Licensed games don’t have the best reputation, and for good reason. Glancing at the shelves of your local game retailer will reveal a tsunami of limp and lazy shovelware made to promote the latest movies and television shows. More recently however, a handful of developers have eschewed the usual limitations associated with the creation of licensed games to produce titles which enhance their respective franchises instead of leaning on them. Starbreeze Studios’ 2007 take on The Darkness proved that an existing license could be crafted into a highly atmospheric and exhilarating game that stands up on its own merits. Fellow Swedes GRIN have attempted a similar approach to the development of Wanted: Weapons Of Fate, the videogame follow-up to last year’s bullet-bending blockbuster. Unfortunately, the results are less than favourable.
Where most games based upon movies are content to retell the story presented by their cinematic cousins, Weapons Of Fate serves as both a sequel and prequel to the source material. The first part of the game picks up several hours after the events of Wanted and see you playing as Wesley Gibson, the smarmy office drone who was transformed into a super assassin during the course of the movie. James McAvoy reprises this role and delivers a script which acts as a conduit for much of the game’s macho, adolescent attitude. Punctuating Gibson’s quest to discover the truth about his lineage are sequences set during the 1980s, where you assume the role of French assassin Cross. This is a fairly unique approach to storytelling, though somewhat diluted by the fact that the game makes no attempt to induct franchise newcomers into its world of assassin fraternities and prophetic weaving machines.
The gameplay itself is mired in the kind of convention that’s come to be expected of a modern third-person shooter; cover system, blindfire and quick-time melee attacks all present and correct. Still, Weapons Of Fate is a much faster, looser and altogether less methodical game than something like Gears Of War, and encourages you to take more chances than you would with Marcus Fenix and the rest of Delta Squad. The cover system is fairly adept in allowing you to zig-zag between different parts of the environment in order to move up and engage foes more intimately. It’s also possible to distract enemies by blindfiring around cover, and then sneaking behind them for a stealthy kill.
Gibson and Cross also have a few special abilities at their disposal, which can be triggered once adrenaline points have been earned from racking up enough kills. One of these abilities plunge the game into bullet time, allowing you to explode out of cover and deftly dispatch any nearby assailants with a volley of well-placed shots. The second of these allows you to curve bullets directly into enemies taking refuge behind cover and other hard to reach parts of the environment. Although this is arguably the game’s raison d’être, its somewhat clunky implementation often proves frustrating; all too often you may find your bullets embedded into masonry rather than someone’s head.
However, this unique skill comes at a price. Although enemies have fun with shotguns, assault rifles and SMGs throughout the game, your own arsenal is limited to pistols, and later, machine pistols equipped with exploding rounds. Whilst these prove adequate in most situations, it would have been great to curve bullets from a variety of different firearms. The gameplay is diversified in other ways, including a number of quick-time sequences which see your character acrobatically assaulting rival assassins whilst you shoot incoming bullets out of the air. Whilst these are impressively cinematic, its hard not to feel slightly resentful that the best looking action in the game is, for the most part, out of your control. There are also a number of ill-advised sniping and turret sequences which fall completely flat.
Despite the game clocking in at a brisk five hours or so, killing wave after wave of identically cowled enemies becomes a chore fairly quickly. This isn’t helped by the drab environment design; the majority of the action takes place within a series of dull, unremarkable locales. However, the stage set aboard a doomed 747 is undoubtedly the highlight of the game.
Wanted: Weapons Of Fate is disappointing not only for its derivative and occasionally sloppy gameplay, but also because it feels like a missed opportunity to explore the relationship that exists between films and games. Although its attempt to tell a unique story is commendable, after the credits roll you may wonder whether a product based more faithfully upon Mark Millar’s original graphic novel would have yielded more compelling results. License aside, the gameplay is serviceable enough, but there’s an overwhelming feeling that developers GRIN were simply using this to pay the bills whilst working on the far more promising Bionic Commando for Capcom.