Wanted: Weapons of Fate (PS3)
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 and tested on the Xbox 360. There is a mandatory install on the PS3 version, and Trophies are supported.
Wesley Gibson isn't a hero. Sure, he's the lead character of a comic series, a movie and now a game, but he's not a hero. All he wants is to screw the people who are screwing him. And that's what makes Wanted: Weapons of Fate so enjoyable. Every time you're pinned down and curve a bullet into the guy who's shooting at you, it feels extra-satisfying.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Ever had a boss you really, really hated? Really mad about those AIG bonuses? Weapons of Fate is for you.
Weapons of Fate picks up shortly after the 2008 movie. In the film, Wesley Gibson (played by James McAvoy) was inducted into a secret order of assassins, transforming from wimpy office drone into the same kind of über-assassin his father Cross was. At the end of the movie, Wesley breaks the mystical Loom of Fate -- which spits out names of people that the assassins must kill -- and decides to be the master of his own destiny.
The game delves into the mystery of Wesley's mother and exposes more of the universe that the Fraternity operates in. Turns out Wesley's mom was an expert bullet-thrower, too, from a rival assassin guild in France. Weapons of Fate mirrors the comics in a way that fans of the comic should like. In Mark Millar's and J.G. Jones' story, super-villains slaughtered the do-gooders and took over the world, carving it up into factions that abided by a tense truce. In Weapons of Fate, the destruction of the Loom of Fate destabilizes the balance of power, bringing the international Fraternities into conflict with regard to rebuilding the Loom.
Certain levels will have you playing as Cross as the intertwined pasts of the Russian, French and Spanish Fraternities come to light. When Wesley's mom Alyse became pregnant with him, the Immortal, head of the French Fraternity, declared that assassins were fit only to take life, not create it, and issued a kill order for Cross' love. Wesley's tracking the people responsible for his mother's death, which also plays out in those flashbacks where you play as Cross.
In the Wanted movie, the super-assassins could bend bullets around objects to hit their intended targets. That power gets turned into a unique gameplay mechanic. Once you earn the ability, you can plot an arc for your bullets by pressing a shoulder button and turning either analog stick. You'll have to gain adrenaline by racking up kills to keep curving. Leveling up adds more adrenaline slots, and increased adrenaline abilities will later allow you to enter slow-mo Assassin Time.
Like most contemporary shooters, Weapons of Fate relies heavily on a cover system. But the developers have tweaked it so you progressively gain speed as you sprint from spot to spot. It's called cover chaining; and done correctly, you can effectively teleport around an enemy while they're looking at where you used to be. The best thing about cover chaining and Assassin Time is not just that they're clever play concepts that offer new wrinkles on tried-and-true shooter play; it's that they use gameplay to explain elements in the larger fiction. How did the assassins in the movie seemingly zip around and surprise their targets? Hyperfast misdirection and spatial intuition that the game puts in your hand.
The links between the different iterations of Wanted don't stop there, either. Seeds for the return of Angelina Jolie's Fox get sown in Weapons of Fate -- her body's missing -- and Cross gets called the Killer in the game, just as he was called in the comic. Cross wears the comic's black leather bodysuit during his missions, and late in the game Wesley acquires his father's habit and high-powered guns as well.
This Wesley is slightly closer to the comics' Wesley: more vulgar, more of a cold-hearted, ball-busting, hard-ass than the perpetually stunned wimp in the movie. That's largely due to the sound-alike doing the voice acting. (Rapper Common shows up in a new role as an early boss, but doesn't really add much.)
Due to the fact that Weapons of Fate jams in unlockable comics covers, team commentary and concept art, one of the Trophies/Achievements you can earn is ?"Collector Nerd."
The game's progression feels well balanced and well paced. Weapons of Fate rolls out several tiers of enemies with varying levels of artificial intelligence, so you'll have to vary strategy to a certain degree during the game's levels. Curved bullet strikes are often one-hit kills, so they help you save on ammo. The amount of stop-and-pop is leavened with beeping proximity mines and screaming knife-wielders that force you into Quick Time button-mash knife fights. Even these seemingly throwaway elements gets ramped up as the game goes on, forcing you to pay attention to audio cues while shooting your way through levels.
Weapons of Fate also sports clever turret sections where there's a connection between mowing down enemies and maintaining the built-in cover of the shield. Aided by a surprisingly good rock/techno soundtrack, the sniper sequences create a different kind of tension, and a few sprawling set pieces -- which you fly through on rails -- evoke the movie's final balletic battle. Overall, the action feels leaner and quicker than in, say, 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand.
Much of what makes Weapons of Fate feel so good is the attitude it puts forth. The developers called their M-rated game's beginner difficulty "Pussy," which is exactly in line with the movie. This is more than just a licensed-property game that doesn't suck; it's one that actually improves and deepens the source material into which it's integrating itself. The game's plot expands on the movie's quasi-spiritual themes by looking at how zealotry and dogma -- doing what others tell you -- can result in hells of our own devising. Weapons of Fate manages to weave its themes into the gameplay really well. In these times, Wanted's message of taking radical control of your life makes for a resonant subtext. Don't be surprised if some of the game's vulgar scorn rubs off on you. Be warned: You might like it.
This review was based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.