When Bethesda first announced WET, gamers didn't seem to much care. It should have been a pretty big thing - guys who published Fallout 3 delivering a stylish action game that tries to take the best of John Woo and Quentin Tarantino flicks and mash them together as best as they could? Surely a recipe for success, right?
WET's main character, Rubi, is voiced by current Dollhouse star Eliza Dushku - Rubi's about as ruthless as they come, delivering hot lead from her akimbo revolvers and powerful slices from her trusty katana. She gets dragged into an intriguing story that involves an old crime lord and his reckless son that's trying to take over the family business a few years too early.
After a playable introduction/tutorial that lasts a good half hour, you'll get into the meat of WET with a bit of training on your ability to get acrobatic and shoot accurately while doing it. From there you'll move into the story and quickly find plenty of new faceless goons to kill. But where this game could have been a smooth-flowing third person shooter where the acrobatic movements resemble Ubisoft's latest Prince of Persia, you'll find the action to be constantly interrupted by disjointed needs to make well-timed jumps. And here, falling almost always means death and a return to a recent checkpoint. I'm not asking for a woman to grab Rubi and drop her on the most recent platform every time she falls, but it'd be nice to worry mostly about the style of my kills and my aim rather than where my foot's about to land.
What developer A2M did do correctly, though, is to animate Rubi in an interesting way that lets you continue to fire even while she's diving and rolling - and it all looks pretty convincing. Granted, the stereotypical city streets, parking garages, and endless corridors you'll be traveling through aren't the most original of environments, but shooting people in this game is a hell of a lot of fun when you're not also trying to leap over gaps at the same time.
The whole thing is also wrapped in a combo system that lets you gain and keep multipliers for as long as possible by putting together stylish kills, and then you'll get to use points gained to unlock new abilities. It took some guts for A2M to purposely lock some of Rubi's best abilities right from the start, as every ability you close off at the beginning of the game does take away from the first impression. But those who stick with it will find that Rubi's added feats, like shooting while swinging on a pole or jumping directly at an enemy to do a powerful up-close attack, do add something to the experience as you go through the game.
There are a few serious problems with WET that wear on you after a couple of hours, though. First, the graphics just aren't really very good, and disabling the game's heavy film grain filter just makes things look worse. The environments and enemies feel a little empty and soulless, and while Rubi's great, that's about it. Next, the Tarantino/grindhouse style can get on your nerves after a while, and the Rage Mode that paints everything in red and your enemies in black really just winds up being a visual effect - the complex level design employed during these portions doesn't lend itself well to the two- or three-color palette. Finally, the plot starts to fall apart at the end; it seems like this may have been the first game the writer has done, as the twists and backstabs just weigh down the overall fun factor in the last half.
What disappoints me about WET is that the developers seemed to sabotage the fun factor in their own game by insisting on too many video game and film stereotypes. This could have easily been a wild, obscure action game in the style of Stranglehold (but superior) or even something like Killer 7, but instead everything's bogged down with poor game design decisions and an over-reaching plot. Hopefully A2M's next game can deliver a more streamlined, fun-oriented experience that still delivers the same stylish action as WET does. But for now, you've got too many Fall 2009 games to buy already, and this shouldn't be one of them.