Games leave their mark on the entire industry, and many try to follow the footsteps of successful releases and mix their formulas to create new and unique formulas. How well they do simply depends on how it was executed. Wanted: Dead is released by Soleil and 110 Industries, the developer and publisher responsible for releasing excellent titles like Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden series. The pedigree of game creators makes Wanted: Dead seems interesting, but a playthrough of the game might change your opinions.
Wanted: Dead, briefly explaining, takes place in Hong Kong where a super powerful robotics company has created a police force of ex-army deserters, and you play as one of the deserters turned police lieutenant, Hannah Stone. The story of the game follows the cop genre cliché where a rogue police unit takes downs an evil uprising. Now I don’t mind cliches, these ever-gold ideas always work for me, but this is where my entire understanding of the story ended.
The story of Wanted: Dead was extremely vague and poorly put together. I had zero idea throughout the game why the robots were rising up and taking over the company, why were army deserters in police in Hong Kong and why was that one guy dressed like an army general following and attacking the police force, even though he was supposed to be a cop or security firm owner. All the arcs of the game were poorly presented and I felt no connection with the game’s protagonists.
The slow pace of the game, which is filled with forced mini-games that I can’t even skip or quit make it a chore to go through the game.
In addition to a bad story, the UI was poorly explained, and how the game mechanics work was left completely up to me to understand. Again, I love the Soulsborne games and I accept this. But that doesn’t mean you should make an overly complicated UI, and then don’t provide any information about said UI or the mechanics even in in-game descriptions. It took me two entire missions to just learn that the circle in the center of the health bar was actually my special attack meter and how to fill it.
During combat, the game does feature impressive animations and style. Smooth textures and I never saw any wall clippings or failure to properly interact with the environment. I was honestly, impressed to see that even when multiple enemies surrounded me and in the heat of combat, there are almost no performance issues at all.
The same cannot be said for cutscenes however as they constantly suffered from stuttering or texture streaming issues. Combining that with the horrible lip sync and voice acting, an homage to sub-par 2000s AAA titles or not, makes for a very jarring experience. The voice actors clearly seem bored and disconnected from their in-game counterparts.
There were ZERO parallelisms between the movement of the game character and the actual words that are supposed to be coming out. The actors also took extensive awkward breaks between their lines where the game characters made sluggish movements. The conversation in ANY of the cutscenes never seemed natural at all. You do not expect this from a game released in 2023.
Coming back to combat, the combat features a mix of third-person shooter and Ninja Gaiden style hack and slash sword fight. The main focus of the game requires players to depend on their katana to kill off the majority of the enemies, and only depend on their guns when dealing with multiple far-away enemies. Besides the main gun, you also get access to a pistol, but it mostly serves as an accessory to stun enemies and stop their combos.
Limited or weaker ranged weaponry would be fine if the melee combat felt fast paced and exciting like the Devil May Cry games to balance it out. Unfortunately, while the game tries to imitate a hack-n-slash feel it strays far away from it due to a clunky execution. The inputs of the katana are extremely unresponsive. You cannot spam the attacks and delaying your input also interrupts you mid-combo. You cannot switch targets efficiently and are often stuck trying to just keep yourself from getting hit. In a game where melee attacks hit harder than guns, having a bad melee attack is the worst thing you can get stuck with, especially considering the game is made by the people behind Ninja Gaiden.
Perhaps the one thing that Wanted: Dead does well is its skill tree and giving you that badass hack-n-slash ninja feeling through it. Unlocking and being able to perform new combos with your katana is exhilarating and all the bloody and gory animations as you chop off limbs are sweet. However, that might also wear out its novelty soon for a lot people. Considering the full AAA-tag price of Wanted: Dead, it is hard to recommend Wanted: Dead outside of a massive sale. It may have a few fun factors baked in like the anime-styled cutscenes but the overall cake isn’t worth it unless you are really interested in a nostalgia trip.
Overall, Wanted: Dead was a mediocre game for me. It failed to execute both styles of combat, and the overall acting and presentation of the game were bad. The story made no sense, either due to bad writing or failure to present it properly. I never felt connected to any of the main characters of the game, I never knew why I should dislike the main antagonist, hell I didn’t even know why was the antagonist the main antagonist. I do hope that the issues with the game get ironed out but I wouldn’t hold my breath for that happening anytime soon.