Jeez, where do we even begin with Wanted: Dead? It feels like an action game from another age, harkening back to the many lower budget, madcap brawlers that found cult acclaim on the PS2 and PS3. It's also an extremely janky release, absolutely packed with dodgy character models, borderline unreadable combat animations, and baffling cutscenes. Honestly, it's been a long time since we played such a captivatingly crap game.
And we say that with a genuine appreciation for what Wanted: Dead is trying to do. It wants to be an unapologetically to-the-point action title in the vein of something like Vanquish, but it also gives off some serious Deadly Premonition vibes in how nonchalantly unfocused and downright messy it can be.
There's an undeniable charm here, but trying to pinpoint its source is difficult. Is it the comically terrible character dialogue? Maybe it's all the weird little minigames that casually pop up in between main missions? Or perhaps it's to do with the jarring amount of effort that's gone into some of the fully animated cutscenes? In truth, it's probably a bit of everything. Wanted: Dead is so strangely stitched together that you end up looking forward to its next completely unpredictable moment of madness.
However, in order to actually reach these meme-worthy events, you'll have to grind through some rough combat-focused gameplay. The tragedy of Wanted: Dead is that its combat system is just functional at best, while at its worst, it's a woefully unbalanced and frustrating slog. On the whole, it doesn't even come remotely close to the genre's finest, and that's a real kicker when the vast majority of your time will be spent hacking and slashing cyborg goons.
The game's been marketed as a challenging action title, but in reality, its most challenging scenarios stem from disappointingly bad design. Combat is a mix of sword-based melee and third-person shooting, but for most of the campaign, we found guns to be deceptively ineffective. A cover system seems to encourage long-range potshots, but erratic enemy movement makes the already cumbersome aiming mechanics a bit of a joke. You'll run out of ammo very quickly if you try to take things slow.
Indeed, Wanted: Dead is best played as an up-close and personal execution simulator — but don't mistake it for an especially fast-paced, combo-loving slasher like Devil May Cry. Melee combat is surprisingly slow and deliberate, in that main character Hannah's trusty katana attacks can rarely be cancelled out of. As a result, finding yourself surrounded by even the lowliest grunts is a death sentence, while more elite foes will punish the faintest of whiffs.
Or at least, that's how fights are supposed to be. The aforementioned design flaws start to kick in when you realise that basically every grunt enemy in the game operates in a very similar way, and most can be locked in place by alternating between sword swipes and close-range pistol taps. This back and forth is meant to form the basis of the game's combo system, but it becomes very repetitive just a few missions into the experience. There is a skill tree that grants fresh techniques as you progress, but by the time you stumble across some desperately needed variety, the combat's already long since lost its edge.
Speaking of the skill tree, there are a handful of unlockable perks that feel crucial to gameplay — like you shouldn't need to be spending skill points on them to begin with. Such perks include being able to block more than one attack at a time, and actually having the ability to counter incoming blows. Fortunately, you do gain skill points very quickly — but that just makes the unlocking process feel even more unnecessary.
And then there are the elite opponents that require a bit more nuance to dispatch — except Wanted: Dead's idea of 'nuance' involves Sekiro-style parries that may or may not work as intended. You'll dread having to face-off against certain types of foes because of how unreliable some of the game's core functions feel — and sadly, it only gets worse as the campaign progresses. Do parries actually interrupt this enemy's attack string? Can this unblockable move actually be countered? There's only one way to find out, and if you guess wrong, that's usually half of your already short health bar gone.
The biggest problem, though? You can cleave through countless grunts across an entire 20-minute mission, only to come up against a boss who simply disregards all of the game's prior mechanics. Several of Wanted: Dead's big boss fights are astoundingly cheap, and, depending on your tolerance for broken hitboxes, buggy environments, and tediously long health bars, you may find yourself having to cheese your way to victory. It's perhaps a blessing in disguise, then, that the enemy AI ranges from basic (read: hyperaggressive but fairly predictable) to braindead.
Lieutenant Hannah Stone is joined in battle by her three squadmates, all of whom are pretty much useless during gameplay — although they do manage to distract an enemy every now and then. Your war buddies also play key supporting roles in the game's story, as the ragtag mercs are utilised as police-backed shock troops in a cyberpunk future.
The underlying lore of Wanted: Dead is fairly interesting, but it's barely explored beyond an intriguing opening movie. Instead, the plot deals in predictably malicious mega corporations, the struggles of justice, and the "can robots actually be human?" theme that's been done better thousands of times before. Watching it all unfold is thoroughly entertaining though, primarily because of all the hilariously stunted dialogue, out-of-place pop culture references, and some enjoyably awful voice acting. At times, the storytelling is like a fever dream; it's an absolute mess in terms of tone and execution, but it's near impossible to look away.
It's an ugly game as well. As alluded, the main character models look decidedly cheap, rubbery, and awkward (especially when it comes to facial animations). Meanwhile, the NPCs look like they've been ripped out of a Steam Greenlight asset pack — and the same can be said of the environments. The police station in particular — your hub between missions — feels like a placeholder from another project.
Wanted: Dead is, at its worst, a frustratingly bad action game, but in its inexplicable presentation, nonsensical storytelling, and baffling character dialogue, it's difficult to completely dismiss. There's undeniable fun to be had here in a so-bad-it's-good kind of way, and that might even be enough for the game to secure cult status somewhere down the line. But for now, you'll need to slog through some of the most jank combat in full-price gaming to squeeze enjoyment out of the experience. Wanted: Dead is a truly fascinating mess.
those screen grabs, wow, just wow
I was looking forward to this bringing for some old school action and ninja gaiden vibes but it sounds like the execution alone makes this a pass at full price based on incoming reviews. I was hoping for at least a good showing, but even then, once I recently realized that they were trying to justify 60 dollars, I was hesitant.
I'm on holiday right now, but if anyone's got any questions about Wanted: Dead, let me know and I'll try to answer them when I get back.
I think the bottom line here is that it's not a very good game at its core, but it is entertaining if you can stomach the jank. Potential recommendation for those looking for something weird, but maybe wait for a sale. Almost full price for this thing is a very tall order.
Ah, man, I really hoped for this to turn out a sleeper hit of sorts and was ready to buy it full price. But the lack of different locations and enemies in pre-release footage as much as that there where no reviews to find until launch-day already have been good indicators that it will probably don't live up to my personal hype for it.
Too bad, since I'd love to support this kind of AA non-franchise revivals of of almost extinct genres. I'll grab it in a deep sale.
One of my favourite types of games is the rubbish but with some kind of inexplicable charm game.
The game graphically look like a later ps3 game or early ps4 game .
I don’t want it any less or any more than I did prior to reading this review so that’s good. I’m still buying it but I’ll wait for a sale since I’m about to dive into Metroid Prime Remaster and I’m working through Last of Us P1.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is the game to go with this week. Averaging 88 so far on opencritic.
Very much a PS2 game, and that's good.
It goes well next to previously released Gungrave Gore, No More Heroes 3 and Evil West.
On my wishlist it goes.
I still really want to play this. Great review, Rob. I think I'll wait for a sale, but definitely getting it down the line!
Confirms my decision to wait for a sale on this one. So much else out currently as well to be dropping full on this one
It's sad that this game had the old school vibe but executed it badly. I was looking forward to play this, but I will definitely wait for a discount.
I want it.
I don't know why, but I really want it.
@johncalmc is on the same wavelength here.
Can't wait to play this. I've been looking forward to it for a while. Definitely not a game I'll be buying at full price though. There's very few games these days I'll buy at full price.
@KaijuKaiser big fan of both rhythm games and final fantasy but the demo didn't really do it for me but maybe I'll try it again
I Wanted this to be good so bad... but watching some gameplay yesterday, I might pass on this sadly. And this review just justifies it.
You had me at ‘a captivatingly crap game’. LOLOLOLOL 😅😂🤣
With far too much that’s out or soon to come out that I’m interested in I don’t see myself ever playing this until I have NOTHING else to play, but this sounds like exactly the type of bargain bin title I’d go for on a $20 or under sale.
@get2sammyb What are the odds of this falling to 20 euros on the ps store by April?
@shogunrok I guess my only question would be - is your being on holiday directly related to having slogged through this game 😆
Game is mess, but I'm enjoying it a lot so far. Combat feels really weird until you it clicks, but the game does a VERY poor job of helping you to make that connection with the combat.
A 5 seems deserved tbh, but I needed a small break from Hogwarts and Star Rail, so I picked this up. Not hard up for cash atm.
Still getting my copy today. I figured the game would get the reviews it's been getting so I'm not put off by that. My concern lies in that after I play the games reviewed by @ShogunRok for myself, I generally agree with his complaints and compliments and overall assessment. Looking forward to finding out how this lives up to what I was expecting.
Hope this comes to Plus Extra down the road. Would love to try this.
A bit disappointing as some of the trailers for this game looked at least pretty good. Seems like a great sale game though.
Sounds amazing, definitely going on my wishlist!
I’m loving this the combat is great and I don’t know if there was a day one patch but I’ve barely dealt with any jank. The graphics are surprisingly good,voice acting is bad in a good way and the story is B movie great. Everyone complains about how gaming takes no risk or everything is similar but when something comes out with little budget and big heart it gets ***** on because it’s not those triple aaa behemoths l don’t get it.
Man, I was cheering for this one to be at least a good 7/10.
Charm alone may turn this one into a cult classic, it's happened to stranger games (looking at you, Nier).
Maybe on a sale with this one.
@dark_knightmare2 it gets the hate because it is a mediocre, indi budget game disguised as a AAA release. i was shocked to realize they are charging $80+tax CAD for this "experience"... at half the price people might temper their expectations and lower the bar a bit, no?
I played this game on the weekend as I got it early and oh boy, I didn't expect it to be so terrible. The plot is nonsense and it's gameplay can't even carry it because that sucks too.
@Porco probably but I don’t prescribe a games worth to reviews or what the hours are to beat. If the game looks interesting to me I’ll buy it. This one looked super interesting and unique and I’m really enjoying it so far.
@dark_knightmare2 absolutely. i'm glad you are enjoying the game. there is a time and a place for all kinds of experiences. i sometimes play subpar games on ps2 such as: final fight streetwise, nanobreaker or death by degrees (games that were panned severely back in their day) simply out of curiosity. or fun but flawed games such as lollipop chainsaw, shadows of the damned and killer is dead... a person's enjoyment will vary greatly depending on the buy in price, however. in the case of wanted: dead, i feel like they made a mistake in charging full price for a game that clearly did not have even 1/10th the budget of a propper AAA game such as god of war. when you put them side by side and tell the customer the price is the same, it is likely to create the wrong impression and FAR greater disappointment and criticism (rightfully so) for the game in question. it is a bit of an insult to be honest. after the game hits the bargain bins in a few months, it is possible it could find a cult following and fare much better with different expectations.
@dark_knightmare2 I'm glad you are enjoying it but you must be able to see hesitation related to a janky indie like title priced as a triple AAA release
I’m totally picking this up once it’s on sale lol
@KundaliniRising333 if someone hesitates because of the price that’s fine the developers priced the game at what they thought it should be. This game is nowhere near janky as a Bethesda title for example yet no one complains at them being full price and no I’m not saying this game is better than a Bethesda game it’s def not just talking about the jank here.
@Sil_Am For some reason (mental illness, low standards, insomnia?) I can't stop playing the new Gungrave over and over.
It's like a gaming routine, playing a few levels a day and then a different game.
There's just something about it.
Does Wanted have difficulty levels?
I could see putting it on easy to skate through and just enjoy the crazy story.
@Porco Lollypop Chainsaw is a masterpiece. Remaster is coming.
@j2c 6 months from now, PSN sale, 80% off. Sold!
I'll check it out on the cheap, wanted it to be good but it seemed too under the radar.
@burning_as_souls it's good
I think I’ll stick to Evil West, which also has that throwback charm, but it plays well on top of that.
Game Pass or PS Plus job this one.
>Audio mixing is a disaster
That is putting it mild lol. Some of the sound effects can make you deaf with how ridiculous loud they are, and some of them come out of nowhere.
On a positive note: You can at least feel the team had a blast creating the game even if the game isn't the best from a player perspective.
@arsmolinarc Putting Nier in the same sentence as this game personally insults and upsets me lol
Beat this game on hard just now. This game sucks. It just sucks so bad.
@burning_as_souls It has 4 difficulties, Neko-chan (easy mode you have to put in a cheat code in for or die a bunch of times), normal, hard, and Japanese Hard.
In order to get the whole story you need to beat the game on all difficulties. Hard mode. Is. TERRIBLE. The checkpoints make the game so frustrating and agonizing, the camera works against you way too much, the gunplay is about as responsive as using a laptop track pad to aim, and the melee combat (while sometimes satisfying) is very simplistic (you basically have 3 combos the whole game).
If you really just want the story, just watch cutscenes on YouTube. It's an incomprehensible mess of a story, and the game took me less than 4 hours to beat.
I don't know how people are spending 12 hours. There's a 5 minigames including the shooting range, but they're really pointless, as you don't really get anything from them and they can be tedious.
If all you're interested in is the story. Don't buy this game at all. It sucks.
RIP Wanted: Dead, makes me glad Target canceled my pre-order due to a misunderstanding over my payment method.
@Constable_What Just came on here to see if anyone else had played through it as well, and I'm happy to see someone shares my frustration!
I went in expecting a flawed gem - one of those games that looks and sounds rough but plays like a dream - but the gameplay is insulting s**t. I was tearing my hair out on the last level - those corridors were ENDLESS. And what was up with the weird looping music? Honestly screw this game, what a waste of 50 quid.
EDIT: I applaud you for finishing it on Hard; after barely finishing it on Normal I'm tapping out
@JB_Whiting I cut my teeth on character action games, so I consider myself pretty good, so I started off on Hard.
That was a mistake, and you can't change the difficulty, and by the time I was having issues I was already halfway through the game.
That. Final. Stretch. Was AWFUL. I think I know exactly what you mean. You had to fight a big LMG guy really early, and you had to do it perfectly, then navigate tight corridors with shield dudes, then fight the white samurai near the explosive barrel, then fight ANOTHER damn white samurai paired with a brown samurai, then drop down to the street fight another white and brown samurai, continue up stairs to the dudes shooting at you, only for ANOTHER white and brown samurai to spawn behind you, and then you get a checkpoint before fighting two Spider Tanks.
What mouthful. What a cluster****. If you died during any of that, tough luck, back to that LMG dude you go.
So....bad....it was punishment for buying this trash in my case. And the game wants you to beat the game on every difficulty for the full story. No thanks. Keep it. I don't know, don't wanna, don't get it, don't care, don't wanna care!
@KidBoruto I envy you. Glad Target had your back.
@Constable_What Yeah haha, definitely for the best it turned out.
I'll pick this up in a few years when it's $20 New (or cheaper) or free with PlayStation Plus.
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