Themes are the glue that hold stories together. In Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York, he utilized the themes of obsession, love, and time to paint us a picture of a man searching for himself. While he ultimately succeeded at doing this, the themes of the movie are woven so deep that they became tangled. It felt like the movie forgot that it’s ultimate goal was to entertain.
This is Wet’s situation. The game sports a strong theme of stylized action and revenge that succeed in being cool and unique, but it forgets that its ultimate goal is to entertain and involve the player, which it loses in repetitive blood effects and bullet time.
Wet makes no qualms about lathering itself in the pulp/grindhouse aesthetic, and the game benefits from it. The environment is basked in strong dark tones that set up a foreboding atmosphere. Instead of using a grainy filter, like some horror games, the screen is doctored to look like you are watching an old film reel. The downside is, besides key characters, it isn’t much to look at.
Because you have to use the acrobatic shooting (more on that in a bit) constantly, it darkens the screen, thus you have to take time to examine the environments, and when you do, they aren’t worth the time. But, while you are looking around you get to listen to the fantastic soundtrack. It echoes the surf guitar and emerging punk sounds of the ’70s and is arguably the game’s strongest selling point.
You would hope that the stylistic graphics, pumping score, and over-the-top characters would bleed over into the gameplay, but they don’t. Actually, those are only things holding the game afloat, because without them, it would be nothing more than a sub-par action title. Each chapter places the player in a linear level where they must run and gun from start to finish.
This is typical of a third-person shooter, but Wet goes down a different, albeit rockier, path. Instead of moving from A to B, Rubi (the main character), moves from heavy platforming sections, to combat focused arena sections, to QTE driven cutscenes and events. The game relies on fast paced action, but the overall pacing suffers because of constant load screens and shifts in themed gameplay.
To help her blast through each level, she can run on walls, run up enemies, shoot in multiple directions, slide, jump, and pull off other assorted manuevers. To make the dual targeting easier, Rubi will automatically target an enemy whenever you enter the acrobatic slo-mo state. This occurs when Rubi is shooting while performing a stunt and give the player a chance at targeting a different enemy at the same time.
It sounds great in concept, but the game relies on it too heavily. As Douglas Coupland said in his book Microserfs, “repetition destroys meaning,” and in Wet, this is absolutely true. In every encounter it’s possible to kill each enemy by jumping and shooting, then sliding and shooting. This gives the player about 20 solid seconds of slow motion and is enough time to drop four to five enemies.
To make things worse, the combo meter awarding you for these kills doesn’t promote variety, because it tracks kills per second. You do earn different points for different types of kills, but headshots generally award the most. Even if you did spice it up, the mechanics for each manuever are so similar that you won’t feel like you are doing anything different.
Besides being repetitive, the gameplay is solid and looks extremely cool. The slip targeting system is effective at giving players the opportunity to drop two enemies at once. Sometimes, Rubi will target the enemy that you have locked onto, but it doesn’t happen enough to ruin anything. And it all pays off when you pull that backwards leap off a high platforming, laying out two different people at once, only to turn around and do it again before you hit the ground. It can be satisfying, just not after you’ve done it a hundred times.
It would be possible to forgive some of the gameplay shortcomings if there was a reason to keep playing, but the game’s story isn’t tantilizing enough. It’s a series of events strung together to give the players a segue into the next action sequence. Some of them don’t even make sense. At certain points of the game, Rubi will shoot a charging enemy and get blood in her face. This sends her into “rage” mode, and turns the world into pure red, white, and black colors.
It looks great, but it doesn’t lend itself into making the gameplay anymore entertaining. On the contrary, it makes things slightly more difficult. Killing enemies in this state is much easier, but the new color motif makes it difficult to see where Rubi needs to jump to next. Attempts are made to color ledges and jumps slightly, however, they use a brighter red… which still blends into the background.
But, there are moments where the story takes a turn that benefits the gameplay. The encounter was in the demo, but there is a sequence where Rubi is battling thugs jumping from car to car, while speeding down the interstate. Certain portions are QTEs (you can shoot when it isn’t), however, this portion isn’t heavy in plot so players can just appreciate all of the bad ass action. It detaches the player from the gameplay, but Wet plays more like a movie than a game, so it translates better than other titles. And yet, that is where it ultimately fails.
Repetitive gameplay, choppy pacing, and a bad plot are a result of Wet’s desire to be watched more than played. A superb original soundtrack, entertaining characters, and striking visual design attempt to overshadow it’s shortcomings, but it isn’t enough to keep it from being more than a spicy mediocre third person shooter.
The grindhouse concept is so stylish that won't care every henchmen looks the same.
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There are a few levels that may take you by surprise, but by Chapter 2 you will have the shallow shooting mechanics down.
The voice acting is awful but Wet's soundtrack is good enough to warrant a retail release.
Wet is short at about 8-10 hours, but there are extra difficulties and challenges to keep interested players entertained. The problem is finding the interest to keep going.
Wet's desire to be watched more than played keeps it from being anything more than a mediocre third person shooter.