When I saw the initial trailers for Wanted: Dead by developers Soleil and 110 Industries I thought the game looked bonkers and just plain fun. After playing through the campaign, I found it is indeed fun and insane but lacks direction when pulling the elements together.
Set in a fictional future where a great war de-stabilized the world, Wanted: Dead takes place in a dystopian Hong Kong controlled by a corporation called Dauer Synthetics. The lead character, Lt. Hannah Stone, heads the Zombie Unit, a private police unit that investigates the worst criminal activities in the city.
The story is, frankly, all over the place, veering from the actual story beats to showing snippets of Stone’s background via anime cutscenes and semi-interactive past case or life memories. The core of the games story focuses on bad goings-on at Dauer Synthetics and a rebellion of said Synthetics that is not what it seems.
During the true meat of the game—the combat levels—the story beats continue to carry on with small dialogue sequences, in-game (and pseudo in-game) cutscenes as well as radio chatter. This is where Wanted: Dead starts to shine, and stumble, as Stone fights through hordes of baddies.
I found that the majority of the combat was a little blasé. Sure, there are multiple gun types, and there is melee combat with Stone’s trusty katana, but enemy by enemy the routine combat was a little stale, until I focused on finishing moves. As Stone gains experience more skills can be unlocked. My favorites were ones that allowed finishers to trigger more often.
At the late stage of the game if I stunned, sliced off an arm (or leg) or used the adrenaline power, I could quickly trigger a finisher. If more than one enemy was affected I would get them all. I probably triggered this hundreds of times and it never got old with over 50 of these; I was giggling nearly every time she did some over-the-top, and cool, deadly attack on an enemy.
After this point the gun types, environmental attacks and katana strikes served to only fuel my ability to trigger these finishers. It made the combat almost like a puzzle at times, which made it more enjoyable. There is a VERY steep difficulty curve in combat; I found at times I was mowing baddies down but other times I would get killed often, and checkpoints were very unforgiving.
Combat is the main focus of the game, but between missions the unit is back at Police HQ, which is seemingly infested with cats, and some seriously odd characters and mini-games. I suspect the developers were huge fans of the Yakuza series because these mini-games are ripped right from there, but with clunkier implementations.
Karaoke, ramen eating, a whole pixelated videogame and a shooting range are just some of the mini-games that dot the Police HQ. These games are entertaining at first, but the inputs get complex and unwieldy at times, and there is limited point to even trying them more than once so I was just confused at their inclusion.
On top of the odd mini-games there is a definite quirky slant to all the characters. All of the Zombie Squad are disgraced ex-military or have similar backgrounds, and have weird foibles. One is a degenerate savant, the other a neurotic worrier and Cortez, well Cortez is just plain cool.
There is also a side character, Vivienne Niemantsverdriet, voiced by Stephanie Joosten of MGS V fame, who has an unnecessarily detailed backstory. She is a retired Olympic medalist who then became a celebrity chef before joining the police as a Gunsmith. It is just all so weird; the developer even made a series of YouTube cooking episodes featuring her fictional show called Vivienne’s Late Night Chow.
I truly think Soleil and 110 Industries had a lot of great wonky ideas and put them all in the blender, making a drink that is satisfying but hard to digest at times. The gameplay is solid, the story is bonkers and the characters and world are creative with a mixture of fun and obnoxious elements.
In the end Wanted: Dead is a game worth checking out if just to see what the heck it is trying to do. It will not revolutionize any aspect of the genres it dabbles in, but it is a weird and quirky enough experience that I think people will be talking about it possibly more than they play it.
Wanted: Dead is available right now on PC via Steam, PlayStation and Xbox systems. We were given a PS5 code for review purposes.