If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then WET is positively dripping with love for all manner of iconic videogame classics. Its combat is a heady mixture of Stranglehold, Max Payne and Bloodrayne, fused with arena sections and scoring mechanics ripped from Sega’s ill-fated The Club and, bizarrely, Tony Hawks Pro Skater. The platforming owes a huge debt to obvious reference point Lara Croft, and far more prominently to last year’s Prince of Persia – with heroine Rubi Malone aping the same level of fluidity and animation as she glides – cursing all the way – between sections of geometry.
But perhaps WET’s greatest source of inspiration comes from Quentin Tarantino; specifically Death Proof and the infinitely superior Kill Bill. The plot, aptly, is unashamedly B-movie fare and incomprehensible for the most part, whilst the portrayal of Rubi steers clear of videogame cliché and presents our lead as a lady of few, strong words. Eliza Dushku’s performance is infinitely better than her previous abortive attempt in Sega’s Yakuza, here providing just the right amount of menace and malice without transforming Rubi into a one-dimensional cut-out.
Whilst the artistic premise breeds an expected visual style, WET’s grungy look still manages to impress during cinematics and play, with a noisy, scratchy film grain post-processing effect carefully treading the line between atmospheric addition and general annoyance. Switch this off and the cracks begin to emerge however, with a graphical engine suitable for a first or second generation 360 or PS3 title, and hardly up to the visual opulence of Ninja Gaiden 2 or the upcoming God of War 3.
Combat, also, is a little predictable – if finely tuned and entertaining. Rubi’s weaponry extends to the usual pistol, shotgun, machinegun and ranged explosive varieties, with a sword available should you carelessly slide or dive into enemies. Much of the action is played out around bullet-time, with an unlimited amount of slow motion available whilst Rubi utilises one of the many ‘acrobatic moves’ in place of running head-first into trouble.
But it’s within those confines that WET delivers a grander experience than genre-mate Stranglehold. 360-degree targeting, environmental takedowns and just the right amount of auto-aim allow you to chain together sequences and combination kills that, crucially, hit the right amount of style without ever wrestling too much control from the player. It’s the antithesis of the cleanliness and precision of many shooters, quickly becoming about the most visually gratifying route you can take through any area, rather than the most efficient. Whilst many games lay claim to such a goal, WET is one of the precious few that mostly delivers on the promise.
The finest extension of this philosophy comes within the ‘Rage’ sections, signalled with an Uma Thurman style blood splatter to the face, crash zoom and warning siren. The stark red, black and white visuals that follow are superbly implemented, with the inspired soundtrack and increased movement speed providing a welcome change of pace that never overstays its welcome.
And that largely holds true to the rest of the game. A2M seems to have taken specific lessons from the monotony of other titles in the genre, ensuring that Rubi rarely finds herself stuck in a rut. Each one of the core gameplay segments (platforming, arena combat, quicktime events, score challenges, vehicle sections, mounted guns) takes anywhere between 2-15 minutes to complete, and a swift progression of new skills ensures that each level has its own hook. A few, predictably, fall a little flat, but for the most part Rubi’s journey is a short one that sticks to a consistent level of quality.
But as welcome as the consistency is, it ultimately keeps WET from rising too far above expectations. A2M deserve credit for bolting together a slick gameplay package that generally works despite the variety, but the Grindhouse stylings remain the most prominent draw above gameplay quality. An unexpected gem then, but one that lacks lustre despite the polish.