Wanted: Dead is a game with attitude. It’s an eccentric world view chockfull of pop culture references and never less than absurd. To begin with you may question exactly who the comedic cyberpunk stylings would appeal to, but as this Wanted: Dead review will attest, by the end of the game it will likely be you.
Wanted: Dead begins by establishing a pseudo political commentary agenda. It makes you feel like it’s got a message. A statement to be made about the way the world is run. It probably does, but as soon as the dismembering starts – about 10 seconds into the first level – you’ll quickly forget about it. It’s silly and extremely gory. And that’s just fine.
The character design and plot development are clearly inspired by Metal Gear Solid. Heavily armoured mercenaries acting as part of a police force sit in a diner being served by a waitress in a short, floaty skirt. The plot development merges eccentric sci-fi waffle with modern day politics. It’s nonsense much of the time. But given the gameplay design, that’s exactly what the doctor asked for.
The combat mechanics edge closer to Lollipop Chainsaw and Ninja Gaiden than Devil May Cry. It’s a game of short, sharp combos and positioning rather than learning elaborate movesets. It can be quite chaotic when bullets are raining down on you and well trained swordsmen surround you. So much so that any button bashing will inevitably lead to your death, even on the easier difficulty settings. You do have stimpaks which can heal, and at each checkpoint you get one free recovery from a teammate before having to restart. However, this often won’t be enough. Especially when taking on the game’s highly skilled bosses.
There is a skill tree that allows you to upgrade your abilities. It’s pretty rudimentary but an enjoyable side act nonetheless. You’ll very likely unlock everything long before the game’s finale. It doesn’t necessarily make things any easier however, as the abilities mostly just expand on the toolset you already have rather than giving you new, all-powerful combat options. Instead of learning as a character in-game, Wanted: Dead is about you learning as a player. In particular: patience.
This is quite surprising, especially when considering the mini-games and training missions are all about aggression. Instead, the game plays out like cat-and-mouse. Learn the patterns, wait for an opening and strike. The player is armed with both melee weapons and a variety of guns. Using them in sequence to provide said opening and then follow through is the most immediate tactic on offer. Of course, different enemies require different strategies, and the handful of bosses provide a different kind of challenge. It’s pretty standard faire for the genre, but never less than enjoyable.
What’s less than palatable however, are the technical issues. For all the compliments this Wanted: Dead review has offered, it would be remiss not to mention the framerate drops. These are infrequent, but in a game where moment-to-moment blocking and movement is critical, it can often result in unwarranted damage. So too, can the camera issues. Specifically when in tight corridors, the camera can occasionally act erratically. Sometimes it will leave you with little other than the top of you head, and no view of the enemies you’re supposed to be attacking or defending against.
Wanted: Dead is clearly a game borne of love and devotion. It exudes quality in almost all aspects of its presentation. While it can’t stand next to the likes of Halo: Infinite or God of War: Ragnarok in terms of scope or production value, what is here has been lavished with detail. From the occasional incidental story sequences offered upon finding collectables, to the mini-games and the soundtrack. Once you’ve adapted to the challenge, Wanted: Dead is a game that’s hard not to fall in love with. If you’re looking for a new action game bursting to the seams with character – despite most of it being clichéd – then you’re in the right place.