6.5 Overall Score

Total commitment to the grindhouse aesthetic | Crazy set pieces | Stylish rage mode

* Initially limited moveset makes combat feel stiff | Poor platforming | Wonky controls, choppy graphics and derivative gameplay

In WET, developer A2M has created the videogame equivalent of Grindhouse – Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s tribute to sleaze cinema’s grimy glory days. From the teeth-jarring score to the blood-spattering violence to the smash-cut editing, every detail seems steeped in the cinematic traditions of 1970’s exploitation films. They’ve even included a scratchy film filter, allowing you to dim the lights and imagine the outrageous action and outlandish plot being filtered through a broken down projector. It all adds up to a cheesy, pulpy affair good for some mindless fun, if you can make it past the first couple of hours. What mars WET isn’t the migraine-inducing fake film grain, but the initially stunted move set employed by its murderous heroine, as the best and most brutal moves are reserved as rewards for the speed and style with which you dispatch your enemies. However, once your acrobatic repertoire is complete, the wonky controls, choppy graphics and repetitive gameplay will take a back seat to the thrill of gleefully slicing and dicing your way through some crazy action sequences.

You play as Rubi Malone, a back-flipping, sword-swinging, dual gun-wielding badass no one in his or her right mind would ever try to screw over. This means she, of course, gets promptly screwed over. Betrayed by her latest employer, the epitome of well-dressed villainy, Rubi finds herself suddenly swept up in a designer drug trade turf war. Or what I like to call “Tuesday.” In her ensuing quest for payback, and even more importantly her double cross-deferred paycheck, she jumps, she slides, she dives and she leaves a fuck ton of corpses in her wake. Eliza Dushku and Malcom McDowell chew the virtual scenery, delivering their hilariously hokey dialogue as straight faced as possible, but this isn’t a game you play for the acting. And it isn’t a game you play for the story either, replete as it is with your typical revenge story staples. This is a game you play for the flair with which it’s told. Using a combination of Max Payne’s slow motion, God of War’s quick time events, and House of the Dead: Overkill’s grungy aesthetic, the barely there narrative is just an excuse for the highly stylized and acrobatic and shootouts.

Anytime you combine sliding, jumping or wall running with gunfire, you’ll initiate an extended slow-motion sequence. This game was meant to be played in slow motion, as simply running and gunning won’t trigger the game’s split-targeting mechanic. It can be done, early on anyway, but it’s not nearly as fun. In slow-motion mode however, one of your guns will automatically target the nearest enemy, allowing you to aim the other gun at the enemy of your choice for maximum carnage. This bullet time is as unlimited as it is undeniably cool, one of the few real innovative additions to the gameplay. This isn’t a game that ramps up the challenge with puzzles or bosses, it just throws more bodies at you. Bodies armed with gatling guns. Keeping the fire button pressed down and the slow-motion activated is a must to survive the ever larger packs of enemies unleashed in the skate park-like arenas, where Rubi will remain trapped until she shuts down all the enemy spawn points and stabs or shoots anyone still standing.

The simple, intuitive combat system makes these many henchmen-heavy arenas more exciting than they ought to be, giving you ample opportunity to try out all of Rubi’s delightfully deadly moves. Of course, it takes a while to unlock her full range of acrobatic abilities, making the first few hours of combat feel very stiff. Kills will earn you style points that can be spent on upgraded acrobatic abilities. Stylish kills are worth more points. And chaining kills together results in a multiplier bonus worth even more points still. Once you’re able to rebound off an enemy’s chest, fire while scrambling across a ledge or move seamlessly from sliding across the floor, shotguns guns blazing, into a rising sword slice, the game becomes significantly more fun.

Not to say that the frustrating moments are gone for good. On top of being a professional assassin, Rubi is also apparently a skilled gymnast. In addition to combat, WET works in some light platforming, allowing you to activate “Rubi Vision” to highlight the environment’s points of interactive interest a la Mirror’s Edge. Unlike her acrobatic and fighting abilities however, Rubi’s platforming never improves. It remains frustratingly tedious throughout, causing the action to grind to an awkward halt as you leap off a rooftop or miss a ladder, plummeting to your uncoordinated and undignified death. The platforming requires a level of precision that the controls simply aren’t capable of, resulting in some off screen language colorful enough to compete with Eliza Dushku’s potty mouth. Thankfully, the focus isn’t on platforming, but combat, which comes in three flavors – open areas, closed arenas and increasingly outlandish set pieces, including a Matrix-inspired car chase and a Crank-inspired plane crash, that incorporate some timed button-pressing into the mix.

Though the graphics and animations are on the rough side, obvious even through the crackling and sputtering film grain, A2M does try to break things up during “Rage Mode.” These sections are always triggered the same way, with Rubi splashed in the blood of an enemy, cuing the high-pitched music and close-up framing straight out of Tarantino’s revenge movie masterpiece,  Kill Bill. In this murderous frame of mind, Rubi sees the world in shades of black, white and red. Lots and lots of red. The music is also louder, the action faster and the attacks stronger, basically a super-stylized version of the standard open area action sequences. Still, it’s different enough to keep you engaged throughout the game’s more tedious moments, like the training sections. You start the game with a sword and dual pistols with unlimited ammo, unlocking a pair of shotguns, submachine guns and crossbows as you progress. After unlocking a new gun, you’ll get a chance to try it out back at Rubi’s junkyard hangout by running through an obstacle course. These sections are the least fun, serving only to accentuate the poor platforming. Beating the game unlocks more courses, where you can test not only your speed and targeting prowess, but your patience for loose and sloppy controls.

WET is clearly at its best when you’re fighting, using your fancy moves and flashy guns to stem a seemingly never ceasing tide of nameless henchmen. It’s not particularly original, but what it lacks in substance it makes up for in style, incorporating its popcorn action aesthetic into everything from the robust rockabilly soundtrack to the classic drive-in commercial load screens. From start to finish, this game wears its grindhouse aspirations on its sleeve, never letting silly things like plot slow things down. Groins are stabbed. Heads are decapitated. Midgets are electrocuted. It’s cheesy but it works because it knows it’s cheesy, so much so that its flaws become part of the charm, adding to the low-budget, rough-hewn feel of a bad B-movie. There’s a lack of precision to the controls, a roughness to the graphics and repetitiveness to the gameplay, but if you’re looking for a fun weekend rental, WET delivers on its promise of outlandish, outrageous action.


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Author: Kristen Spencer View all posts by

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