Xbox 360 Review

WET

Soaking

"WET is a third-person shooter unlike any other, " states the press release for A2M's violent, stylised action title. Erm...Stranglehold anyone? Have you heard of a little game called Max Payne? Hell, even Wanted: Weapons of Fate shares some DNA with A2M's shooter. The only unique thing about WET is its overtly OTT grindhouse style, taking the de rigueur scratched, grainy film treatment utilised by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino in their Grindhouse movies and plonking it on top of an otherwise workmanlike run and gun shoot 'em up.

Comparisons to Midway's aforementioned John Woo driven shooter and Remedy's gritty noir tale are perhaps inevitable, if ever so slightly wide of the mark due to WET actively encouraging the seamless chaining of acrobatic shootery over interaction with scenery. There's no sliding down banisters, swinging on chandeliers and jumping on to hostess trolleys here. There is however, slow-mo aplenty.

Badass protagonist and merciless gun-for-hire Rubi has a limited set of moves (and a dictionary full of swears) at her disposal that can be linked together, building up your combo multiplier which in turn accumulates reams of points. Points mean prizes, or rather ability upgrades that can be purchased at the end of each stage to enhance Rubi's weapons, physical attributes and skills.

Packing a six-shooter that luckily has infinite ammunition and magically never needs to be reloaded means that keeping you finger glued to the controller's trigger will keep you shooting at a constant rate, which can be bolstered later on with a few quick upgrades. Rubi can leap, slide on her knees or combine the two into one uninterrupted, lithe bout of athleticism, all the while keeping her guns blazing uninterrupted.

Holding the right trigger not only has you firing endlessly, it also sends the game into slow-motion, allowing you to draw a bead upon your targets using manual aim via the reticule with one gun while the other automatically locks onto a second assailant. It's a chic way to let you dual wield weapons, but the incessant sound of weak gunfire might eventually drive you to distraction.

The biggest problem with WET is not that it's knowingly stupid -that's fine. It's that it fails to offer much beyond flying through the air as time slows to a crawl while Rubi pumps shot after shot into the waves of idiotic bullet sponges that vainly confront her from every angle. It looks unashamedly slick the first few times of course, but after a while familiarity breeds contempt and eventually complete indifference.

Repetition is really the main issue in WET, despite attempts to inject variety into proceedings with the inclusion of certain environmental manoeuvres such as descending down a ladder while inverted or zipping down a cable, swinging from a pole and pumping a shotgun shell into an enemy's gut. Again, this all looks impossibly cool, but it somehow feels slightly hollow and futile.

Essentially, WET is a series of action-packed set pieces that are hurled towards you at an alarming rate, and then stitched together to form something vaguely resembling a story. One minute you're carving and shooting your way through swathes of sharply dressed Yakuza, the next you're pumping buckshot into the faces of psychotic fairground freaks. Things seldom let up for a second, so it's a good job that the controls are for the most part tight and intuitive, if a little skittish at times.

It's frustrating for instance, when you're in the middle of a Rage section where amassing chains of kills is the best way to achieve the big scores and a tap of the knee-slide button fails to register, eradicating your hard-earned combo. Linking a leap into a slide may be seamless, but now and again attempting to execute a simple move that inexplicably doesn't work can scupper your rhythm, bringing the normally flowing action to a crashing halt. WET could have benefited from a bit more fluidity and - it has to be said - a lot more refinement.

While the 70s exploitation presentation looks great, you can't help but feel that it's a ploy to disguise the graphics, which can be filed under basic and ever so slightly shoddy. You can turn off the grainy filter if you so wish, but we can't fathom exactly why you'd want to.

Rubi (reluctantly voiced by Eliza Dushku) is an appealing lead character, which is why she's clearly been given the most attention, but the rest of the cast all look a bit iffy. And yet, even in spite of all of the flaws we've just listed, WET is enormously playable, purely because you're never really given the chance to scrutinise any of these otherwise glaring shortcomings.

Action, action, action! You're constantly bounding around, guns blazing, blood splattering, limbs flying all over the shop. WET manages to coax you into a strange, hypnotic trance, turning you into a drooling idiot waiting for the next adrenaline-fuelled sequence to arrive. These sequences consist of arena segments that task you with you destroying respawn points, where bad guys endlessly emerge and the previously mentioned Rage portions of the game that transform the screen into a White Stripes video crossed with an iPod advert where Rubi becomes an all-powerful force able to take out villains with a single shot. In between, there are extended QTE sequences that showcase the game at its most gloriously overblown, the first of which is an insane car chase on a busy highway that has to be seen to be believed. Put simple, there just isn't a solitary moment where you can catch your breath.

Still, the fact remains that WET feels like an unfinished game. Cut-scenes may be intentionally amateurish in keeping with the retro vibe, but there's no excuse for second-rate animation and flat textures. And the script, written by 24 writer Duppy Demetrius (interesting moniker) is clunky and forced - again, this could be another facet to the grindhouse sensibility at play, or just lacklustre quality. It's hard to tell.

And thus, it's difficult to know quite what to make of WET. On one hand, it's an adequately functional action shooter that manages to hold your interest for the majority of its run time. On the other, it's incredibly rough around the edges in nearly every department. This kind of thing has been done hundreds of times before to far greater effect.

Ultimately, WET only occasionally transcends average status, its brand of excessive action marred by a lack of depth, unrelenting repetition and a dearth of imagination. Strangely likeable, those seeking straightforward, uncomplicated shooting thrills may happily overlook the game's issues and enjoy a solid, fun-filled blast for a good few hours or so. But anyone looking for something with a bit more substance would do better to search elsewhere. You certainly won't find it in WET, that's for sure.

65%
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