Scratched film, missing reels, pulpy narrative and a hyper cool 70’s soundtrack – it might sound like a typical Tarantino flick but WET is the most successful attempt at a videogame version of the exploitation genre we’ve ever seen – it’s a supremely confident third person shooter that sticks to the formula more than it would admit, but one dressed up in one hell of an attitude. I’ll be honest, this had slipped under my radar a little but after five minutes of playing it was almost as if the whole thing had been created purely for my enjoyment.
I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for presentation values and interface design and I’ve been known to give other issues like visual fidelity a bit of a let if the whole package stands up strongly, and the same can be said for WET. Without the (optional) film effects Artificial Mind and Movement’s technical prowess doesn’t match up to other quick fire third person titles around on both platforms – the polygonal models are chunky, the textures a little rough and the lighting can be slightly flat but this didn’t bother me one iota as I played through the story mode.
Why? Because everything else that reviewers don’t normally pick up is utterly superb. For starters, the menus, dressed up like 70’s grindhouse movie posters, look superb; the way the game effortlessly meshes in old school adverts for popcorn like you’re at a dodgy drive-in is wonderful; the animation and motion capture on lead character Rubi in the cut-scenes is solid and believable and the voice acting is great throughout, delivered by the likes of Malcolm McDowell and Eliza Dushku. All this is coupled with a stunning 70’s inspired original soundtrack.
The story is also as pulpy as you could get, with Rubi Malone, a private assassin tasked with tracking down a gangster’s son but delivered with as many twists and turns as your average Roger Avary script. We’ll not spoil the game here, but rest assured that you’ll be jetting off all over the world as the plot develops, all the while enhancing your repertoire of moves, weapons and abilities – especially useful as the game requires deft use of what it calls Aerobatic moves which slow down time allowing you to target specific enemies and other objects with your guns.
Induced by a slide, jump or wallrun at first, once you’re doing anything but running a quick tap of the trigger will slow everything down to bullet time and whilst your current move is active it’s a lot easier to get the lock on you require – if there’s multiple enemies the game will point one of your guns automatically (and tell you where) so you only need to aim the other ensuring double kills are frequent and, as with everything else in the game, rather cool looking. Stylish dispatches are rewarded by increasing your combo meter, and Rubi’s sword can be used at close range too.
Much is made of Rubi’s freerunning and acrobatic skills, especially in her Texan hideaway which serves as the training ground for many of her skills and weapons. Time spent here will certainly hone your skills and although you’ll only really need to be absolutely adept at everything the game offers at the higher difficulty levels, getting used to using the triggers to run up walls and aiming at multiple targets is certainly advised. You’ll also pick up more points that can be used between missions to improve your firepower and buy new abilities.
The titular WET mode comes into play a few times during the game too – referring to ‘wetworks’ (or having blood on your hands) when Rubi gets into a kind of bloodlust mode the screen becomes drenched in crimson and enemies are highlighted out of the suddenly otherwise dark black environment. It’s yet another welcome artistic visual twist and as ever is accompanied by more music from the utterly excellent soundtrack. Once through the main story mode these sections play an important role in the separate score challenges too.
And that’s WET. It’s a shame we can’t really discuss some of the cooler moments in the game without spoiling the plot, but there’s a few that won’t ruin the fun: the first is an especially frantic highway battle in San Francisco, peppered with quick-time events, and the other, rather more regular diversion is when Rubi becomes ‘locked’ in one area and is tasked with closing several ‘spawn’ doors before being allowed to move on – both highlight the diversity that Artificial Mind and Movement have managed to squeeze into the game.
So, with no multiplayer mode, WET is left to live and die on its single player adventure. Thankfully, despite not being much of a looker WET is absolutely packed with visual originality and the gameplay shines throughout – it’s obviously something of an acquired taste and even without the film grain some might not find favour with the over the top animation and constant camera edits and cut-scenes, but I personally loved the whole thing. Brash, gory and absolutely adult, WET is probably the best game I’ve played for months. Love it.
Graphics: Massively over stylised and lacking a bit of finesse, but absolutely crammed with cool attitude and character: 7/10
Sound: Probably the best soundtrack ever heard in a game and some exemplary vocal acting – a real triumph: 10/10
Gameplay: It’s repetitive, but only as much as something like God of War or Devil May Cry – the more you put in you more you’ll get out: 8/10
Overall: WET has taken the third person shooter genre and turned it completely on its head – not for everyone, but I loved every last second of it. Tarantino would be proud.