In the same way that the characters of Wanted: Weapons of Fate break the laws of physics by bending the trajectory of bullets, developer GRIN Studios looks to break another seemingly universal law. They try to prove that yes you can make a good game, from an average film, of a great comic.
To do this they rely on the film for much of the game’s look, and all of the game’s marketing, but they also draw heavily from the source, giving the material a much harder edge. Unfortunately, even with one great idea – bending bullets – behind it, and the comic’s original publisher Top Cow on board, the game still suffers from those age old movie tie-in problems. You come away feeling that with a bit more time, and a lot more attention to the details, Weapons of Fate could have been a much better game.
However, what Wanted: Weapons of Fate does do is continue the story from the conclusion of the film. So, if you haven’t seen the film, then take this as your one and only spoiler alert.
At the end of the Angelina Jolie vehicle Wanted, the totally whipped nerd Wesley finally meets his father, just before his father dies. He also finds out that everyone in the secret assassin’s cabal The Fraternity are complete tossers, especially Morgan Freeman, just around the time they are all killed. He also discovers that Angelina Jolie's character Fox is, if not totally trustworthy and good, for the most part honourable. And yes, he realises this moments before the super slow motion bullet enters her head at the climax of the film.
This is where Weapons of Fate picks up the story. At the beginning of the game Wesley is no longer a down-trodden cubical monkey, he's a fully loaded lethal weapon. Slimy best friends, cheating girlfriends and soul-sucking bosses are all in the past. Now, if you mess with Wesley, you get a bullet flying around corners in super CGI slow motion, to take you out.
So, everyone’s dead except for Wesley and Fraternity insider Pekwarsky. Wesley is looking for his mother and the French Fraternity are gunning for Wesley. In game, as well as Wesley you also get to play as his father Cross. Although the gameplay as Cross is not significantly different, the missions, played out as flashbacks, set up the game’s new villain, The Immortal, and fill in some of the character’s history.
Gameplay within Weapons of Fate could easily have been standard third person shooter. To give credit where it’s due, this is not the case. The game’s cover system dominates throughout the fast paced, but linear missions. Pressing X will lock you in behind cover. With L2 you can target the enemy and R2 will fire. R2, on its own, will fire blind. This can distract your opponents so Wesley can slide, roll or jump to a new position. This can be done slowly and carefully, or quickly and fluidly, giving the game a very enjoyable dynamic. This continuous cover dynamic means that while there are enemies to kill, you are almost always diving between, and shooting from behind cover. It almost, but not quite, gives the game a loose kind of rail feel.
Melee kills are also possible. If you are caught away from cover you can press circle to dispatch Fraternity minions in various interesting ways. Or, if you get close enough while behind cover you can reach over, or around, to get rid of them quickly and silently with you knife
Other elements within the gameplay are the return of bullet time, here called assassin time, and bending bullets. Once your adrenalin meter is full, you can press triangle to switch between cover. This turns everything slow motion and you can target multiple enemies and shoot their bullets out of the air. And speaking of bullets in the air, there is of course Wanted’s patented bendy trajectory.
Although this was pretty much the selling point of the film, in game it’s there and it is useful, but that’s about all. From behind cover, if you hold down R1 your opponent turns red and a red line shows your bullet’s path. You can adjust this with your left stick until it turns white. Then releasing R1 will fire. A standard hit will pop the bad guy out from his cover or if you’re lucky, or just plain good, the camera will follow the slug in for a kill.
Unfortunately, while there are enough good ideas in the game to keep it interesting, there is also plenty there that feels typical of your rushed movie tie-in effort. The boss battles feel the same, simply relying on chipping away at them from behind cover. Your choice of weapons are limited. The settings are all pretty familiar. Ducking and diving around cover is fun, but only if the game lets you. Take a wrong turn and a chair or a cardboard box in the middle of the floor will be impassable.
There are also many times when you, or the bad guys, are seemingly hunkered down behind something the size of a shoebox. But, because you are locked behind cover, you can’t be hit. Its annoying, but even if you can see more of the bad guy then is hidden, don’t bother firing unless your sights turn red.
However there are also an innovative assortment of extras. Along with the standard film trailers and concept art, there are insights to the development team and best of all covers of the Mark Millar and J. G. Jones created comics.
Written by Millar, another insanely creative child of 2000AD, the UK comic that nurtured Alan Moore and Garth Ennis among many others, the Wanted comic book was as amoral a tale of death without conscience or consequence as you could imagine. While the game never comes close to the level of daring and invention within that work, the good news is that it is at least on par with the film, and probably better. In the world of comic/movie tie-ins, that in itself is as unlikely as breaking the laws of physics.