It seems that Bethesda certainly understands their target market. Stick an attractive lass wearing clothes that are two sizes too small for her and give the game a titillating name like “WET” and let the box-art do the work. But under its skin-tight, leather-clad exterior lies some exciting and stylish gameplay in this third-person action romp.
The aforementioned protagonist in WET is Rubi Malone – a tough as nails heroine who is unlike your typical videogame heroine. She’s more like a little bit of every other videogame heroine we’ve ever seen thrown together into one. She carries the acrobatic and dual gun wielding prowess of Lara Croft from Tomb Raider, the free-running dare-devil styles of Faith from Mirror’s Edge, and the sexy, blood-letting will of BloodRayne. Rubi also reminds me of what would happen if Kat Von D was let loose with a samurai sword and guns. Did we also mention that she drinks whiskey and plays the harmonica? Rowl.
WET is packaged up in a stylish grindhouse theme that never takes itself very seriously. From the thumping 70’s inspired soundtrack to the damaged movie flickering effects and cheesy script, the game feels like a Quentin Tarantino flick. Villians in the game all have names like Rat Boy, Ze Kollektor and Tarantula. Not to mention the outrageous gore and swearing content every step of the way as well. But the ultra violence and B-Grade movie references all add to the fun-factor in WET.
Because of this, the plot really isn’t worth going into. In a nutshell, Rubi Malone is a professional gun-for-hire and has been contracted out by a Mr. William Ackers to locate his son. As you might imagine, things don’t exactly pan out and it’s all just an excuse to then mow down wave after wave of generic baddies. You’ll be blasting and slashing your way across the globe too, with missions in the USA, London and Hong Kong.
Thankfully WET does feature an entertaining combat system that makes taking out hundreds of bad-guy clones enjoyable. As mentioned Rubi is one nimble little minx and her acrobatic skills play a vital part in racking up the body-count. Pressing X and holding down the right trigger causes Rubi to perform a diving leap while firing her guns at the same time. Pressing circle will let Rubi slide across the ground on her knees and do the same. Both these moves take place with a Max Payne slow-down effect that allow you to pick off enemies one by one (and sometimes multiple enemies at once). Rubi can also fire in any direction while in the air or on the ground and the dual targeting system lets you fire in completely different directions with ease. We’ve seen the whole bullet-time thing done to death but there was still something very satisfying about watching Rubi carry out deadly stunts and watching bodies fall down all around her. The only issue is - it’s all very easy to do. Players can literally repeat jumping, sliding and shooting in a mad loop until nothing is left moving on the screen. But if players get into the mood of the game and make an effort they can look insanely cool while doing it. Leaping over a table at a dinner party, shooting three guys in the face and then watching a nearby ice sculpture shatter into shards as you land safely next to it is a thrill. Later levels you will be sliding under-neath scaffolding shooting out knee-caps or sliding down a ladder upside down, head first while nailing people three stories below you. WET also includes close-quarter combat thanks to Rubi’s handy samurai sword that can send limbs and organs flying. Later levels bring with them new weapons too, including dual shotguns, crossbows and machine guns. But most players will rely on their double pistols as they have unlimited ammo.
It all looks very stylish but the controls aren’t quite as fluid as what you would like. Often you will be wishing that you had another couple of acrobatic moves in your repertoire or that Rubi was slightly more responsive to little tweaks of the analogue stick. WET doesn’t have anywhere near the refined controls of, say, the latest Tomb Raider or Uncharted, but with practice players can still get a kick out of the combat. To balance off the heavy combat content, WET has some platforming type action thrown in too. Holding down the L1 button gives Rubi a very “Mirror’s Edge” like vision effect that highlights potential routes in a red shimmer. Rubi can then leap, scale and ledge-hang her way to her next objective.
It seems that even the developers have realised the repetitive nature of this and have thrown in several welcomed changes to the standard gameplay. Each one plays out like set pieces that help splice up the story mode. They range from sky-diving to a motorway chase sequence, through to a first-person turret scenario or time challenge. Each one combines shooting, platform jumping and quick-time events to dodge objects or perform a special action. The motorway one in particular was good fun, seeing Rubi vault from speeding cars while shooting at bad guys and trying to avoid flaming trucks and out-of-control vans. Some of these set pieces vary greatly with difficulty (especially the sky-diving one) and you can expect to fail a couple of times at least. Thankfully all throughout WET you can rely on multiple (and well positioned) checkpoints to prevent you from throwing your controller out the window in frustration.
Another feature that breaks up the gameplay is known as Rage mode. Again the whole thing reeks of Tarantino and entering Rage mode is an obvious homage to Kill Bill, complete with silhouettes, blood drenched faces and blaring siren sound effects. The visuals are stunning to watch, with the screen painted in red, black and white as you cut down dozens of shadowy bad guys with stylish flair. Apart from the change in palette though, there isn’t any change to the gameplay, making the whole thing pure eye-candy with no substance.
The presentation is all here in WET but sadly the detail in the graphics department lets the side down a bit. The animations are fairly smooth but the game ends up looking like a first-gen Xbox 360 title and occasionally you will witness some dodgy clipping and low-res textures. If it weren’t for the amusing retro loading screens (for example a 1950’s advert for hotdogs), outrageous character designs and the slick Rage mode, the graphics would have scored considerably lower.
The soundtrack on the other hand is excellent and features an appropriate mix of slick and sexy tunes that have been inspired by 70’s grindhouse flicks. Just like the game, each track carries that sense of sleaze and debauchery that WET encompasses beautifully. The voice acting is also above average and features an interesting array of accents with several talented actors in the mix. Rubi is voiced by the delightful Eliza Dushku of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse fame. Considering her cheesy one-liners and insane amount of swearing, Dushku does a very admirable job of bringing Rubi to life.
In the end the game gives you a dirty sense of satisfaction and some cheap thrills. I was almost ashamed at how much enjoyment I got out of a relatively shallow gameplay experience. The story mode (which takes place over 13 chapters) produces a solid seven hours of gameplay on a hard difficulty. The game has a certain amount of replay value to find little secret items or to beat your best combo - but few would probably bother. The addition of the Challenge mode however is certainly worth a visit and allows you to best your time across a variety of fun mini-game like trials. Those gamers who loved Afro Samurai will most likely get a kick out of this, but for others, WET might benefit from being a rental first to see if it strikes your fancy.