It’s hard to think that anyone could go into WET expecting it to be anything different than what it is; very few games wear their inspirations more visibly on their sleeves. Let me put it another way for you: if WET shipped with an equivalent to Modern Warfare 2‘s Prestige Edition package, instead of night vision goggles it would contain your own rundown, dingy theater, complete with raucous patrons, sticky floors, stuffing poking out through the tears in your seat’s cigarette burned upholstery, a huge bucket of butter drenched, overly salted popcorn and Quentin Tarantino in the seat next to you, talking a mile-a-minute.
Drawing from the stylistic tropes of grindhouse exploitation flicks, WET looks like something straight out of a 1970s Saturday afternoon double feature. Overflowing with blood and gore, car chases, explosions, and a metric ton of spent shell casings, the game rarely pauses to breathe. But does the thrill of the ride justify the price of the ticket? Hit the concession stand, then join us after the jump. Make it fast – the coming attractions are almost done.
Meet Rubi Malone. Rubi’s the kind of ballsy, no-nonsense gal who, for the right price, can get things done – assuming that by “get things done” you mean “kills loads of people in a gratuitous-yet-stylish manner.” She also seems to have a bit of a monkey fixation, but we won’t hold that against her, since she’s got something of a short temper too.
The basic gameplay in WET combines elements of other third person action shooters like Stranglehold, Max Payne, and The Club. The shooting mechanic is all based around chain-killing enemies to boost your combo multiplier (The Club) during bullet-time slowdown (Payne, Stranglehold), which is triggered by jumping, diving, sliding and wall running (Stranglehold again). This isn’t a typical run-and-gun affair, however; if you’re not constantly keeping yourself in slow motion during a shootout, you’ll find your life bar rapidly chewed away by a hail of bullets.
Rubi comes strapped by default with twin pistols packing unlimited ammo and an ornate sword; more weapons are unlocked as the game progresses, which make up for their increased power by having limited rounds. Upon entering slowdown, Rubi will auto-aim one sidearm at a nearby enemy, leaving you to target the second one in between trying to maintain your momentum as well as your combo multiplier. The encounters in open areas help you with this by offering ample environmental objects to leap, swing and flip off of, keeping the combat’s style level high.
The story begin in medias res with Rubi trying to recover a case for one of her clients. After a double-cross puts the sensitive payload into the wrong set of hands, she sets off in pursuit and lands smack in the middle of a tutorial. By the time you’ve learned the basics of acrobatic combat and platforming – while experiencing Rubi’s blood-splattered Rage mode and doing a little bit of interstate car-surfing along the way – you’ll find that three separate levels have passed, all before the “opening credits” have even rolled.
The rest of the game essentially follows variants of this same pattern – regular level, rage level, maybe another regular level or vehicle chase – all before Rubi ends up back at her hideout and training ground, the Boneyard, for timed obstacle course practice with a newly acquired weapon. Lather, rinse, and repeat this for 12 chapters. WET does a fair job of trying to maintain the “non-stop, high octane” feeling of momentum inherent to the media it emulates, but it stumbles along the way. The chapters themselves are rather unevenly paced for one; some levels go on for too long while others are finished before you realize it, leaving you hanging, unsatisfied.
The game does its best to suck you in in other ways, however, as it’s full of little touches that try to emulate the cheap, lurid theater experience. From the classic cinema advertisements occasionally inserted between segments of the chapter to the “film” getting stuck and melting in the projector when you die; all of these tongue-in-cheek elements serve to beef up the presentation. The graphics themselves are merely average, but the damaged film grain effect that overlays them is a nice touch, even if it feels somewhat off due to the difference between the game’s frame rate and that of a real movie. Another nice visual change-up comes in when you enter Rubi’s Rage levels and the world is washed away in a flood of solid colors, looking like a color swapped Frank Miller comic panel mixed with touches of Suda 51′s Killer 7.
The story, while perfunctory, is packed with appropriately oddball characters (where the hell did the midget come from?) and double-crossing, if predictable, plot twists. However, the biggest stand-out element is without a doubt the excellent music. Packed full of jangly southwest tinged guitar rock, upright bass-slapping psychobilly and more, the songs keep pace with the frenetic onscreen action, while Brian LeBarton’s incidental score fits perfectly. I would happily buy a soundtrack from this game in a second.
But not everything is so easy to write off in the name of good, simple, sleazy fun. In the end, your enjoyment of WET will largely come down to how you feel about spending several hours trudging from showdown to showdown through pedestrian, uninspired level design. Hallways lead to killbox arenas lead to yet more hallways and killbox arenas. This may not be a problem if you find the shooting mechanic engaging, but a fair few will likely tire of it before that.
The platforming, when it shows up, certainly isn’t anything to write home about either. Mind you, it’s not on the level of, say, Damnation, which would have benefited from WET‘s relative speed and responsiveness, but it contains some very frustrating elements; jumping being most notable among them. Rubi, when standing on a flat surface, is totally incapable of jumping straight up; any tap of the jump button sends her into a dive. This results in a LOT of pointless, easily avoidable deaths. I understand the developers wanted to keep Rubi constantly in motion, but who isn’t already, subconsciously, pushing the stick forward if they want to jump or dive in that direction? Making forward motion an inherent part of the jump mechanic just seems like a very poor idea on the part of A2M.
In the end, WET is an excellent example of style versus substance; I don’t think it should be a surprise to anyone as to which side of the coin this game falls on. It’s rough around the edges and it knows it, even reveling in it to a degree. That said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking in a good, mindless, ultraviolent popcorn flick now and then. The problem is that this is some pretty pricey popcorn we’re dealing with; the $60 tag makes me balk, considering the issues the game has. I would have recommended it at bargain matinee prices (ie: $40 or less) in a heartbeat. Do what I did: give the demo, which showcases all three types of levels, a whirl and then ask yourself “Do I want to do this for the next eight hours?” I took the plunge and enjoyed my time with the game, despite its faults. Mind you, I also love some pretty godawfully horrible movies too, so maybe that says something more telling about me.
Things We Liked: Cheap, cheesy, and gratuitously violent – and we mean that in a good way! Amazing Sountrack. Good presentation. Visual style.
Things We Disliked: The jump mechanic makes for dicey platforming and cheap deaths. Mediocre level design. Price-to-value proposition.
Target Audience: Exploitation film junkies. Fans of good, mindless violence. 1UP’s Tina Sanchez.
(WET – Developer: Artificial Mind & Motion. Publisher: Bethesda Softworks. Available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 – Xbox version reviewed. Buy it Now at Amazon.com. New to CFD’s reviews? Read our explanation here.)