Wanted: Dead is one of those cases where you have a hard time evaluating them. And that's not because it's some complicated, 4X-type game that requires a lengthy analysis, far from it. A hack 'n' slash/shooter we're talking about, nothing less, nothing more. However, with the game in question, the Soleil development team is attempting to deliver a tribute to the 6th generation games, meaning the period between 1998-2005 or so. But whether a game from that era has a place in 2023 is another, confusing, story.
Perhaps more confusing than the one the game has, as we really couldn't figure it out during our entire time with Wanted: Dead. It's not even at the level of "so bad it's good". In theory, we're set in Hong Kong in the future and the game tells the story of ex-convict Hannah Stone, who is part of a police task force with the very original name "Zombie". Along with a few other guys, equally "home boys", they take on dangerous missions until they get caught up in a very strange case of android riot, which has political implications.
What, how, why and when, don't ask. There is really no rhyme or reason, no coherence anywhere. A jumble of cutscenes and anime clips, cheesy dialogue, cringe humor from cool (or so) guys, with the common denominator being plenty of blood and gore, easily rivaling movies like Kill Bill. We want to believe that all of this was done on purpose, otherwise it doesn't explain this very abstract thing (because it is just a thing) presented here.
However, because we are not dealing with an adventure or RPG, where we are primarily interested in a rational narrative, we leave it aside. In the action element, Wanted: Dead does a little better, but only if we first realize what it's trying to achieve: to bring a game from... 2003 to 2023, with all that implies.
Therefore, in terms of action, the game presents a quite interesting combat system, combining melee and shooter elements. Hannah is armed with a katana and a submachine gun, for the respective situations, which can be used and applied in the field at any time. When slashing with our sword, the combat is quite reminiscent of Xbox's Ninja Gaiden, but without the same depth and variety of combos, at least in the early stages of the game. On top of that, we can combine our revolver for extra (minor) damage, but mostly to counter the unblockable attacks of certain enemies - and bosses.
The alternative method of elimination with the gun (we have a basic one and find more, of different types, along the way) turns the game into Gears of War, placing the camera behind Hannah and applying cover shooter tactics. Surprisingly, the shooter approach is the least interesting of the game, partly because the guns don't do enough damage (presumably so we don't rely on them too much) and have very little ammo, and partly because it's quite difficult to hit our enemies, so spasmodically they move. The fact that Wanted: Dead puts more emphasis on melee is shown by the poor skill tree that firearms have, compared to that of the sword.
A skill-tree that is fully upgradable rather easily, as the points gained from the non-stop carnage are plentiful and we'll most likely have almost finished it before we even reach the middle of the game. However, even so, huge differences in combat performance cannot be detected (you'll never exclaim: "wow, I really needed that skill"), which is also true for the weapon customization feature, which is unnecessary as a mechanic.
In essence, it's enough to decipher enemy attacks in order to block them at the right time and launch counter-attacks that will produce some, sometimes one-hit-to-kill, impressive choreography. The blocking "windows" are relatively forgiving, so don't expect Sekiro or Sifu-type precision to be required, but there are times when they just don't work properly or we're surrounded and getting beaten from all sides.
After all, it's not something that rarely happens, as the game, in order to make up for the frighteningly weaknesses of AI, which is at sub-zero levels, overloads the levels with dozens of enemies - of similar design. As a result, the game's difficulty level rises mainly because of this rather than because each enemy lends itself to any high-level challenge, while the fact that the checkpoints per level (which are also huge in size and duration) appear very sparsely, contributes to the fact that we'll go through the same points, over and over again, until we get through them.
And there are cases where glitches are detected, especially when AI fails to find the path to track us and gets stuck in walls or simply wavers on what to do when it's facing us - shoot or run and hide? And the inability of the combat system to interrupt a move once we've started it until the animation is complete can become quite frustrating and lead to some very painful defeats. Especially if it's anything one-hit by a boss... We're really talking about situations that force us to recall the classic "what year is it?" meme.
The curious thing is that, amidst this storm of flaws and problems, Wanted: Dead managed to keep my interest until the credits rolled after about 8 hours (with a cliffhanger that doesn't come out of nowhere). I'm referring to it in the first person, because whether or not you put up with its antics depends entirely on your temperament. I have to admit that in the first few hours of the game, I found it so bad that I was ready to uninstall it and "bury" it without mercy.
But something about the fact that I had to write the review, something about some Yakuza-type mini-games that suddenly appeared and broke the monotony, convinced me to continue. And I confess that I don't regret it, although several times, it pushed me to the limits of my patience, due to its antiquated design and a few desktop crashes for dessert.
Of course, the fact that it successfully revives the 2000's style of games, along with their problems, doesn't mean it deserves any kind of a pass. Wanted: Dead is aimed at a strictly specific audience and no one else. It doesn't have even impressive graphics to grab the attention of the rest of us, and the voice over is mediocre and irritatingly repetitive (no more "grenade" screaming, please). The fact that, price-wise at least, it's being marketed as an AAA title can only be described as another joke by its creators. After all, the game is full of them.