Wet for Xbox 360 Impressions

Among all the other games that have come out, Wet from Bethesda is a game that is liable to slip under many people’s radars. A visually stunning and stylish game, Wet is enjoyable and lots of fun to play and rewards the player for acrobatic gunplay with things such as slow-motion effects and auto-targetting, but suffers from some control snafus and the plague of the past two console generations: too-shortitis.

For those who haven’t seen it Wet is an action game that follows the heroine, Rubi Malone, through her exploits as a fixer, doing jobs for the criminal underworld. The game has a Quentin Tarantino style and 70’s drive-in “grindhouse” style look and it simply oozes personality. All the characters are well voice acted and have their own interesting personality quirks, which even though they aren’t original are at least acceptable and consistent, the entire whole of the game fitting together quite well. Everything is stylized to the hilt, from the main heroine to extras like the ER doctor sporting the afro. Even common enemy types are commonly given individual touches, tattoos, country flags, different clothing, personalized weapons, and other things that makes it feel like real film working with a huge cast of extras rather a game where you can simply make one model and repeat it ad nauseum. The entire game is given a film-grain and scratches effect which is very confident, emulating the slight flicker and screen movement these old reels used to display. Even loading screens are disguised as reel changes with cheesy drive-in ads (The one advocating viewers to “Visit your place of worship regularly” is particularly hilarious with the violence-drenched scenes it appears between.) in the interim, and nearing death makes the film-strip begin to come off its track and death makes the film snap altogether.

The gameplay centers around Rubi Malone’s acrobatic prowess. From the moment the game begins players will be diving, sliding, running on walls, sliding down ladders, running along  ledges, and swinging from pole to pole all while participating in rapid-fire gunplay that is more often than not filled with copious explosions. The game allows this to happen by slowing down the action every time you’re in the middle of any acrobatic maneuver while firing. In addition to that benefit while in these maneuvers Rubi uses a gun in her left hand during acrobatics. This gun automatically targets the nearest enemy, allowing the player to control the gun in the right hand and choose to concentrate fire on one enemies or take out a different enemy. While doing this the game gives points for dispatching enemies during spectacular displays of diving, sliding, and leaping with “style points” which are used to upgrade Rubi’s abilities, allowing her to shoot faster and do tricks like wall running off enemies and using them as a springboard for yet more feats of athleticism. This sort of action is the game’s bread and butter and it’s fun to do. Rubi’s moves chain together easily and for the most part aren’t difficult to execute, though there are some snafus with controls, more on that later.  Open areas often become small puzzles making the player think how best to move through a piece of terrain to get the most airtime to dispatch the enemies the easiest, all while trying to keep an eye out for the old video game standby, exploding barrels. (It’s a wonder a whole generation of gamers aren’t developing “barrel-phobia” by now.)

Gameplay really consists of two major segments. The first are long corridors, which are often filled with obstacles which Rubi must use her acrobatic abilities to overcome, and spare numbers of enemies. These areas honestly feel a lot like an old platforming game, which Rubi having to do things like climb up mine shafts, navigate her way along the outside of a building, and escaping a collapsing tunnel. These areas are competently put together and don’t have may overall problems with them, but they suffer from a few areas where it can be unclear what to do. To clear this up the game has the player is given “Rubi Vision” which has terrain Rubi can use in her acrobatic moves glow red. This works very well 99% of the time and gives the player good hints as what to do but in one or two spots you have to make leaps of faith. One part in particular that drove me insane was a gap with a window ledge and a window. The window ledge glowed red in Rubi Vision, making it seem like the player is supposed to jump, grab on, and then maybe vault up to another ledge from that ledge, a platforming element that is used often in the game and before the window. However when leaping Rubi would not grab onto this ledge, causing me to die and having to start over from the last checkpoint. (Checkpoints are frequent through levels and are usually placed right before challenging areas, but later in the game checkpoints become sparser, forcing you to replay easier parts to get back to the hard part where you last died.) I had to look online to find out that I had to shoot the window out and then leap. Note this window looked like it was part of the background, and grabing onto the ledge of identical windows and vaulting past them is something that had already been introduced before, so this kind of thing was an unexpected, and surprising, curveball. Another similar ambiguous element occurs in the William Acker’s dungeon area, a rather bland out-of-place spot compared to the rest of the game, where the player must slide toward a portcullis and shot one crank while Ruby’s auto-aiming left hand shoots the other crank. Granted the cranks glow, and there is a “wet streak” which is often used to denote sliding… but shoot a crank to make it raise? That’s a bit out of left field. It’s sad too because most of the game is put together well, with just a few glaring defects like these standing out against the rest of the game.

The second major element of the gameplay are the “arenas” which are wide open areas filled with enemies. Some of the arenas are simply “kill all” type affairs but most of them need Rubi to close the entrances, preventing more enemies from entering, by doing things like damaging keypads and dropping large chinese gongs over doors.  The arenas are arguably the most fun, and most frustrating part of the game. The arenas are usually filled with acrobatic elements and hazards, and usually the best way to make your way through these arenas is to find the best route through it which keeps Rubi in the air the longest. These areas are frustrating because they’re often the ones that the player will be repeating over and over, either trying to get the best score or simply dying to the onslaught of enemies, and the Hong Kong triads swarming you while they scream, “Taste my special sauce!” is only amusing so many times.  Most of the arenas are straight forward, but one or two of them are particularly brutal and throw curveballs like looking up at one part to see you can wall run up to a ledge, something that’s hard to think about while you’re trying to fight off a wave of enemies and dodge the guy with the gatling gun trying to turn Rubi into swiss cheese.

About the controls. There is a lot of what I would call a “snap to” element to the controls? What does that mean? A lot of programs, especially graphics editing, have something called snap to where if an element nears something significant, like a border, the element will snap to it so it’s directly against the border. This feature usually works pretty well, since usually if you’re moving an element next to a border it’s because you want it next to it. The game’s controls sometimes happen like this, especially where poles are concerned. Most of the time this isn’t any problem, but sometimes the “snap” doesn’t seem to kick in like you expect it, or sometimes you need to release the left trigger, the wall run and Rubi vision button, to make her grab hold when you want her to and most of the time you don’t. Usually when the “snap” doesn’t work right Rubi ends up hurting into a fire or electrical hazard or a pit, and it can be really frustrating when that happens.  The snappyness can also make controls feel a little “locked in”. For example, Rubi will only let go of a pole at the perfect time in her swing, and she always swings exactly to the next terrain element to grab on, sometimes going upwards when her swing animation doesn’t fit it. Granted this makes it a lot easier to do the stunts the game requires, but the disconnect from your controls and what happens can be annoying, especially when Rubi goes around the pole, an easy target, once more because you hit the A button too late.

The last big problem for Wet is that it’s short. I was able to finish the game in about three days of playing, and that’s taking my time about it. Once you have a sense for how things will play out even I can finish the game in a single sitting. Once you finish the game all you have really to look forward to is score mode, playing a higher difficulty, or trying the “Golden bullets” mode where enemies die in one hit. Granted, playing again can be fun, especially in golden bullets mode, but once you have a play through under your belt another one isn’t really needed. There isn’t much new to find and Rubi can’t carry her upgrades with her between games.

Because of the game’s length and lack of replayability I can’t really recommend it for more than a rental. Granted it is a fun, enjoyable rental, but once you’ve gone through the game once or twice most people’s desire to play the game will be ended, with those bearing the curse of completionist braving the game time and time again to find hidden monkeys and unlock achievements. There’s nothing wrong with being a good rental, and in a game of on-demand games I wonder if Wet would have done better as a game that a player would rent online and download, similar to a pay per view movie, then as a full retail box game. Wet is a fun ride, but just like a rollercoaster it’s something best sampled than owned.

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