Some rather fiendish combat and a lot of slow-motion bullet-fire failed to ruin my second hands-on demo of March's "Wanted: Weapons of Fate" game, even if the game's producer was certain I'd be too squeamish. Wary of my reaction, he began my hands-on time with the game in a most unusual way...
"I should have brought you the German version," Pete Wanat, producer of the upcoming game "Wanted: Weapons of Fate" said as he greeted me last week for a demo of his game. German versions of games tend to be tamer than their global counterparts due to that country's content restrictions. Wanat was joking. Sort of.
The producer guessed that, in order to enjoy it, I might have needed to play the tamer version of this sequel to last summer's Angelina Jolie-starring comic book movie "Wanted."
Violence is an issue for me and Wanat.
He and I have bonded in the last couple of years about games and silly things like pro wrestling even as we've found one thing we can't come to terms with: our differing views on virtual brutality. He can stand a bit more of it than I can.
I can stomach many games, but I've told Wanat that I've had trouble with some games he's produced, stopping short in the acclaimed "Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay" because of some execution moves the player is encouraged to perform (for example: turning the enemy's shotgun back into his mouth) and the testicle-targeting in "Scarface: The World Is Yours."
Alas, I did not get to play the German version of "Wanted" last week. Wanat had me sit with the U.S. version and had me rip through most of the game's hijacked-airplane level.
First, though, he had me watch the game's intro, which includes a rather nasty speech by the game's main character, "Wanted" anti-hero Wesley Gibson. Wesley taunts the player for their assumedly pathetic, gaming-focused lives. The writing is sharp, borrowing from the tone of the comic upon which the "Wanted" movie was based. The comic revels in the spiteful, mean and brash lives of true villains. The game, which acts as an imagined sequel to the movie, keeps those colors true.
The game has two distinctive and brutal mechanics:
The flashier and easier one is the curved bullet. Imagine the airplane level, a steady push up the aisles of a jetliner, past dead bodies of passengers and toward enemies hiding behind upright seatbacks. A curved bullet can reach those enemies by bending a trajectory around and behind the enemy's cover. To fire one, I first pushed a PS3 controller shoulder button, which generated a red arc pointed at the nearest enemy. The red color indicated that the trajectory was obstructed. I used a control stick to tilt the trajectory, like leaning a rainbow onto its side. The arc turned blue, path clear. I fired. My aim was good enough that the shot went into slow-motion. Bullet met body. Blood spattered. There was the signature violence of a recent Wanat game, but in a mechanic that felt essential to the game. I played on.
The second mechanic involves high-speed combat using cover. "Taking cover tends to be a defensive move [in other games,]" Wanat remarked. "We want to do cover as offense." Wanat reasonably suggests that cover in a "Gears of War" slows the player as they duck to avoid shots and wait for the right moment to let off their own. In "Wanted," the player's character moves faster and faster as he moves from one cover location to the next. There are three tiers of speed, the last of which leaves an enemy bewildered and vulnerable, especially if those cover-hops brought the player from in front of his enemy to his flank or rear. The goal is to use this mechanic well enough that the player will wind up shooting their enemies in the backs. Brutal, but again, oh so interesting in terms of gameplay.
The airplane level was fun, even with my limited mastery of the game's two mechanics. I was better at curved bullets than at chaining cover. But best of all, I gave Wanat a good laugh. He tried to keep quiet during my hands-on time but spoke up to advise me to shoot a fire extinguisher near one of the plane's doors. I ignored him. So an enemy shot it instead, causing an explosion, knocking the door open, and out I sailed into the atmosphere. Wanat howled. He'd never seen that before.
I've never finished a game Wanat has produced. Too violent. But my session with "Wanted: Weapons of Fate" was encouraging. The game, which is developed by Grin and published by Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment will be out this March for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. That's for the American version. For that German version? I have no idea.