REVIEW – Wanted: Dead wanted to embrace the style of 17-18 years earlier. The Ninja Gaiden reboot could have been the starting point, to which they added God of War (not the modern two installments, but the first two on PS2), plus from the shooter genre, say Resident Evil 4 (even if it’s not exclusively in that genre) and Call of Duty. The result is a mediocre mix, nothing more.
Wanted: Dead is a new hybrid slasher/shooter from the makers of Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive. The game follows a week in the life of the Zombie Unit, an elite Hong Kong police squad on a mission to uncover a major corporate conspiracy.
It would be the company that the story investigates, opening with an unusually scattered intro. Suddenly jumping into the future with our protagonist Hannah Stone, who could restore her currently ruined reputation (being a convict) if she completes the assignment, leaving her in charge of the outlaw Hong Kong outfit as the leader of the Zombie Squad. It’s a bit cyberpunk, but not that cyberpunk: a robbery occurs at Dauer, and we’re on the road. The Steam synopsis is no coincidence since Soleil Ltd. is indeed the developer behind the two franchises. Perhaps that’s why the gameplay loop is too simple: Hannah and her three comrades complete simple missions in linear maps by mowing down and shooting. It gives you XP, which you can then spend on your skill tree (not complex: there’s the often life-saving slowdown upgrade, for example), and then between missions, you head to your headquarters to chat with your comrades. There are mini-games (as if Yakuza inspired the developers, sorry, Like A Dragon…), and the backstories can be learned.
It might be an oversimplified definition, but it’s a feature of the product, as is the fact that not everything works as it should. If everything were in place, perhaps the game could get a better rating, but no: Wanted: Dead is perhaps sometimes over the top. It makes the player feel like an underdog because no matter how many times they scythed or emptied their magazine, it didn’t seem to have any effect. It even goes so far as to make Stone feel momentarily stunned or stopped by several of his opponents’ attacks (what an ironic nomen est omen). There are also instances of our opponent overriding our move during our attack, which, and I don’t care if it gets censored out, can be fucking annoying regardless of game or genre. If only the combat at least felt good, but even that can’t be fully said: the game has nothing to do with the stylish, quality experience that Devil May Cry V was capable of delivering. Even the otherwise lousy Ninja Gaiden III: Razor’s Edge was better than this, and even that was a huge step down from II. At least the finishing moves are nice, but these are mostly animations, and making them stylish is as easy as counting to three…
And the others
It’s as if Wanted: Dead doesn’t have a lock-on system, and when many people surround Stone so that she can turn to stone (in other words, dead), the camera tends to go crazy. That can be enough to frustrate anyone. Even though it wants to be a Souls clone (then thinking about a similarly small studio, Thymesia could provide a better experience), the fights are weightless, if not lifeless. This performance (or lack thereof) has seeped in elsewhere because the dialogue isn’t that good, either.
They’re slow, lack momentum compared to real-life conversations, poorly delivered sentences, and working with music (also), they feel unpolished. At least the cutscenes seemed to feel unique, which is excellent, and the visuals themselves don’t seem so bad. (Hm, where has it been that great graphics are accompanied by sloppy gameplay? Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness, Rise of the Robots…) So it’s kind of a weird situation that you must learn to time (because even if the combat system is terrible the first time, you must learn how to parry and counter the second time). Still, you have to get there, and by then, the already not-very-large player base might be too depleted.
When the loading screen is more exciting
It’s also rare that the loading screen seems better than most gameplay because it’s linear, unpolished, and almost amateurish. Obviously, this game (with graphics downscaled to 480p or 1080i) might have held its own on PlayStation 2. Still, in this case, it deserves a weak six out of ten rating because it’s not criminally bad, but it’s not outstandingly good either. It’s fair to say that Wanted: Dead is already one of the year’s disappointments because we expected more from the developers. So this game is recommended to be bought at half price at most because there’s a big problem if the mini-games are a better time than the primary experience itself. And that’s the mistake this game has fallen into. It can’t get out of it. It’s a typical example of something that looks nice, but behind it is content that seems superficial and when you dig deeper, unfinished.
+ Not bad to look at
+ The loading screen and mini-games
+ Stefanie Joosten (Quiet in MGS V) excels here too…
– The audio is a joke
– The battle system is not something sophisticated
– Too linear
Publisher: 110 Industries
Developer: Soleil Ltd.
Style: bootleg Ninja Gaiden
Release: February 14, 2023.
Gameplay - 5.6
Graphics - 8.4
Story - 6.7
Music/Audio - 8.3
Ambience - 5.5
Obviously, this game (with graphics downscaled to 480p or 1080i) might have held its own on PlayStation 2. Still, in this case, it deserves a weak six out of ten rating because it's not criminally bad, but it's not outstandingly good either. It's fair to say that Wanted: Dead is already one of the year's disappointments because we expected more from the developers. So this game is recommended to be bought at half price at most because there's a big problem if the mini-games are a better time than the primary experience itself. And that's the mistake this game has fallen into. It can't get out of it. It's a typical example of something that looks nice, but behind it is content that seems superficial and when you dig deeper, unfinished.
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