Life. Work. The soul-sucking daily grind of the common man. Daily grind that saps the spirit and renders all equal in their misery, stripping the spark of imagination and expectation from the spirit as you aspire to maybe becoming nothing.
Wesley Gibson was like that not so long ago. A boss that was more aggressive than passive, a girl who was screwing his best friend behind his back and panic attacks left him hardly in control when destiny, or was it fate claimed him. Son of one of the most deadly assassins alive, inheritor of skills that defy physics, Wesley stepped out of the shadows of aspiration into the darkness of the world, slipping through the cracks, one of those who correct the fraying edges of reality. One of the Fraternity.
Wanted: Weapons of Fate picks up after the events of the film, Wanted. Mere hours in fact and pitches Wesley once more into his new life whilst at the same time revealing more about the past that has been so carefully created around him, shredding it as he learns more and more about why he of all people might have been best left to a life less ordinary. In this way it acts as both the setup and the sequel for the film weaving through the parallel storylines as you move through the world delivering your brand of genealogy to the masses, one bullet at a time.
Kill one, maybe save thousands
The beginning is gentle, a short introduction into how to kill, how it feels to put a bullet in a body how to use cover and sneak past people to deliver that one last ultimate headshot, without them knowing you are there.
There are nine or so acts, each with various sub-areas to play through. Broken up by more training as you get to curve bullets, slow the world around you as you slam your heart rate to the max with adrenaline and pull of cool tricks including shooting down bullets in bullet time, before they give you lead poisoning In general it doesn't disappoint. Slipping form cover to cover, picking off targets as you move, burning adrenaline to arc a shot into a target is fairly slick, need a reprieve then fire blindly from cover, slip out and nail the bastich. There are moments when this feels so much like the original Max Payne, which is no bad thing, from the voiceovers to the bullet time through the third person feel and the snippets of humour as you move through the generally well constructed scenes. Towards your final destination. As stories go it isn't actually bad at all.
The controls work, they are simple enough that they don't overwhelm, mostly. There are times when the firing aiming and curving ands switching of weapons can degenerate into a mess for a while as you flip between modes and if you decide to aim your curve with the right analogue when done your camera view skews all over the place. Not exactly conducive to the follow up. Locking on to curve a shot is perhaps the must irritating and annoying aspect. It isn't as smart as it could be, you have to be looking more at the target you want than not. This means that you can be looking forwards but not able to lock on until you look up a bit, that plus you can't adjust your aim when locked on occasionally removes the utility. That said you can run fire, walk aim and best of all walk and curve as you stalk through the levels. There are always options some better than others for carrying out your bloody handed work. Different styles for different people.
With some variety to the levels, they are not all walk around shooting things and avoiding getting shot at. You get to snipe, blast away with a turret, move into bullet time segues, picking bullets and target out of the background. run through a burning building and shoot and take on bosses that go from the irritating to the easy. Not all perfection though as on at least one level it was possible to complete a section so fast the game failed to realise the enemies were dead and so failed to release the door at the end, resulting in a reload of that section and a slower progression, neatly defeating the main premise of the fast action given. With three levels of difficulty, Pussy, Assassin and The Killer (a hat tip to the comic) to keep you busy.
Boom goes the dynamite
Weapons of fate looks good and like the film is slick with it. Using the muscle under the PlayStation 3's hood it delivers some of the better looking graphics, details with shattered glass still showing reflections, shimmering light and so on, hair is still the main bugbear looking more static than many things. A reward camera also kicks in when you pull off a stunning curve to get an enemy, the bullet spinning in the air as it arcs through to the target, time slowing ever so slightly. Similarly in bullet time you get to view things in sharp detail and see how good they can look. It is also the one point where clarity of vision is lost as enemies can just blend into the background with no movement they can get lost in a sea of something. Other issues are that at times there is slowdown on screen and a lot of reused locations plus at times the lock on line can disappear in bright light.
The soundtrack is not so bad, it always feels right, maybe not unforgettable but it slams up your adrenaline and keeps you moving which is what it should do, with hints and snatches from the film sneaked in at times. The voice talent is also on the good level, with a chunk of the film cast picking up from where they left off and others fitting in so damn well, you have to check the credits to make sure that it wasn't Morgan Freeman in there. Delivery is often spot on, with Wesley sounding just like an ex-schmuck who realises he has the biggest sandbox about. There are a few duff lines and deliveries but not enough to detract. Same goes for the over all audio experience, there is often a lot going on in each level but it doesn't get too crowded.
The main area of issue is the AI, as mentioned there are three grades of difficulty and each is mostly consistent with enemies using cover, tactics and so on the give you grief. The learning curve though is variable. It can veer from silly easy to 'wtf?' pretty quickly, leaving you dead before you are sure what has happened. The up sides are that checkpoints are common and if you stay out of the firing line you recover health, rewarding a more cautions approach once in a while. Of course not all cover is equal. You can also change difficulty on the fly in the options menu a nice touch.
That said it is possible once you have the full bag of tricks to power through the sections and kamikaze to learn the vague patterns of attack (the bullet time sections vary locations of the bullets to shoot at slightly) go back to a checkpoint and try again, this does mean that it is possible to blitz through the game, it is possible to get two-thirds through in a single sitting, even with new enemies and tactics to learn, incidentally there are tutorial levels every so often that introduce new mechanics, it can seem a lot of non-effort. There is no sense of non-achievement in dying.
Incidentally you get an achievement for passing the first tutorial stage.
All told Wanted: Weapons of fate is pretty damn good it is more fun to play than not but with the short levels you get the feeling that there is something missing and that there should be more, still it is one hell of a ride, causing mayhem as it goes. You also wonder if there could have been more variety in the weapons you use or more differentiation between Wesley and in those levels you play him Cross, they feel too similar and devalue from the aspect of playing as father and son. Small things, but small things can ripple outwards.
Maybe for most a game to rent rather than buy.