’s the terrible audio mixing that’s “just there”.
Somehow, the story and presentation of Wanted: Dead make it seem like the devs were intentionally trying to embrace the weirdness of low-budget Japanese action games. But the whole thing comes across as so boring that it kind of defeats the purpose. The Devil’s Third may have been a terrible game at its core but at least it was awful in the best kind of way – the unintentionally funny kind. A generic plot that doesn’t make full use of the setting, annoying and bland side characters and an unsatisfying climax drags the whole thing down
Slice N Dice
The story and writing may be terrible but as long as the gameplay is fun, the game is a win in my book. Sadly that’s not fully the case. Wanted: Dead tries to capture the essence of unapologetic, no-nonsense action games from the seventh generation of consoles really, really hard. As per the marketing blurbs, Wanted: Dead is a third-person slasher/shooter hybrid. That part is very much true. It’s also an extremely linear action game with even fewer combos, levels and enemy variety than Ninja Gaiden, a game that came out nearly 20 years ago.
As Hannah Stone, you play through 5 (some of them gruelly long) levels slicing, dicing and shooting enemies to get from one point to another. While featuring gunplay, the game encourages melee combat, similar to The Devil’s Third, the game encourages you to get up close to enemies. When it works, the gun-fu combat is decent but very basic. The first two hours of the game make you think that there is a deep and challenging combat system to master. But five hours in and you’ll still be fighting the same 5 enemies with the same 3 combos over and over again. There’s even a rudimentary skill tree and pointless weapon customization thrown in for good measure. For an action game, swordplay is shallow and gunplay is underwhelming
One of the selling points of Wanted: Dead is the John Wick-esque finishers you can perform on weakened enemies. There are like 60 of these and they look so fucking cool. This is the game’s version of glory kills. Chopping off enemy heads and performing gun-fu moves provide you with invulnerability frames and let you retain a small amount of lost health. If you ask me, these finishers are the only reason to play the game. But even these get repetitive towards the end.
To break up the monotony, Wanted: Dead has several mini-games similar to the Yakuza series. They include UFO catcher, an arcade game, karaoke and a ramen-eating mini-game. While these are welcome additions, they are so forcefully introduced and they disrupt the pace of the action. These are often accompanied by long, boring cutscenes accompanying the mini-games don’t do them any favours as well. Also, the button prompts for the karaoke make you wish you had four hands.
Any number of cool-ass-looking finishers can’t save Wanted: Dead from its repetitive gameplay loop and da. There are a few moments of brilliance here and there as you chain-execute multiple enemies like a total badass. But these are few and far between. All style and no substance is the bane of Wanted: Dead.
For all intents and purposes, Wanted: Dead ironically captures all the worse aspects of a seventh-generation action game. The generic story capable of putting an insomniac to sleep is accompanied by awful voice acting, bad editing and flashy but shallow combat. The finishers look cool as hell but that isn’t enough to save the game from being a dud. Wanted: Dead is a hard pill to swallow even for the most hardcore jank lover.
FINAL RATING: AVOID