Xbox 360 Preview

WET

Is this Rubi a gem?

WET, for all intents and purposes is Kill Bill: The Videogame. Not only is its main protagonist a katana sword wielding uber-assassin, but she's a tough, remorseless killer who'll put a bullet between your eyes without a second thought. And like Uma Thurman's kick-ass yellow spandexed super heroine, Rubi is a force to be reckoned with, dealing out merciless slow-mo death to every heavily armed goon in her vicinity.

Presented with a grindhouse-style opening menu complete with grainy lines and saturated colours, WET has a stylised look that's in keeping with the notorious exploitation flicks of the 70s. It's clear that WET wears its cinematic influences on its sleeve, with celluloid running deep through the game's DNA, from the dynamic camera angles to the juddering film cell effect when you're low on health, which eventually burns out to white when you get yourself killed.

Initial impressions may lead you into thinking that WET might play something like Stranglehold when in fact the game is far more fluid and less restrictive than that game's heavily prescribed action. WET has absolutely no pretence beyond its remit to provide a thrilling action experience, freewheeling from one insane shootout to the next.

WET also brings to mind Max Payne, offering up plenty of opportunity for bullet-time assisted kills. Rubi is able to slow time while either leaping through the air or sliding across the floor on her knees, provided she does it while her guns are blazing. You quickly learn that holding down the right trigger is the best approach, as there's no ammo concern to consider and no need to reload your gun.

Slow-mo is infinite and doesn't have to be earned like most games of this type, so there're no adrenaline bars to keep and eye on and no ammo pick-ups to hoard. Developer A2M has ensured that they keep everything tight and streamlined, which includes the control system. Initiating moves requires only the simple push of a button, with A pulling off a jump and B setting off a knee slide.

Playing the E3 demo on an Xbox 360 at publisher Bethesda's London office, we found that pulling off stylish kill combos became effortless once we'd gotten to grips with the mechanics. As we've already said, leaping or sliding while firing your weapon instantly slows time giving you ample opportunity to draw a bead on enemies with the aiming reticule. If you're dual wielding weapons, Rubi will automatically lock on to another bad guy with her left hand, leaving you free to control where she aims with the right. This means you can pull off 'Double Dealer' combos and earn yourself some extra style points with ease.

Opening with a brief tutorial explains all of this to us clearly and simply, so before long we're wall-running, sliding along tables, smashing through champagne glasses, wreaking general chaos and wanton bloodshed. Later during the same sequence, we encounter instances where Rubi can run up walls with the left trigger and then utilise the same manoeuvre to vault off enemies before falling backwards giving her plenty of time to pump a few rounds of gunfire into enemies. Alternatively, she can use her sword to thrust through Yakuza cronies sending limbs flying in every direction.

Open arena sections like the Diva Hall allow you to get creative with your acrobatic gunplay, designed to include pole swings, walls to sprint across and ramps to launch off of as you accumulate masses of style points. Gun toting gangster scumbags continually spawn from a number of entrances in the arena that you have to block off using the environment where designated by an icon.

There are two arenas that we get to try out, the second of which includes a ludicrously bullet-resistant man mountain with a minigun. We're advised to retreat up into the rafters and rain down gunfire from above, which proves to be effective. Meanwhile, the house band play along with jaunty Tarantino-inspired guitar music, while the massacre plays out below as we swing around high in the rigging out of harms way.

After unloading an inordinate amount of lead into the big guy's head, he attempts to limp off prompting our cue to drop down and initiate a short QTE to finish him off. Pressing X as indicated by the symbol floating above his head, Rubi begins a run up his chest planting her boot into his head. Dazed, he stumbles forward where she lands in front of him driving her katana backwards into his crotch causing a nasty, cringe-inducing gush of blood. Minigun bullet-sponge man duly dispatched, all that remains is to take out the few villains left with some more elegant balletic gunplay. Finally the level ends with a final teasing cut-scene as the band's lead singer summons a minigun of her own from beneath the stage. We want to know what comes next.

Normally most games allow you to use bullet-time whenever you like, with the ability mapped to a button, so it takes some getting used to when you're made to use it for virtually every kill. There are no limits imposed on Rubi's slow-mo abilities and no way of manually controlling when you can use it. Every time you execute a move and pull the trigger, time slows, which actually isn't nearly as obtrusive as it sounds. Clearly this isn't a game that wants to create restrictions of any kind, so ammunition is infinite, there's no need to ever reload your weapon and worrying about depleting gauges is banished. Your only concern is your health, combo counter and style points, each of which are proudly displayed on-screen.

Rubi can replenish her health with booze, which she knocks back in one swig before chucking the bottle into the air and blasting it. Unnecessary? Yes. Cool? Definitely. Which just about sums up the entire game really. This is every overblown action movie brought to life with all the excessive trappings you could ever hope for. There's even a ridiculous car chase sequence that combines an extended QTE with fast-paced shooting against an entire fleet of rival vehicles on a busy freeway. Cars explode, articulated lorries flip over and amid all the madness, Rubi lithely pounces from car to car, landing on her feet like a gun-toting cat ready to dispense another consignment of white hot lead. There's no concession to something as trivial as reality here. If it's cool and it works, chances are it's in the game.

As the freeway chase ends with Rubi setting a petrol-soaked man alight, we get to sample the Rage mode next. In the demo, a machete brandishing maniac runs towards Rubi who instinctively blows the screaming idiot's brains out. Blood splashes across her face and the screen turns bright red. Welcome to Rage mode. Like an iPod advert, enemies are black and white silhouettes against the red background and as Rubi blasts and cleaves her way through them, they dissolve into dust. Your rate of fire and speed is boosted considerably too, so sprinting through the corridors executing enemies is immensely enjoyable. We became so addicted to the Rage mode demo that once we were told there were a total of 30 bad guys to take out, we were compelled to keep attempting to finish in one unbroken combo. Three attempts later and we nailed it, which is much more satisfying than it should be.

WET is looking like it's right on track in delivering a massively entertaining action game that's simple to play but an adequate challenge to master. When performing an inverted descent down a ladder while plugging two bad guys at once is standard practice, you know you're in for a real guilty pleasure. Certain interactions are still a bit woolly at this stage as is some of the collision detection, but then the game isn't due out until late September giving A2M ample time to refine and sharpen the finished product. Here's hoping this rough cut Rubi turns out to be a diamond.