WET - PS3 - Review
There’s something irresistible about Rubi Malone.
If you’ve met her, you’ve probably noticed. Her eyes, as dark as the thick, tousled locks that conceal them, are as mesmerizing for their beauty as the secrets they hide. Her lips surely tender no clues, moistened by the whiskey she swallows in gulps, but as she lifts her tattooed arms and dries her pouty, provocative pair of the golden, malted-grain spirits trickling down them, the scorching sun glistens off her sweaty midriff, and secrets stop mattering.
It’s easy to fall head-over-heels for Rubi Malone, but if you don’t do so on your own accord, it’s easier for her to send you head-over-heels herself.
If you’ve met Rubi Malone, see, chances are you’re already dead.
The fatal raven-haired protagonist of Artificial Mind and Movement’s WET, Rubi is a professional problem-solver — a “fixer,” if you prefer. For the right amount of money, she’ll do almost anything, and she certainly doesn’t allow her conscience to obstruct a potential payday. Rubi doesn’t ask questions, and she seems to show no contrition for the things she’s paid to do.
Or the people she’s paid to kill.
While her sexy style is her most obvious appeal, Rubi’s amoral outlook on the world around her is perhaps her most captivating trait. For Rubi, there’s no right or wrong, just or unjust, fair or unfair — there is only a customer, an assignment and, most importantly, a briefcase of cash. Indeed, even as she hunts down genuine villains in WET’s story and executes them one-by-one, she only seems to do so because they’ve screwed her out of a payment.
Rubi’s unscrupulous ethos is perhaps best illustrated in the game’s finale, when she decapitates a drug lord who hired her to bring him his rival’s only son, whom he murders. Rubi hasn’t hunted him to levy justice for the killing, though — she does so because he didn’t pay her, and after she exacts her revenge, she picks up a stack of blood-soaked cash near his corpse.
“Eh, close enough,” she mutters as she walks away, counting the bills and offering no apology to the father of the young man she brought to death.
Heroes don’t work for villains. Heroes don’t create piles of corpses just to claim piles of cash. Rubi Malone isn’t a hero — she’s an anti-hero, and her character is more interesting because of it. She’s the star of a show packed with bizarre, eccentric characters who give WET a unique charm and also fuel the game’s Tarantino-esque narrative and strong cinematic flair.
Despite all the game does well in terms of story and staging, however, it doesn’t quite fulfill the promise of either. A few gameplay flaws hinder what might’ve been, and nimble Rubi doesn’t move as smoothly as she should.
Maybe it’s the whiskey.
Though it’s a third-person shooter with genetics similar to Max Payne and Stranglehold, WET splices those influences with the acrobatic DNA of Tomb Raider and Prince of Persia, resulting in unique gameplay that tries to be as sleek and stylish as the game’s presentation. Players are tasked with killing enemies consecutively, stacking the dead in the highest combinations and chains possible while Rubi gracefully scampers through levels as if she’s performing an interpretive dance routine, albeit an extremely fatal one.
Imagine a gymnast shooting pistols as she whirls and twirls through midair, in fact, and you’ll have a good point of comparison for Rubi’s bloody ballet.
In motion, WET’s surreal, high-flying action can appear complex, but it’s really just a matter of a few buttons. When Rubi meets a group of enemies, you can initiate an acrobatic kill by diving, sliding or running across a nearby wall. Begin firing a weapon in motion, and the camera automatically enters a slow-motion mode — this is where things get interesting. Because she dual-wields any weapon you’ve equipped, she can fire at two enemies in unison. While Rubi automatically aims at one foe, you’ll handle aiming at another, and you can chain several kills before her deadly dance concludes.
In continuity with WET’s presentation strengths, Rubi’s murderous flair is wickedly stylish, but unfortunately, it’s often hampered by awkward controls. Given the game’s acrobatic nature, you’ll want to pirouette through its levels smoothly, but controlling Rubi sometimes feels painfully imprecise, which is counterproductive to the nimble, run-and-gun feel WET strives to create.
The game’s biggest issues, however, are repetition and anticlimax.
Once the initial rush of stringing together acrobatic headshots wears off, WET’s substance proves comparatively thinner than its rich style. Although the game tries to prevent eventual monotony by adding occasional twists to Rubi’s journey, including on-rails car chases in which she rides atop moving vehicles and an airborne scene in which she plummets from a crashing jet, the repetitive nature of the bulk of the levels can become a tad tiresome.
Repetition might’ve been overlooked, however, if not for WET’s tendency toward the anticlimactic, a flaw mostly evident in the game’s insistence on using quick-time events during its coolest moments. From chase scenes to boss battles, WET takes control away from the players just when it starts getting most interesting by forcing you into lame button-prompt QTEs.
Because there’s nothing more exciting than a button prompt.
I’m not necessarily opposed to QTEs, but when its plot builds to a stirring crescendo, the game should entrust control of rabid, revenge-fueled Rubi to the player so invested in the story and eager to inflict retribution, but instead, WET turns to pre-canned button sequences. It preserves the game’s superb cinematic presentation, sure, but it does so at the sake of interactivity.
Grindhouse film and cinematography are fine influences, but particularly for those dramatic apexes, a little self-reflection might’ve done WET well.
After all, it’s playing in a video-game console, not a drive-in theater.
But drawbacks aren’t the only result of its film influences. Grindhouse film homages define WET’s eccentric style, from its over-the-top vulgarities and exaggerated violence to its gritty graphics, and though it isn’t a stunner on a technical level, the game’s style is consistently engrossing. Whether it’s the deliberately textured film-grain graphics filter or the abrupt cut of a filmstrip when Rubi dies, these theatrical touches amplify the crudeness of WET’s warped, iniquitous, sinful and blood-soaked B-movie visual revelry.
Rubi’s rage modes, during which she enters a murderous rampage and the graphics shift to stylized red, white and black, are especially nice touches.
WET’s stellar presentation is further fueled by its energetic soundtrack, a highlight I’d be remiss not to mention. The music is an ideal companion for the game’s seedy tone, featuring lyrics that often accentuate the action on-screen — during one of her arena battles, a song warns “my baby’s driving me insane” as Rubi slices through her enemies like butter. Featuring acts such as The Arkhams, Creepin’ Cadavers and Gypsy Pistoleros, WET’s rocking soundtrack is a masterfully assembled rarity truly worth noting.
But once the roar of the amplifiers fades and the nefarious thrill caused by WET’s tight pants, stylish kills and vulgar language loses its novelty, is there enough of a game beneath the pools of blood to warrant interest? Ultimately, that depends on your expectations — like the sleazy films it prides itself on mimicking, WET is an unapologetically sordid exercise in blood, sex, and rock ‘n roll, a made-for-popcorn slab of flawed-but-fun action gaming.
I don’t know about you, but that’s more than enough for me.
Rubi’s stylish slow-motion kills are as fun to perform as they are to watch, and they’re extremely satisfying to chain together. Otherwise, controlling her can occasionally feel a little imprecise, which can result in cheap deaths.
WET’s fantastic style covers up its average, run-of-the-mill graphics.
One of the highlights of the game’s presentational elements, WET has an excellent soundtrack and voice work highlighted by actress Elisha Dushku’s performance as Rubi Malone. The music, in particular, is perfectly fitting.
In addition to multiple difficulty modes, WET features a steadily increasing challenge that can be quite difficult in the later levels and arena battles.
WET’s vulgar, bloody, grindhouse-inspired concept is sinfully entertaining and well-done, and the acrobatic, slow-motion combat is a lot of fun, too.
Like the films from which it draws inspiration, WET is an unapologetically sordid exercise in blood, sex, and rock ‘n roll, a made-for-popcorn slab of flawed-but-fun action gaming. And that’s more than enough for me.