By Stewie Sutherland
It was a dark, scary night… you know the kind. Most of the lights are off in the house. Somewhere outside, a noisy owl is hooting. Trees close by are shaking in the wind and scratching at the windows. Everything had been played, and played to death, so yours truly thought “I’ll see what’s available to download for free.” As you can expect, not a lot. Exhausting the XBL marketplace, I checked out the PSN store and saw it in a lonely folder, an underdog if you will: WET – The Demo.
“Why not?” I thought, downloading it. Firing it up for the first time, it wasn’t too bad. Fun even! The grindhouse-style grain filter was horrible, but I thought it would probably just be for the opening part. Like most demos you get a quick rundown of what to expect. Main levels with slow-mo acrobatic shooting, a noir styled Rage Mode scene and a freeway chase of button presses. It was short, kinda tacky, but enjoyable. When I saw it cheap at EB on Xbox 360, the sinister title finally struck at me, the doomed victim. And EB took my money. The jerks.
WET’s game play revolves around controlling Rubi, a gun for hire who’s known for her skills. What might these skills be? Acrobatic shooting, murderous rages and the occasional bit of car surfing. The most amount of time you’ll spend on foot with a revolver in your hand. (While Rubi has a few weapons, the starting revolvers never run out of ammo or need reloading).
While you can stand there and shoot away with a dull “bang” sound effect, the game encourages you to use acrobatic skills to fight. Jumping, diving, wall-running and knee-sliding will have time slow down around you if you fire during the sequence, which is explained as Rubi entering ‘The Zone’. Honestly, it’s like watching a Lara Croft game in slow-mo. When this happens, your score increases depending on your initial skill (headshots for example) and how varied the chain is. Going from a dive into a knee slide keeps the multiplier high. These actions take up a good 85% of gameplay.
There are really only two other kinds of play methods involved. Quick-time sequences occur when Rubi is surfing on top of a car in a high speed chase, and pressing the right buttons will advance play. This comes back in the game’s very few boss fights – if you press the wrong button when prompted, you die.
The next method is more common than the last one, and it’s a frenzied, murderous rage. They’re always triggered the same way – you’ll see a clip of some guy barrelling towards Rubi, she’ll shoot him at point blank range and get blood splattered across her face. This starts the rage moment. When this happens, the world turns blocky and is reduced to reds, blacks and whites, comic book noir-style. Attacks are sped up and made more powerful. As well, whatever song is playing gets just that much more louder and faster. These moments will keep a bit of interest up for the player, but they’re few and far between, and you’ll start wondering why they couldn’t just change that same point-blank-shot opener once or twice. Oh, and for some reason, the game focuses on monkeys a lot. Toy monkeys, monkey emblems, monkey guns… don’t ask why, it’s never explained.
So let’s look at the cast. Every time a character shows up, a sign of their name appears to introduce us. I first thought this was y’know, the main cast. Turns out it’ll pop up for all of them – even the characters that die soon after, the ones we’re never really introduced to, or in the case of ‘Torturer’, both. Our main gal is Rubi Malone. She’s described as a ‘fixer’ – pay her money and she’ll fix things, so long as it’s something simple like killing, or kidnapping… or drinking heavily. Other names to describe her would be mercenary, moody, loner, boozer and psychotic. She’s voiced by Eliza Dushku, star of TV, films and Saints Row 2’s “Shaundi”. It doesn’t help that the story is tired and slow at best: it is your basic revenge plot.
The next character is… well, I can’t really tell you without spoiling things. Malcolm McDowell lends his voice to two characters in WET: the first is a cunning drug dealer, and his smooth vocals are instantly recognisable. The second is an older, grumpier cunning drug dealer who swears a bit. Alan Cumming is there too as a couple of minor characters, but really the line up is nothing to talk about. You know how when a toy company makes a series of figures, they wait until Series 2 or 3 to release the less popular ones? WET’s line-up is like that. Series 3 of action figures. I’m trying very hard not to be a smart-arse and say “coming soon from McFarlane Toys” after that.
Let’s look at… err, listen, to the music. The game is filled to the gills with tracks from artists that.. I really haven’t heard of, to be honest. They’re all pretty generic: mildly catchy, often hard to understand, and they seem to play just when a fight is about to break out. So if quiet is disturbed by a sudden pounding of instruments, hey, you’ve been warned.
The original score was composed by a guy named Brian LeBarton, who was quoted saying: "I wanted music that would scare the sh*t out of you, make you feel like you’re in the game. It had to put you on edge and freak your brain out. Face-melting, musical debauchery.” Truthfully, I didn’t even notice a score in there. Seriously! If there was, there was no edge-of-your-seat, face melting involved. The closest was a short free-falling level where you have to move Rubi past the wreckage of a sky falling plane. Every time you so much as brush an object she goes tumbling to her doom – you’re likely to get frustrated and curse, and maybe scrub your hand over your face. It’s not face melting, but y’know… its close? Oh, by the by, the original score took four days to record.
Last but not least, let’s peek at the visuals. Just a peek to avoid straining our eyes. WET’s entire game is jerky and scratchy to simulate an old video tape. (Dying even shows you a quick screen of film running off the reel and melting under the light, which looks pretty disgusting if you see it enough). Okay, so that might’ve been an okay idea for the prologue at the start, but come on!! The entire game? Around the world, Standard Definition TV is being replaced with Hi-Def. We go to the movies and watch things in 3D. DVD’s are being replaced with Blu-ray. And WET’s entire game is shot in sepia tone. If you have a fancy wallpaper on your PS3 or a bright Dashboard on your 360, loading up the game is like going from a photo to its negative.
I’d tell you more about this one, ALL of it even, but I care too much about AMO’s readers. Plus I don’t want to punish our state-of-the-art swearing filter too much – it’s been a tad fritzy lately. My final thoughts on this one? Don’t buy it. Just don’t! If we stop buying lazy, half-designed games, they’ll stop making them, and the ending to WET is left very open for a sequel (which has been approved). It’s like Smokey the Bear says kids: only you can prevent mediocrity. (This of course was a follow up to his infamous forest fire campaign, but sadly, didn’t gain the same momentum).
5 OUT OF 10