I’d been eagerly anticipating WET’s release since seeing the first screenshots pop up in the back of GameInformer a few years back. The game looked like it could combine the best elements of Tomb Raider, Stranglehold, and Max Payne into one fun to play package. Then the game disappeared for a while until Bethesda stepped up to save it from the brink of video game limbo. I’d built a lot of hype for the game up in my head during that time, and now that WET is out, and I’ve had a chance to play through it, it’s clear the game is fun, but was it all that I wanted it to be?
WET centers around a mercenary Rubi Malone. If you have a problem that needs fixing, you call upon Rubi for the use of her unique services. The game opens with Rubi being tasked with recovering a stolen donor heart for crime boss William Ackers. One year later, Ackers shows up at Rubi’s Texas hideout hoping she’ll be able to save his son from some trouble he’s in overseas. Reluctantly, Rubi accepts, and from there players are witness to a great homage to classic revenge/crime flicks. WET’s story takes its inspiration from Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, The Taking of Pelham 123, Point Blank, and Carrie, as well as borrowing from a few more modern cult favorites such as Hard Boiled, Kill Bill, and the Matrix. While it’s not a deep and emotionally engaging story, WET is still entertaining, and holds up well enough against the films that inspired it. During the course of the six or seven hours it takes you to complete your first run through, you’ll come across some characters that are a bit underdeveloped, and some cringe-worthy dialogue, but the game’s story unapologetically follows the pace of the brisk and brutal action sequences Rubi takes part in.
WET’s gameplay is a double-edged sword. On one hand, I had an insane amount of fun flipping and sliding around every level shooting people full of holes. On the other hand, the imprecision of the controls frustrated me to no end. Most of WET’s action takes place in open arena-styled areas built to show off the different ways in which Rubi can kill people. As soon as she jumps or slides, the game goes into slow motion for a few seconds, allowing players to aim their dual-wielded weapons, and fire off as many shots as they can in an effort to score style points. You’re able to target two foes at once, with the game auto-locking onto one enemy while you manually aim your other gun at another. Enemies killed when not in slo-mo are worth less, while racking up continuous kills at slowed speeds builds your multiplier, allowing for massive point payouts when the dust settles. Rubi can also run on walls for short bursts of time, and when the time calls for it, she can slide down a ladder upside down, slide down wires, or swing on poles, shooting all the while. The action is always intense since the game makes sure to populate each area with plenty of thugs to aerate. Your weapons and moves can be upgraded in the upgrade store with the points you earn. Ranging from bigger ammo reserves to more stopping power for your guns. Different weapons, like shotguns, crossbows, and sub-machine guns, are unlocked as you progress with the help of timed challenges. Here, you need to utilize all your acrobatic acumen to score a decent time, and complete the level. You get your guns whether you earn a medal or not, but more challenges do unlock for play outside of the main game later.
Rubi’s sword is used more like a transitional combo-keeper, rather than a necessary part of her arsenal. She has a brief multi-hit attack, which is all well and good, but those of you expecting a deeper melee combat system may be disappointed. About the only time I ever used the sword was when I was surrounded, or confined to a tight space. Occasionally, WET tries to force the action into spaces too small for players to do any of the things the developers intended them to. While I appreciated combat happening in more places than wide-open warehouses, city streets, or docks, trying to implement the maneuvers Rubi has in a hallway is more frustrating than it needs to be. Every time you slide, wall-run, or jump into an object, it cuts your slo-mo short, which it should, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying. It also doesn’t help that Rubi doesn’t always react as fast, or as precise, as you would like her to. Frequently, you’ll miss jumps, wall-run into nothing because you started the run one pixel too early, or miss grabbing a ledge for seemingly no reason. In this respect, WET is a lot like Mirror’s Edge. The imperfect controls will often lead to your unintentional death when they’re not working right, but when all the game’s elements are working together, you’ll be completely ensconced in the world. Putting together a carefully orchestrated loop of acrobatic assault is extremely rewarding, but having that symphony of slaughter cut short do to Rubi falling to her death in the middle of all that gunplay is completely deflating.
Rubi is also prone to rage blackouts. In what the game calls “Rage” mode, the game’s more traditional look is eschewed in favor of a stark, three-color world, where the only thing that can cure you is killing everyone in your path. Even though the action controls exactly the same, Rubi is much stronger than she is during the rest of the game. While the simplistic style works great intermittently, I’m glad the whole game isn’t presented in this style. Part of what makes it so interesting is how infrequently it happens. A few lengthy quick-time event sequences also appear to varying degrees of success. The car chases are a great deal of fun. There’s so much happening on screen, I don’t want to have to worry about a cheap death from a missed jump ruining the experience. The boss battles? Listen, I’m all for using QTEs as an aid to large battles to showcase some otherwise undoable moves, but when the closing moments of a game are defined by a simple pattern of button presses, I feel cheated. The few times QTEs show up other places, I’ve already spent a great deal of ammunition on the enemy before I’m allowed my killing blows. Not even getting to actually control the fate of my character during a major moment is insulting. It’s like the developers didn’t know how to handle Rubi’s abilities in a climactic fight, and opted instead to make it extremely easy for players to win. Though those button pressing sequences aren’t quite as grating as the “Oh, you need to open a door? Mash this button a bunch.” moments, which in general have more than worn out their welcome in gaming, the QTE fights don’t accentuate the game, they take away from it.
WET’s got a lot to offer in the presentation department. The soundtrack is probably the most impressive part of the package. Boasting an insane amount of rockabilly/psychobilly/surf rock, nary a moment goes by when you’re not tapping your foot along with the music. Brian LeBarton, Beck’s keyboardist, contributes to the score, providing just the right mix of Morricone, funk, and rock. It’s evident from the very start that the devs were trying to create a grindhouse-styled game, and with the aid of a grainy filter, the feel comes across almost instantly. Character models aren’t the best looking you’ll see on the more powerful consoles, but they all have a certain charm about them, and fit within the confines of the WET universe pretty well. A2M also employed some decent voice actors from Eliza Dushku (Rubi) to Malcolm McDowell (Ackers) to Alan Cumming (Sorrell). Say what you will about Dushku’s ability to act, she’s got the perfect voice for Rubi, and even though her cries of agony and death could use a little work, she does a terrific job playing the tough as nails lead. McDowell brings his usual air of English superiority, while Cumming continues to act as nothing more than Alan Cumming no matter what the role. While some of the game’s physics and animations may have you scratching your head, everything Rubi does looks really cool. Whether she’s sliding across the floor, spinning her guns around wildly in an effort to kill everyone in the room, or flipping through the air, firing two guns while trying to land on the next perch, it all looks believable.
There’s quite a bit to enjoy with WET if you’re able to look past the flaws in the gameplay. WET had a chance to set a new bar for third-person action games, but it never has all its components working together at once to make a perfect package. Perhaps the best thing I can say about this game, other than the fact that I enjoyed it in spite of its shortcomings, is that I’m really looking forward to a sequel. WET is good enough that A2M deserves a chance to improve on the issues, and provide gamers with a true classic instead of a game that will end up like many of the movies that influenced it: a cult favorite.