Something sinister is going on at the Artificial Mind and Movement production labs. It seems the ominously named developers have found a way to clandestinely scan my mind. Their latest diversion draws from a laundry list of my favorite games, movies, and music genres. During thirty years of gaming, I’ve never played a title that seemed so accurately tailored to my tastes as WET. I have a sneaking suspicion that other Generation X’ers, may feel likewise.
In less capable hands, the game’s potpourri of influences that encompass Desperado, Kill Bill, Total Overdose, Tomb Raider, along with a driving rockabilly soundtrack might have seemed like a calculated marketing ploy designed to appeal to the Tarentino set. Yet, WET’s skillful hybridization evokes a sense of fanboy authenticity, evident even in the game’s modest quirks. You’d be hard-pressed to find a game that’s as genuinely hip at this one.
WET’s narrative is steeped in the archetypical grindhouse fundamentals. Assassin for hire, Rubi Malone travels the globe, seeking revenge on a former employer. While the retribution plotline isn’t original, it offers enough momentum to keep the architecture changing and the bullets flowing. As Malone jumps, slides, or scoots alongside walls she invokes a slow-motion mechanic that allows her to fill any nearby enemies with a lethal dose of lead. This time-slowing technique isn’t just a hip gimmick- it allows Rubi to blast multiple adversaries at once. As players progress through the game they receive Style points for each elegant extermination. An end of level storefront allows the gamer to upgrade Rubi’s abilities or augment her loadout.
As Strangehold demonstrated, merely offering players an incessant shooting gallery can lead to monotony. The developers of WET strive to offset fatigue by adding several gameplay variations, which range from pedestrian quick-time events to environment navigation. For the latter, Rubi borrows heavily from Ms. Croft deeds, as she navigates ledges, scales walls, and offers a cocked head to indicate a potential precipitance that can hold her weight. Absent are Tomb Raider’s architectural puzzles, as WET keeps the exploration swift by allowing Rubi to ‘see’ where the next traversable zone is.
Sporadically, WET’s exuberance will be temporarily terminated by some awkward design decisions. As Rubi climbs a wall outside an enemy compound, flaming barrels are abruptly released, catching players off-guard. In another instance, a bridge unexpectedly explodes, requiring the player to instantly acclimate to a Crash Bandicoot-like perspective where Rubi had to run toward the foreground. These game-ending occurrences happen at intervals sporadic enough to disorient gamers, and result in a brief pause while the last checkpoint is reloaded. Hopefully, a sequel would add one additional bit of homage to WET’s catalog- the Prince of Persia’s indispensable time-reversal mechanic.
Between the title’s sepia-tinged color palette, addition of film grain, and end of level celluloid combustion, WET’s looks like it’s emanating from a decrepit drive-in movie projector. The game’s other central visual effect commences after a cinematic shows Rubi shooting an enemy at close range. With her face covered in blood, the title employs a stylistic filter that coats the screen in a crimson tinge, transforming enemies into cartoonish forms. Although WET’s framerate is generally steady, some instances of lag occur when Rubi is surrounded by foes. The game’s soundtrack complements the on-screen action exceptionally; arena battles are accompanied by lively psychobilly ditties.
There are moments when WET will inevitably frustrate gamers; off-centered jumps and unexpected obstacles mean an instantaneous death for the game’s protagonist. However, the title’s rapturous slow-motion ballistic ballets, skillfully choreographed cutscenes, and R-rated charms are powerful enough to overcome those shortcomings. Like some of the exploitation films that served as WET’s inspiration, the title’s deliciously low-brow panache has the power to captivate open-minded gamers.
WET was reviewed on retail Playstation 3 code.