Wanted: Dead (XSX) Review with stream
Mini games are fun
High action at certain moments can be exhilarating
Pacing issues - sometimes enemies can murder you in one unfair hit/combo
Low quality voice acting with repeating phrases
Enemies can instantly spawn behind you
Wanted: Dead was announced roughly two years ago with a focus on high-action combat. Since then, additional information has leaked, mainly that some of the team involved with the reboot of the Ninja Gaiden series were involved. Hopes were set high.
By far the best part are the mini-games that are scattered throughout. Claw games, rhythm games, and old school side scrolling shooters litter the title. New games are introduced constantly, almost always at the end of a level, and almost all of them are a welcome change of play. Some are stronger than others, mainly the side scroller is much more polished feeling than the karaoke – although the ladder has the full version of 99 Red Balloons. The mini-games themselves almost make the campaign worth playing.
Unfortunately, the mini games are distractions from the main gameplay and that is were things start to decline.
The battle mechanics consist of melee attacks and long range (gun based) attacks. Attacking with anything that isn’t the melee attack is pretty close to a waste of time because guns doing little damage, only headshots having any noticeable impact, and weapons have next to no ammo when at full capacity. The only thing that can successfully mix things up is the handgun, which only really is useful to extend the combo—and all of this before taking into consideration that all melee attacks are done with one button.
Another problem is the difficulty. There is an easy mode present, but it takes entirely too long to activate and feels more like it should have been the default setting. In the first level, on the default difficulty, there is an enemy that does 100% damage in a 3 hit combo that cannot be broken. On the easier difficulty this attack only takes half of the health. That might sound fine, but later on there is an invisible boss that has an attack that does 95% damage from full health—on the lower difficulty. The pacing can hit the extremes along with your anger levels.
Then you have the unpolished corners that have to be considered. Enemies randomly spawn around the player, mostly directly behind them in a room that has already been cleared. After spawning, a mob can then seemingly do random damage depending on how the game feels you are doing. Don’t forget that these enemies will also randomly spawn in objects, soft-locking the game, or decide that they no longer have collision and can walk through walls to get at the player in a more timely manner. It also drops down to single digit frame rates on the Series X from almost no discernible reasons.
The voice acting is bad. It isn’t the “so bad it is good,” in the same way that Deadly Premonition or Lollipop Chainsaw were, but instead the kind of bad voice acting you would see in 90s dubbed anime. When not grating and doing nonsensical story beats, they are repeating the same lines throughout. One of the more common lines is a character calling out enemy reinforcements; I was a chunk of the way through the game before I released this was the man character speaking as it sounded nothing like her from any other scene.
Despite the title supposedly having the pedigree and grind house theme on its side, Wanted: Dead manages to miss at almost every mark. It is too hard for its own good, falls on the wrong side of meme worthy plot, battle that seems empty, and the same enemies repeated throughout—there are dozens of reasons to avoid this title, even if the mini-games are kind of fun. Curious fans of action titles, like Ninja Gaiden, might want to wait for a deep discount sale at best.