An old 45 plays in the background, the music crackling as the technicolour picture crackles. A girl stands on a San Francisco rooftop, looking down into the hall of a Chinese restaurant through a glass ceiling. A deal is going down. Something shady. She leaps, crashing through the glass as the music gets even more melodramatically twangy,, and begins firing a gun while simultaneously withdrawing her huge samurai sword. Quentin Tarantino would be proud; developer A2M have clearly been watching, and learning.
First, lets get a spot of business out of the way. WET will no longer be published by Sierra, the publisher turning its nose up at this title following the amalgamation with Activision joining other big titles like World in Conflict and Ghostbusters. Instead, this new action title will be delivered by Bethesda, who are showing off the latest build of the game at a central London event clearly meant to demonstrate the firm's clout well beyond the success of Fallout 3.
Inspired by the likes of Desperado and inevitably Kill Bill, WET isn't about simply having a pretty girl in the lead role. Rather, Bethesda's Peter Hines assures us that the title is all about guns, swords, free-form acrobatic action and adventure. Lead character Rubi is a 'fixer', a morally ambiguous take on Western characters espoused by the Clint Eastwood roles of the 60s and 70s. She is dangerous, mysterious and, A2M hope, compelling.
Rubi will star in a game that should look and 'play' like a 70s action film; complete with 'ironic' set pieces and highly stylised environments. The violence is absurdly over the top (blood splatters with every swing of the sword, while the acrobatic fights seem deliberately choreographed), cartoon-like, with slow-motion used to add dramatic effect.
Even during the tutorial we're shown (my opening gambit's sequence in San Francisco), it is apparent that WET has far more in its arsenal than a slightly suggestive title and pretty star. For starters, the combat system looks to blend acrobatic moves with melee and ranged attacks, creating a symphony of death. Key to this is the selection of moves up Rubi's sleeve, the way the controls encourage shooting during such moves, and the split-targeting system that makes everything our heroine does look so very cool. Leaps and slides abound, and when combined with the slow-motion sequences, and the stylised setting, it is hard not drawn comparisons with Midway's notable Stranglehold release.
A few more unusual moves will also be possible, such as ladder-slides combined with shooting, while up on the rooftops we're treated to a sword battle, A2M describing this as the final pillar of the game they hope WET can be. Continuing a chase through the city in pursuit of one escaping foe, we find ourselves leaping between vehicles on a freeway, taking out drivers and leaping in true Hollywood style between exploding or crashing cars. During one 'big arena' moment we take on swathes of enemies, and it is here we're shown how the chaining of moves can offer spectacular results; especially when the screen is brimming with nasties. We're reminded of the Izakaya show-down in the first Kill Bill flick.
Later on in the demonstration A2M take us off to another level, where Rubi gets angry and literally 'sees red'. This manifests itself in a faster flow of action and our heroine's near invincibility. These wild segments have been added not only for stylistic flair but also in order to add further variety to the pacing of the game. As with the car roof segment, the key here is 'exotic' gameplay; making sure WET doesn't slip into the predictable.
The plot is to be provided by one of the script writers behind 24, and beyond 1970s San Francisco, we'll be taking in Hong Kong and the English countryside as part of the plot. Eight to ten single player missions will be offered (there is no multiplayer), with Clockwork Orange villain Malcolm McDowell making an appearance as the game's baddie. When first announced we thought WET might be a cynical poke at the male demographic thanks to the alluring central character, however from what we've seen so far the game is far more than just a pretty face.
WET will be released on the PS3 and Xbox 360 in the autumn.