Wanted: Dead is everything that we loved about the early genre-defining hack ‘n’ slash games on the PS2 with some clear influences from the likes of Ninja Gaiden – no surprise considering 110 Industries is made up of former developers of the iconic series -, Devil May Cry and more. It also reminds us of some of the more lacking and frustrating facets of those same games, albeit mostly on purpose, it seems.
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Set in a near-future cyberpunk version of Hong Kong, Wanted: Dead sets off the story of Lt. Hannah Stone, one of the members of the oddly named Zombie Unit, who are both a specialist member of the police force, and seemingly outside said police force at the same time, taking the law into their own hands on multiple occasions. The story does fall flat, a clear attempt at creating a deep and nuanced political thriller, with factions unexplained, villains and heroes barely fleshed out and an ending that was as unsatisfying and frustrating as it was poorly implemented and written, but a story is always an after thought with games of this ilk.
Wanted: Dead – Fun and Engaging
The aforementioned influence of games like Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry will be immediately obvious to anyone that played them on the older generation of consoles, with the over-the-top melee combat the biggest part of the gameplay, with an added if ineffectual and hard-to-use side of gunplay thrown in. Most of the time it was far easier, quicker and more damaging to attack the enemies with the many sword combos, compared to trying to use the few guns to dole out damage. The same could be said for the two types of grenades on offer, neither the incendiary of the standard frag would do much damage, meaning crowd control was a difficult notion.
This is the first of the many intentional nods to the older games, with enemies standing around waiting their turn to attack whilst you’re dispatching and dismembering their comrade mere meters away in a flashy and excessive combo usually resulting in blood and body parts littering the floor. This would point towards useless and ineffectual AI from the NPC’s, and this can be an accusation levied towards the developers, however it quickly becomes apparent that for the game to have it’s mixture of sword and gunplay, you need to sacrifice something, and whilst they may wait, the NPC’s are hard-hitting if you give them a chance.
Wanted: Dead never pretends to be anything other than what it is at its core; a love letter to the PS2 classics and a genre that has been in decline for a good while. The skill tree is basic yet effective as you progress through the game, the story average, the combat a nostalgic mixture of frustrating and rewarding, and the voice work hilariously poor, especially from the voice over actor portraying Lt. Hannah Stone. Yet, with all these apparent criticisms, the game is fun. Really, really fun.
No matter whether it was the first of fiftieth time, dismembering enemies in a variety of graphic and over-the-top ways was always entertaining, especially with the easy to achieve ‘finishers’ that would leave our Lt. Stone covered in blood. The tongue-in-cheek ‘censored’ covering an enemy as you used the once-in-a-level chainsaw to separate enemies from their limbs gave the one-hit weapon a very fourth-wall-breaking, meta feel to it, and the upgradeable comrades were actually useful, which everyone will attest to the fact that generally NPC teammates are dreadful at everything except getting in the way.
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Very much a diamond-in-the-rough, Wanted:Dead is worth checking out and will definitely be a big hit with fans on Ninja Gaiden, Devil May Cry and more, but you will be disappointed if you’re expecting a big, sprawling hack ‘n’ slash open world, rather than a linear, arcade-like experience playing on the nostalgia of a long forgotten and abandoned style of games.
Wanted: Dead was played and reviewed on a code supplied by Plan of Attack.
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