by March 16, 2023 @ 9:00 am
Reviewed on Xbox Series X|S
Games like Wanted: Dead are made with a very specific audience in mind. This game probably isn’t going to appeal to the modern-day triple-A lovers, but that’s okay, because it’s not necessarily made with those folks in mind. Instead, a game like this is more so geared toward aficionados of games from a bygone generation. Wanted: Dead is a nod to action titles that play it straightforward like Max Payne, Ninja Gaiden, and No More Heroes.
A Very Specific Tone
Wanted: Dead is set in a brooding and gritty Hong Kong. You play as a member of the Zombie Unit, a police force made up of skilled soldiers who were turned criminals at some point, and who are now being given a second chance. This unit is tasked with all of the police’s dirty work — the big, dangerous jobs, kind of like DC’s Suicide Squad. It isn’t long before the Zombie Unit becomes entangled in a bigger corporate conspiracy.
If you’re expecting some Hollywood-styled storytelling, that’s not what you’re going to get with Wanted: Dead. Instead, the game takes cues from cheesier productions and has a total B-movie vibe to it. Depending on your personal preference, you’re either going to love that or hate it. I enjoyed it and found it stylistically pleasing myself. The voice acting is pretty awful, and the whole thing just comes off as kind of dumb — yet, oddly, there’s a charm to it. It’s a little reminiscent of 2009’s Wet, though that game was more grindhouse while this is more direct-to-DVD.
Slice-and-Dice, Run-and-Gun, Ramen-and-Karaoke
In Wanted: Dead, you’re armed with a katana as well as some heavy firepower. Everything is situational here, so sometimes you’ll want to run up to enemies and slash your way through them. You can perform combos that typically result in limbs being severed and flying every which way. Not to mention there’s blood everywhere.
Aside from your pistol, which helps stun enemies and can be used in tandem with your katana to deliver crazy chained combos, you’ve also got a powerful assault rifle that really packs a punch. You can take cover and pop off shots when you get an opening, or you can just aim down sights and blast your way from one enemy to the next like a badass action movie character. Honestly, that might not always work, and you’ll probably have to employ cover from time to time, but Wanted: Dead definitely offers some leniency with how you eliminate bad guys.
You’ll be able to customize your guns at checkpoints. These modifications usually improve one or more stats at the cost of others. So while you may get more stopping power or damage from a certain modification, that will come at the cost of, say, your range or accuracy, for example. It’s a bit of a balancing act, but it all depends on your specific play style. This weapon customization never gets too deep, but it’s a nice touch nonetheless.
Enemies drop ammo so you won’t typically have too much of an issue there. They also drop disposable weapons like shotguns and SMGs, which you can use but won’t be able to customize or take with you to the next chapter. Oh, there’s also a chainsaw that pops up from time to time, and it’s pretty freakin’ sweet.
While the action is fast-paced and audacious, Wanted: Dead does give you some time to breathe in between chapters. When you’re not watching fairly lengthy cutscenes, you’ll be able to engage in weird little mini-games that also help move the story forward. One such mini-game has your team sitting at a ramen stand, and all you do is… eat ramen. Yup. Just time some button presses accurately, and that’s about it. There’s also a karaoke competition, and some fun little arcade games. This stuff is silly fun, but it’s oddly in-line with what Wanted: Dead is all about.
Despite the frantic pacing, Wanted: Dead isn’t exactly an easy game. If you’re not careful, you’ll be lit up and taken out fairly quickly. That’s not to say this is a “smart” action game or anything of the sort (though it’s not as mindless as Gungrave G.O.R.E.), but it does require that you keep your eyes peeled for enemies and that you play tenaciously. This is especially true when you encounter bosses, which range from challenging to frustrating.
Like the older games it emulates, you can expect the story of Wanted: Dead to run you about eight to ten hours. There are multiple difficulty settings if you really dig the action and want to challenge yourself. Not to mention, there are hidden collectibles and plenty of mini-games to spend some time on. I don’t know that I’ll be rushing to complete a second playthrough, but I definitely enjoyed my time with the game.
A Throwback to Old School 3D Action Games
The art style of Wanted: Dead is a little pulp-like, with neon lights and gloomy weather adorning the backdrops. It’s mildly dystopian in a crime-rules-all sort of way (think No More Heroes 2) rather than an end-of-the-world way, and it works in the context of the game’s story. While the graphics aren’t necessarily going to blow your mind, the game looks pretty good, thanks in large part to its art direction.
The music and sounds of Wanted: Dead are what you’d expect from this kind of game. There’s a lot of hard rock and heavy metal, as well as the previously mentioned bad voice acting (that’s still endearing, mind you). There’s also poppier, silly-sounding music, and you’ll even hear “99 Luftballoons” at the karaoke bar, which is always fun.
No, Wanted: Dead isn’t for everyone. But for those who dig straight-up action games and miss the classics of both the PS2 and PS3 days, you’ll find that very specific style of play here. It’s dumb, it’s fun, and it’s just a grand ol’ time.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
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