E3 09 Preview: WET
Is 2009 the year of the female action-game star? It just might be, as at least two major titles are set for release that pick up classic action themes with a female as the star. Sega's Bayonetta closely resembles gameplay seen in slick Japanese action games like Devil May Cry, and WET from A2M and Bethesda puts a pair of pistols into the hands of a hot vixen for some stylish John Woo-style shootouts.
From the demo I got to play, WET features some fantastic setpieces that showcase its acrobatic gameplay, classic kung fu and grindhouse flick sensibilities, and great (if a bit unoriginal) attitude. It started off with a simple tutorial that assumed you knew how to run and shoot - unlike most games that insist on teaching the basics - and instead demanded that the first thing I do was kill someone while diving through the air in slow motion. Now, if first impressions are worth anything, then this game just got a nice boost right there. I then learned how to shoot people in the face while sliding on the knees of main character Rubi Malone (voiced by Dollhouse star Eliza Dushku).
From there I was taken on a sort of who's who of modern action game cliches - I scaled up and ran along walls like I was set up with wires on a movie set, I busted out sword-based melee attacks when enemies came close, and I completed several very video-gamey objectives that I swear I've done a hundred times before.
About the only thing I was really into at that point was that acrobatic moves allowed one of Rubi's hands to automatically lock on to one target while I moved the right stick to shoot another enemy with the other hand, creating a cool effect of shooting two targets at once that today's games really can't do otherwise. But that wasn't carrying it enough for me - frankly, the graphics weren't exactly spectacular and the enemy AI seemed mostly braindead. I was about ready to hang up the controller in frustration at what seemed like a very lackluster performance when a distinctly Kill Bill-like sequence started that immediately woke me up from my complacency.
After an enemy's blood got all over Rubi's face, she went into Rage mode where the walls turned red, all of the characters on-screen were black silhouettes, and their blood ran white (of all colors) and splattered the wall as Rubi's extra offensive power in this mode helped me mow down up to half a dozen of these low-rent Chinatown gangsters at a time. These sequences are hard-written into the story, just like slow motion is always active when Rubi is shooting people during any acrobatic moves, and overall I'm much more comfortable with that then I thought I'd be.
When it came to the highway scene that had me hopping from car to car (Quick Time Event style) as crashes went on everywhere and I was spending most of my airborne time shooting enemies all around me, I realized that while WET is full of video game stereotypes, we've never seen them in quite this arrangement before or with this kind of innocent enthusiasm that almost makes you forget how many games have done all this already. With just a few months' worth of polish and a little bit of tuning - which the game will presumably get before its fall 2009 release on PS3 and 360 - WET will be a fine title that's easily worthy of standing on its own.