|Artificial Mind and Movement (published by Bethesda)
|Action / Shooter
|XBox 360, Playstation 3
|Kelly Score ™
|55 / 100
The title “Wet” supposedly refers to the term “wetwork”, a word commonly attributed to cold-war era secret agencies and referring to assignments involving killing so intense that the workers hands become literally wet with blood. The game definitely has death and blood galore, with kill counts in the hundreds per chapter as the game’s female protagonist, Rubi Malone, slices, jumps, and shoots her way through room after room of “bad people”.
I’m all for a bit of mindless violence in my games, particularly when the main character is a sexy but psychopathic woman, but somewhere along the line Wet becomes… boring, and worse: irritating. It is telling that I had to force myself to finish the game- I wanted to call it quits several times after the midway point of the twelve to fourteen hours of playtime I got for my money. This is unfortunate, as there are a number of good ideas in Wet- sadly, it feels a bit like there were one or two hours of good ideas cut and pasted a dozen times to fill out the game.
The story behind Wet can be summarized as follows: a twenty-something woman with super-human acrobatic combat skills named Rubi Malone sells her skills to the highest bidder. She will kill anyone, or any number of anyones, to complete whatever mission she is paid for so long as the price is right. Somebody double-crosses her, so she goes on a rampage to kill everyone involved.
That’s it, really. Nothing is explained about Rubi’s background, how she became what she is, why her guns have monkeys and Chinese characters on them, why she lives in a rusted out plane in a plane graveyard, or what the deal is with her occasional berserk rages. The berserk rages are a game mechanic (more on that later) that is actually kind of comical: after killing seventy or eighty people, she kills one guy whose blood splashes on her face, and now all of sudden she’s *really* mad. Strangely, it is always the same guy (presumably hired from Psychopath Baiters R Us), with the same sword, and the same blood splash. Practice makes perfect, I guess.
This kind of weak story is pretty typical for most action/shooter games. Unfortunate, but typical, and it is here where the first of the missed opportunities in Wet appears. Rubi seems like an interesting character, or one that could be interesting. But nothing is done to develop her: she has weird guns, she wears dog tags, and she kills lots of people for money- no one explains anything during the game to justify her behaviour or to provide even the slightest bit of depth.
The game does have some unique presentation elements- it pretends that you are watching a grindhouse movie from the 70’s, complete with scratchy/flickering film and between chapter “Let’s all go to the lobby…” intermission advertisements. This also sort of justifies the often cheesy acting, and the regular eye-rollingly bad lines (if Rubi said “here we go” one more time, I think I’d scream). But after a while it no longer seemed neat- just somewhat irritating.
The game mechanics themselves have the scent of uniqueness. Unlike most shooters, Wet allows Rubi to use her guns at almost any time: while running, while sliding, while hanging from a ladder, while jumping from horizontal pole to horizontal pole. It is a non-stop fest of bullet flinging opportunities. In fact, a major requirement of the game is that you shoot and kill your enemies in new and unique ways: the more complicated your method of murder, the more points you get to spend on upgrading Rubi’s skills. I liked that aspect of the game.
Disappointingly, most of the rest of the game mechanics are incredibly irritating. Each time Rubi gets a weapon upgrade, you have to play through an essentially identical target-shooting / acrobatics “test” in order to progress. You can’t skip this tutorial, and it can be about as much fun as having to change the oil and wash the car before you can go for a drive. I suppose I could begrudgingly accept this tedium if the new weapons were a big deal, but they aren’t: other than the exploding crossbow, I almost never found a need to use anything except for the infinite-ammo pistols Rubi starts out with.
Continuing the disappointment is the run and gun gameplay. The jumping and leaping acrobatics are fun, but every few minutes the game locks you in a space with endlessly spawning bad guys and several doors. You have to battle your way through the room to each door, and trigger something to “break” it, thus closing that spawn point. This was fun once or twice, but after a couple of dozen times I was starting to get pretty ticked.
Similarly, Rubi will periodically walk through a door and a cut scene will run where some guy with a sword runs up- Rubi naturally shoots him at point blank range and gets splattered with blood, which makes her go berserk. This *sounds* interesting, until you realize that this is essentially identical to the previous “lock you in a room” feature, except with a red wash obscuring all of the graphics. Yep, a major feature of the game is to downgrade the graphics to an eye-numbing monochrome. Ouch.
I can sort of understand how this all happened. Wet was originally going to be published by Activision Blizzard, but they cancelled it in mid-2008. Bethesda picked it up a few months later, but I imagine the damage was already done. I would expect that the development team was disheartened and then had to rush to put the features together for release.
Regardless of the reasons for failure, Wet is a game that could have done better. With some combination of an improved story and less irritating mechanics, it could have scored in the 70 to 80 range on the Kelly scale. Instead, it barely passed 50 out of 100, and it is definitely not a game that I’d recommend as more than a passing time-waster.