Wanted: Weapons of Fate has, I think, been a bit unfairly dismissed. It’s a movie tie-in, which is pretty much grounds for instant ignorance from 90% of the savvy gaming community. This is a bit of a shame, because Wanted: Weapons of Fate is actually pretty damn enjoyable.

The game opens about six hours after the finish of the film, so consider this a warning that if you haven’t seen the film, there are spoilers in both the game and this review. Wesley, now transformed from a meek and terrified cubicle drone into a badass super-assassin, has rather forcibly taken apart the Chicago branch of worldwide assassin/cultist organisation the Fraternity. He starts looking into his own origin and the story behind the mother he never knew, and before he knows it he’s thrust into conflict against the French branch of the Fraternity, who really want him dead for reasons unknown.

What follows, naturally, is excessive violence, swearing, and style. On initial play, the game feels most reminiscent of Max Payne with its over-the-shoulder view and emphasis on over-the-top akimbo gunplay, which is slightly weird when you realise that it’s probably taken its biggest inspiration from Gears of War. Wanted, you see, features a cover system, but – whisper it – it’s actually better than the one in Gears of War.

Similarly to Wheelman, Wanted has taken one of the major focuses of the third-person action-shooter genre and made adjustments in order to improve the flow. While Wheelman gave you the opportunity to hijack cars while driving, Wanted lets you move quickly and fluidly from cover to cover, while shooting all the way. Tapping the space bar puts you into cover; from there, pressing a direction at the edge of your cover and tapping the space bar again will make Wesley dive, roll, or sprint to the nearest bit of scenery-based protection in that direction. What this means in game terms is that you’re rarely hunkered down behind one bit of scenery, or impeded from moving to new cover by clunky controls. If the table you’re cowering behind is getting shot to pieces, with two button presses you’re behind another one. This has a serious impact in the battles against enemies with riot shields, as you try to pin them down with suppressing fire and then move swiftly to another piece of cover to shoot them in the back of the head. Alternatively, if someone’s hiding behind cover and you can’t quite get a bead on them, a few quick bits of cover-chaining and you’re next to them, with a tap of another button causing Wesley to lean over the cover and gently caress their grey matter with his knife.

The game’s Adrenaline meter comes into play here, too. As the game progresses Wesley remembers all the stylish moves from the film that he’s somehow forgotten in the six hours since it ended. For every French Fraternity super-assassin you murder, Wesley gets an increase to his maximum Adrenaline points. Initially these can just be used for bullet-curving, but before long you can use them while cover-chaining, slowing down time as you move from cover to cover and giving you ample opportunity to blast any enemies who’re out in the open.

In a game obsessed with cover, the bullet-curving comes in wonderfully useful. With a tap of a button, the game locks onto the enemy closest to your crosshairs and brings up a trajectory; get the trajectory right and the bullet arcs through the air and, more often than not, kills them. When an enemy’s behind cover and you’ll have a hard time getting to him, it’s useful. When you’re suppressed by gunfire and don’t have the luxury of time to take a normal aimed shot, it’s useful. It helps that plenty of these kills slow the game down and switch to a camera tracking the bullet as it curves towards its enemy.

A nice – if unintentional – touch is how natural this becomes by the end of the game. For the first few levels, my trajectories were slowly and carefully tweaked to make sure they hit. By the end of the game, I could pretty much hit the bullet-curve button and flick the mouse (somewhat akin to Wesley’s gun, I suppose) knowing, from the position of the enemy and the scenery around, that the trajectory would be fine. It’s an intuitive system that works well despite initially coming across as a gimmick.
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Sadly, that “end of the game” that I mentioned came all too quickly. My first playthrough, on regular difficulty, took all of about five hours. My second playthrough, on the hardest difficulty, took slightly less – although that’s admittedly unsurprising, being that I knew exactly what I was doing and was perfectly au fait with the controls by that point. Wanted is too short, and too easy. Bosses provide little challenge whatsoever, generally requiring you to use one Adrenaline ability to hit them a few times, then shoot some generic grunts who pop up to recharge your Adrenaline (one Adrenaline point per kill), and repeat until Wesley says something dreadful at them and they die.

Yes, Wesley speaks. He’s not voiced by James McAvoy, despite looking pretty much exactly like him, and his personality has undergone a bit of a radical shift from the film. Wesley is now an abrasive, sarcastic tosser, who has awful, awful dialogue. This is a bit more similar to his portrayal in the comic that film was incredibly loosely based on, and it’s one of a couple of references to said comic, which include the rather cool suit that Wesley gets his hands on fairly quickly. It’s still remarkably jarring, though, not least because of the ending – which I learned, during a conversation with my partner in shooting-people-in-stylish-ways Andy (the reviewer of the PS3 version of the game) is different to the console ending. The PC ending is, bluntly put, hilariously bad. I won’t spoil it, but it makes you wonder exactly how seriously the game was taken.

Another omission is the lack of weapons. For pretty much the entire game, you’re stuck with pistols; towards the end you get your hands on akimbo submachine guns, but they don’t honestly make a great deal of difference. It’s not a huge bugbear, as the bullet-curving spices things up nicely, but it is initially a little unusual when you’re fighting SWAT team members with machine guns and yet you can’t take them for yourself.

So, Wanted is a fast-paced and slick shooter, with the only real problems being the poor plot and dialogue, rote boss battles, and the short length, which is compacted by the ease of the game. Admittedly that’s a fairly long list, but the actual gameplay itself is solid and enjoyable for as long as it lasts. Levels are a mixed bag, with some utterly superb setpieces as with an early level set on an aeroplane, but also a fair few cookie-cutter missions – like the first flashback mission.

It’s not a long game, and it’s not a hard game, but it makes some nice advances to a genre that’s getting a little set in its ways, and it looks damn good while doing it. Not entirely unwanted, then.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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