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The Fraternity puts a hit out on TVG as we slate its pathetic attempt at a third-person shooter...
Based on last June's Wanted movie starring James McAvoy, it's got to be said that Wanted: Weapons of Fate is being released slightly late in the day for a tie-in game to the original film. As a story that "expands" on the events of the film, Weapons of Fate is told through two different story-arcs. Half of the game's nine "Acts" see you playing as Wesley Gibson with the story continuing after the final scene of the film, while the other half has you playing as Cross (Wesley's dad) and explores how he became separated from Wesley decades ago.
Ironically enough, in that Wesley Gibson is brought up as a bastard child in Wanted's back-story, Weapons of Fate is in itself a bastardisation of a bastardisation. Last year's film was a sorry attempt at translating everything that was good about the original comic book mini-series into a movie. It ripped out all of the inspired twists in the storyline and replaced them with lazy plot devices (e.g. The Da Vinci Code-esque loom), while simultaneously defecating all over Mark Millar's brilliant characters (e.g. Professor Solomon Seltzer and Fox) with the application of slack performances and stilted dialogue by Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman (not to mention the complete lack of references to comic book culture). With that in mind, this game manages to do a horrendous job of tying itself into the film, which is just so mesmerizingly negligent that we almost want to applaud the achievement.
Even appreciated solely as a game, with absolutely no reference to the film or comics, Wanted is very bad indeed. Let's just look at it by the numbers for a second: there's a main campaign that's little more than three hours in length, no multiplayer modes to speak of, and you don't play with anything other than a pistol for the first five acts. That's pretty shocking for a third-person shooter by modern standards and actually boarders on criminally negligent when you consider that the game's RRP is £39.99.
And then there's the bog-standard AI, which does little more than repeatedly move into cover and periodically pop out of it to shoot at you. The level scripting is also dire, moving you from one room to the next filled with the same NPCs, performing the same boring AI routines, before culminating in a boss battle if you're lucky. These boss battles are completely flat, rarely showing much more variation than the fact that you have to shoot at them more than standard enemies before they die. You'll even be stopped from approaching bosses with an invisible barrier at times just because you have to kill them from a certain distance (which, given the laughable bullet ballistics, is a torrid experience to say the least).
Perhaps we're being unfair; there is a little more variation than that. Some level sections will force you behind machine gun emplacements or from a sniping vantage point, before spewing enemies into a confined space like a chicken coop so you can sate your maniacal tendencies by killing them all. The difficulty comes from the fact that if you duck out of cover for more than a few seconds then you'll quickly max-out of health, turning the gameplay into a frustrating and tedious jack-in-the-box affair as you wait in cover to get rid of the bleed-out filter.
Thinly veiled over the top of this gameplay are the Weapons of Fate's major selling points: like the film, the game goes over the top with the bullet bending gimmick (something that was only referenced on a couple of occasions in the comics), but the feature's integration is still probably the best thing about the whole experience. Once you've unlocked the bullet bending skill, killing one enemy will afford you enough Adrenaline to bend one bullet. By holding down the right bumper button, you'll bring up a curved trajectory displayed on the HUD that locks onto a nearby enemy. This trajectory can then be fiddled around with using the thumbstick so that you can find an angle around any obscuring objects.
It's easily the most satisfying element of the game, with the occasional cut-scenes from a successful hit providing the icing on the cake, although less can be said about the other Adrenaline fuelled gimmicks. While developer GRIN has done a moderately good job with Weapons of Fate's covering system (even though blind-firing is a bit shoddy), the bullet-time mechanic that uses this covering system is less than great. The feature is unlocked about halfway through the game and, to be honest, we've seen better use of bullet-time in games that introduced it years ago (e.g. Max Payne).
While you will spend the majority of the game using a pistol, the gunplay does open up a bit later in the proceedings. Cross will utilise twin silenced automatics while he's defending The Fraternity, and a third Adrenaline icon that eventually unlocks will provide you with explosive bendable bullets. To be honest, we were a bit miffed that enemies could throw grenades at us (even though they do barely any damage when they explode right next to you) for the first half of the game. We had no explosive response with the lack of any grenades to pick up, so when the explosive bullets arrived we were too aggrieved by that point to feel the slightest bit rewarded.
You'll also come across the occasional quick time event of the more conventional variety (and we do mean conventional) when you're facing ninjas later in the game, or of a kind of on-rails shooting style in other sections. The latter gives you a short period of time to shoot highlighted enemies and explosive objects in bullet-time and added very little to the game in terms of cinematic flair or immersive action. The result is that it feels like it's been tacked on for good measure rather than having any kind of impetus, which is a pretty good summary of the whole game to be honest.
With the multiple loading screens employed by GRIN on each level, as well as a framerate that will often slow down to a brief standstill, you'd assume that Weapons of Fate is harbouring some sort of graphical powerhouse under its bonnet. Unfortunately, as is the case for so many film licensed titles, the game presents ugly textures that look like they've been pasted together in a hurry. Sound is equally disappointing, with Jimmy Simpson subbing in for James McAvoy on the voice-over front and doing a cringe-worthy job of it in the process.
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