Despite being a throwaway movie, Wanted should make for good video game material. The film followed Wesley Gibson, an ordinary man in an ordinary job who suddenly finds himself part of a team of assassins. This group, called the Fraternity, isn't simply a load of guns for hire, but a special group of people who use an ancient loom (we're not making this up) to find out who to kill next. And it gets stranger. These hot shots can curve bullets, use super enhanced reflexes and generally be complete badasses. As we said, perfect video game material, but somehow it doesn't quite work.
Like the movie, the game casts you primarily as Wesley, but also as his father Cross, with various flashback missions popping up throughout the campaign. The story here picks up where the film left off, so while it's not your typical movie tie-in, it's certainly linked to it. Whoever you play as the gameplay remains the same: cover-based third-person shooting with bullet-time moments, numerous on-rails sections and a few neat ideas thrown in for good measure. It's solid stuff, but it never does anything truly exciting to elevate it above a fairly average shooter.
The cover system is similar to what you'd find in other games. Tap the action button and your character will slide into cover, be it a wall or moveable crate. Hold a direction and hit the action button and you'll flip out to the side or jump over the top and head into more cover. There's a system called Cover Chaining, in which you blind fire to suppress enemies, then leap from cover to cover, increasing your speed as you go. The idea here is to get the upper-hand on enemies, but it really doesn't come in handy that often.
Something that's a lot cooler is the ability to melee attack from cover. If you're in cover and an enemy is hiding over the other side, you can hit the attack button to reach over and stab him in the neck. It's brutal and a nice touch. The animations you get for melee kills come in numerous flavours too, but special duels between you and knife carrying enemies always seem to play exactly the same way, which is a shame.
Wanted's big gimmicks stem from your adrenaline, which you get by killing enemies and displayed through on-screen bullets in the corner of the screen. Adrenaline can be used to slow down time when leaping out of cover, allowing you to take out numerous enemies at once, but it can also be used to curve bullets. By holding a shoulder button you're able to bring up a curved line, showing a path from your gun to your targeted enemy. This line is red when your bullet is missing, but by moving its trajectory with an analogue stick you can eventually make the line turn white, release the shoulder button and hit the enemy in the head.
While these special adrenaline moves are nice and make the game feel different to the average third-person shooter, the game leaves you wanting a lot more. Other than a pretty cool level that takes place on-board an aeroplane nothing stands out as being new and exciting, with you simply moving through the levels taking down the enemies on the way. They're not all that smart either, usually opting to stay in cover or just charge straight for you. Boss fights are a little more interesting, but on numerous occasions we were able to come out victorious by simply staying in one spot and popping out of cover to shoot now and again. The instant kill slow-motion curve bullet follow-cam shots look spectacular, but this can only carry the game for so long.
In an attempt to spice up the routine gun-play you'll regularly have to get through on-rails-esque sections that see you gunning down enemies in slow motion. These moments are certainly better than QTEs, but they're not exactly thrilling. There's also the odd turret section and some sniper set pieces, but these aren't nearly as regular. While it would have been a blatant copy, a Max Payne rip-off that focused entirely on gratuitous action probably would have been more enjoyable and more fitting of the license.
Despite having moments that dazzle (it's hard to resist being mildly impressed at some of the slow motion stuff), Wanted's visuals don't match those seen in the genre leaders. Environments lack the finer details that would make the world seem alive, enemy character models aren't great and some of the texture work isn't the best. That said, Wanted is by no means ugly, with the overall style giving it a look that's certainly better than most licensed titles. While the audio work is solid and there are some great surround effects, the presentation during cutscenes borders on terrible. And while there's no multiplayer to speak of, there are loads of items to unlock, although whether you'll want to is debatable - some are simply quotes from members of the dev team, while others modify the game in small ways.
Wanted: Weapons of Fate isn't a terrible game, but it is a disappointing one. With a license that seemed tailor made for the video game treatment and a competent developer (Grin, makers of the PC GRAW titles and the forthcoming Bionic Commando) in charge, there was a chance this would be something really rather good. What we ended up with is a perfectly passable, often enjoyable game, but not something that will be remembered once you've beaten it over the course of a few evenings.