"Wanted: Weapons of Fate falls quite comfortably into the third-person shooter mold. You can run up to someone and gut him with a squishy-sounding thrust of your knife to his stomach or throat when it suits you, but most of your energy is reserved for the exchange of flying lead as you duck behind destructible bits of the environment and hope that your aim is good enough to wipe out all of the thugs that are gunning for you. If you let yourself run out of ammo, the game can get very frustrating as enemies stand two feet away and pelt you with bullets while you hug a wall that you're using for cover and fiddle with the camera. There's perhaps no sound more frightening than the echo of a hollow chamber when you expected a bang."
Wesley Gibson is standing in a Chicago convenience store late one night, about to buy a few trinkets that he figures will at least make his meaningless life a little bit better for the next few days, when a beautiful woman steps up beside him. She's dressed to kill and the first thing on his mind is something like "What's this hot woman doing standing next to me?" and the next is "Where's the camera?" Only there's no hidden film crew and this isn't a joke. As Wesley apologizes for the awkward moment, the stranger says simply "You apologize too much" as if she knows his whole life story.
"Wanted" the movie doesn't begin with that particular scene, but it might as well because that's the moment where the viewer is introduced to the rest of Wesley Gibson's life. Before he knows it, he's ducking behind a stack of cans while his seductive new acquaintance, a woman who calls herself Fox, fires bullets at a menacing fellow named Cross. Then it's off to an incredible car chase--you know the sort: explosions, cars colliding, flying automobiles, inept police officers--and a decision. Will Wesley join the fraternity of assassins that promises to change his life forever or will he go back to his miserable non-existence as an office drone in corporate America?
Wanted: Weapons of Fate could easily have explored the moments that led up to Wesley making that decision, or even the harrowing events that followed. Those were obvious paths to take and they probably would've made for some incredible entertainment. The developers weren't content with that, though. Instead, they chose to beat Hollywood to the sequel. As such, the game picks up just days after the last of the events in the film and it assumes that you're intimately familiar with everything that transpired up to that point. There's no real back story, except in the form of quirky little asides that Wesley--still the narrator--makes for your edification. There are no snippets from the movie. You'll either know exactly what's happening (because you saw the film) or you'll be clueless.
Without getting too specific, the plot begins with Wesley's discovery that there are other chapters of 'The Fraternity,' the group of deadly assassins that he joined in the first installment. In Weapons of Fate, you'll meet some of those other members while also learning more about Wesley's origins. Sometimes this means a trip back in time to experience things from the perspective of his father, but generally the story unfolds in the present day. The occasional jumping around helps to fill in some of the blanks that the movie never bothered to address, but it also means that tension doesn't properly build. You may forget what's even going on unless you really concentrate. Another concern is that some of the important new details are presented in a hokey fashion that cheapens the story that led up to it. What could have been very cool instead resembles fan fiction.
The developers clearly tried to nail the feel of the film, though, and the good news is that some of those efforts bore fruit. It's nice to see even the little touches, like a familiar bullet assembly on the load screen or the availability of a 'Pussy' difficulty level. If you loved how foul-mouthed the characters were on the big screen, by the way, plan for that to continue throughout this game. The 'M' rating is completely justified, and not just because of the copious amounts of blood (though there's plenty of that to go around). Wesley's narration is laced with profanity--not just the mild stuff--and enemies are prone to shouting derogatory terms at regular intervals. In one level that I played, the same male voice called me all sorts of nasty things in the span of maybe 20 or 30 seconds, to the point where it was so over-the-top as to be accidentally ridiculous. Why do all of these bad guys have the same gruff voice and why do they all feel the need to suggest that I defile my mother and suck on various parts of the male anatomy?
Vulgar outbursts aren't the only things the game and movie have in common. The amount of spent ammo is also very similar. Wanted: Weapons of Fate falls quite comfortably into the third-person shooter mold. You can run up to someone and gut him with a squishy-sounding thrust of your knife to his stomach or throat when it suits you, but most of your energy is reserved for the exchange of flying lead as you duck behind destructible bits of the environment and hope that your aim is good enough to wipe out all of the thugs that are gunning for you. If you let yourself run out of ammo, the game can get very frustrating as enemies stand two feet away and pelt you with bullets while you hug a wall that you're using for cover and fiddle with the camera. There's perhaps no sound more frightening than the echo of a hollow chamber when you expected a bang.
Plenty of third-person shooters have flooded the market lately and have challenged players to pump their enemies full of lead, but Weapons of Fate has a unique angle that should come as no surprise to anyone who saw the movie: Wesley can bend the trajectory of bullets. If you're ducked behind a pile of rubble while making your way through the courtyard leading up to an abandoned church, you might find that someone is sniping you from behind the shelter of a stone column. A straight shot simply won't do, but if you've killed enough weaker goons, you can press and hold a button to line up a curved path for your bullet. If you time it right and your target doesn't move, you'll get the satisfaction of flying along the curved arc your bullet follows and watching the individual on the receiving end collapse to the ground as a corpse.
Bullet time also factors into things and for once the popular gimmick fits. Much of your experience involves dashing between bits of cover so that you can lean around an object to shoot, but that doesn't feel very assassin-like. You can get through the game as a primarily defensive player, but the real fun comes from making daring dashes and triggering special moves. These drain your meter that you filled just moments ago with more standard attacks. Everything crawls for just a few seconds and you can send a rain of bullets toward any current threats, filling your meter in the process (if you're any good) so that you can keep it going when the next merry band of thugs arrives on the scene. Late in the game, some foes won't go down unless you use such techniques. While you don't necessarily have a lot of range in terms of the attacks you can mount throughout the adventure, those few moves that do fill your arsenal are put to satisfying use.
That's good news, because the amount of enjoyment you get from the game will relate directly to your interest in the run-and-gun gameplay. There are no car chases, no helicopter rides and no diversionary mini-games, just nine lengthy stages that see you working through one murky environment on your way to another. You can collect hidden scraps of cloth that give you access to concept art and such, which is a nice touch, but that doesn't add meaningful length an adventure that will otherwise end in around five hours. There's only replay value to keep you going.
Wanted: Weapons of Fate is ultimately a better than average game that falls short of the standard set by a terrific movie. Very little of what you'll find here feels particularly fresh in a market saturated by the likes of the Gears of War, Tomb Raider and Uncharted franchises, but there's enough action and mythos at play to keep things interesting for fans of the film. Are you interested in becoming a virtual assassin? Wesley Gibson didn't really have a choice, but you do. Choose wisely.
Staff review by Jason Venter (April 19, 2009)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
If you enjoyed this Wanted: Weapons of Fate review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!