canuckeh's WET (Xbox 360) review

Nothing to get soiled over

 

The female orgasm and gaming have by and large been kept two separate entities for decades. While its easy for male gamers whom have never known a kiss beyond their mother to seek arousal from a blocky Playstation-era Lara Croft and her triangular cleavage, women tend to need a bit more. The onset of force-feedback controllers and in particular that Rez vibrator thingy have given grrl gamers too ashamed to buy a real sex toy something to get themselves hot and bothered with, and now we have the first ever major-budgeted console video game named after female stimulation. Ironically, it’s published by the same company that publishes one of the most medieval-themed (and thus female-repellent) franchises of all time in The Elder Scrolls. So in that regard, Wet is a historical step forward.

(I couldn’t think of any other way to start this review. That’s how you know you’ve written too many reviews for your own good.)

Wet puts you in the role of one of the most masculine characters in all of gaming. This individual does more swearing than exhaling, drinks scotch and shoots the bottle afterwards for no rational reason, opens fire on everything with phallic guns and pierces everything else with a phallic sword, shows no emotion aside from certified roid rage, and has little in the way of redeeming qualities that people can relate to. Kratos doesn’t even have a fraction of this person’s testosterone.

And her name is Rubi, and she is a bounty hunter. The whole story of the game involves  Rubi being screwed over by almost every character she runs into (and striking fear and dread from the ones that don’t.) Subsequently, revenge follows. I’ve heard that Wet is another of those games that has intentions of being “cinematic” but its about as cinematically creative as the ever insipid Uncharted games…except that Bethesda is too busy tattering with Fallout expansions to give Wet half the marketing budget of Drake’s treasure quests. The story is inconsequential, the ending is abrupt and the disconnect between plot and gameplay (more on this in a jiffy) leaves the game feeling kind of dry. Plus, unless you enjoy unmitigated badasses with less human traits than Dexter, or you’re a lesbian, then there’s little about Rubi as a character that one can be made to care about. This only becomes a problem when you consider how the ending teases a sequel, and thus Rubi is meant to be carrying a franchise on her macho shoulders.

Remember Max Payne? Remember how you could spent all of that game making diving jumps from side to side in slow motion, sort of picking people off before you landed, got back up and made yet another dramatic jump? Remember how afterwards, just about every other game released had its own imitation slow-motion gimmick? Well, Wet is banking on you forgetting about those days because this game has so much slow motion action occurring that the game may as well been designed for Franklin the Turtle. In this action game, Rubi can enter Bullet Time with more ease than she can climax, with the freedom to jump, rock star-slide, swing from poles and ladders while opening fire in a time-slowed stoner state. The thrill of Rubi Time doesn’t quite match the initial thrill of Max Payne Bullet Time on account that you can’t see the enemy bullets whiz by, rather it exists as your aiming crutch.

For you see, Rubi’s big trick is that she will automatically open fire on one enemy with one firearm while you manually aim your other firearm at another. The tactical benefit, according to a load screen, is that firing at two enemies at once prevents both from firing back. And that is the greatest benefit, as opposed to “scoring two headshots and insta-killing both fools” as these enemies can absorb a whole lot of munitions. Even once you’ve maxxed out bullet upgrades, these enemies have drank enough milk in their childhood to absorb 3-4 headshots without their skull collapsing. The quickest way to a man’s heart, rather, is with a sword slash, of which are primarily dealt with the same three-hit combo that every video game character post-Mario 64 has been assigned to.

But don’t interpret that to mean that the gunplay action in Wet is loose or disease-ridden. The game moves at a mostly brisk pace, in spite of the constant slow motion. Rubi is consistently either stabbing something or jumping from one platform to another, Prince of Persia-style, and thinking of stabbing something. Neither mechanic is ever given a chance to get overexposed and stagnant, and you’ll almost never be at a loss of what to do and which direction to go. Also, once you start purchasing upgrades that enable abilities, such as firing from poles or ziplines, then the combat as a whole becomes more interesting. Suddenly, you start welcoming the advent of a battle arena; an event where the player must slay all enemies and their respawning points, while accumulating score multipliers for increased points and health-regeneration. (That self-regenerating health only works if you have a high multiplier…isn’t it refreshing to not have a game character who’s health regenerates by sheer willpower? No, Rubi needs hard booze and lots of points to heal instead.)

But like that girlfriend who’s too conservative to experiment in the bedroom, Wet quickly runs out of tricks to arouse you with. You’ll go through one Gatling gun sequence too many, that’s for sure. Every time you acquire a new weapon, the game “flashbacks” to a time Rubi was on her ranch, running through an obstacle course practice session with the new gun that you only picked three months after said flashback. Funny how time works. Another understimulating trick; when the game enters “Rubi vision”, which is when Rubi musters a decidedly uneffeminate rage; all that changes is that the game becomes Killer7-red and enemies quickly die in an explosion of white, sticky ooze. And this game is supposed to appeal to the male libido. This Rubi-vision nonsense happens more than frequently enough to wear out its welcome. A car-chase sequence near the beginning of the game is pretty thrilling at first; here, you fire your guns while quick-time event-jumping from one car to another in a scripted-but-exciting moment. That level loses its novelty when you are made to repeat it verbatim at a later stage with Rubi vision.

Speaking of quick-time events, the game has several. The problem is that they exist in the place of, say, boss fights. Going back to the earlier point of disconnection, the game cutscenes spend a good amount of time introducing assorted new characters as tough villains that eat more lead than Matt Hazard and are twice as fearsome. However, you’ll never actually fight these characters, so much as you’ll have button-press-offs with them, engaging in scripted and anti-climatic cinema battles that leave you feeling robbed of a real duel. The game’s final level is, quite literally, one big quick-time event, which alone should explain part of why Wet leaves players feeling unsatisfied and unfinished.

The closest the game gets to a “boss fight” is a single character, one very important to the plot, that fights you with a Gatling gun. This guy absorbs bullets in large quantities, and is beaten by giving him his fill until a button appears on his head to trigger the quick-time event. You will then fight many more identical Gatling gun enemies, all of whom are very unimportant to the plot, in every arena battle thereafter. Call it the “Bane Effect”, after the repeated steroid boss fights from Arkham Asylum that followed your battle with the once-important juice monkey Bane.

Oh, and there’s a whole grindhouse motif somewhere within all the game. The whole game is presented in a film grain, and some of the game’s many load times are disguised with drive-in snack bar ads from the 70s. It’s something of a shame that the joke wears out its welcome after the second ad, and that the game makes no other attempt to play up the cheese and grit of those exploitation films. For all attempts and purposes, the “grindhouse” gimmick feels tacked on, less a homage to bad movies than an attempt to differentiate the game from the Heavenly Swords and Devil May Crys of the world. If you want real 70s glee, go play House of the Dead: Overkill.

And as for Wet, it’s actually not terrible or even too exploitative, but its just not great either. It’s an action game destined to be flooded in the holiday wave of big-budget action game releases. Unless you absolutely need some kind of new version of Max Payne to play right freaking now, then Wet can be brushed aside until it swims in the more shallow bargain bins of stores across the country. For what its worth, it at least feels more unique than the assorted Gears of War clones that are starting to overpopulate the market. So in that regard, Wet is at least a bit tantalizing, even if it won’t produce a climax out of most gamers.

3 ½ stars

1 Comments
Posted by KyleBaron

Very well written.

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