Wanted: Dead is an odd action game by Team Ninja (makers of Ninja Gaiden) that feels a bit like a PS2 game. Like a game that was pulled out of the archives of a lost console, Wanted: Dead doesn’t fit in a box of a modern day anything. As a result, the game’s ‘charm’ may get lost in the sauce in a gamer’s never-ending backlog.
Once you get past the confusing and second language voice acting cutscenes, Wanted: Dead drops you into the adventures of an elite police squad in cyberpunk Hong Kong. You get a quick feel of the ‘personality’ of each of the team members that seem a bit pointless once you get into the action. As the game begins, you are clearly in the reigns of the squad’s leader. Armed with a rifle, a pistol, and a katana, you lead your troop against an evil corporation’s security force... I think.
Learning the game’s controls and mechanics, you slowly learn that your squad leader must use a clunky mix of shooting, melee attacks, and timed parries. You are taught a single ‘combo’, how to take cover, and when to parry and then tossed head first into battle! Within a few minutes, you quickly learn that the ‘shooting’ mechanics of the game are... weak. By that I mean, you aren’t going to succeed by blasting your way through your enemies. Ammo is sparse and headshots take a few to drop an enemy. Even your pistol seems a bit pointless (unless it is used to parry).
As you progress against drab looking security forces with bad AI, you find the difficulty is in whether you learn to use various types of attacks. The enemy may be dumb but their numbers and constant attacks (that rarely miss if out in the open), will drain your life quickly even as you track down your next target. As a result, the game ‘feels’ hard with a light sprinkling of ‘cheap’. For example, enemies won’t even stumble if hit close range with a shotgun but seem to lose their balance when a single close range pistol ‘interrupts’ their combo.
Essentially, the fluidity of the combat is a bit hidden behind leveling up your squad leader (to learn more moves) and mastering the blocking/parry timing. Once that is accomplished, the combat ‘feels’ better. For a clearly ‘classic arcade’ style game, finding that comfort zone with the game’s system is challenging for most given the mixed reviews this game is receiving. Of course, there are other factors that paint this decent game in a harsh light.
Once you get past the clear learning curve for the game, the decision to make this game appear like you have a squad with you is interesting. With three other gun wielding squadmates supposedly a part of the action, they really feel like they are there to prevent every enemy from concentrating their fire on you. Occasionally they will take down an enemy but most times they feel unnecessary for much more than providing one liners and color commentary in cutscenes.
Once the nitpicking is done, Wanted: Dead at its core is a decent arcade game. The days of ‘struggle until you get it’ is not the usual format for most hack n slash games. Wanted: Dead is a bit clunky and quirky early on. However, the light at the end of the tunnel is reserved for ‘get gud’ gamers looking for a challenge. The reward is a few mini games and some interesting finishers...but, it’s still wrapped in a meh presentation and eye rolling voice acting.