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Review: Wet

Susan Arendt | 29 Sep 2009 13:00
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Wet makes me wish I could rip a hole in the time/space continuum. I'd like nothing more than to throw the game into it and see how femme fatale Rubi's adventures would fare with another six months' worth of polish. With just a bit more time and effort, I have the feeling that Wet could have been the balls-out, sassy shred-a-thon that it wants to be, but as it is, the game's many good ideas and genuinely inspired moments are lost in a sea of mediocrity and sloppiness. What a damn shame.

Wet stars Rubi, a particularly limber acrobatic gun for hire, with a sword and a bad attitude thrown in for free. The reasons for Rubi to be slicing and shooting her way through the game are neither well developed nor interesting, so let's not bother with them. Besides, you're not here for the plot, you're here for the combat, and with good reason. Rubi is truly a thing of beauty as she dives, swings, and rolls her way through a fight, and has plenty of cool moves to keep things interesting. She can slide on her knees, wall run, swing from poles, vault through the air, hang from ledges, ride down ziplines - if you can imagine the Prince of Persia doing it, odds are Rubi can, too, all while sending bullets flying. Her animations as she tumbles, spins, and dives are outstanding and make you feel like a genuine badass.

Until the frustratingly inconsistent controls start getting in your way. Wet's fight scenes are just begging for you to dance a lethal samba right through their middles, but too often you'll come to an abrupt halt because your jump or slide didn't quite register. You can usually recover fairly quickly, but by then any momentum or flow you had is long gone. This is particularly frustrating during the game's many arena sequences, in which you must shut down a requisite number of enemy generators before moving on. These sections are not only a wonderful excuse for you to slaughter enemies with blood-soaked abandon, they're also the perfect opportunity to grind for the style points you'll need to upgrade your abilities. Kill enemies with style - say, by running up a wall, doing a backflip, and pegging them in the head in midair - and you earn points; chain enough kills together and you'll build up your multiplier which nets you an even higher score. It should be loads of fun, but whether or not it actually is depends largely on how well the controls choose to behave at any given moment.

This kind of sloppiness is everywhere in Wet. Dialogue overlaps, scenes end without warning, environments feel empty and half finished. None of it actually breaks the game, but underscores it with an overwhelming feeling of half-assedness that does great disservice to the game's more inspired features, like Wet's grindhouse aesthetic. From the surf music soundtrack to the film scratch overlay to the hilarious movie theater loading screens, Wet's retro shtick is spot on, giving you a wink and a nod before covering you in buckets of blood. The game's Rage levels, in which a blood-soaked Rubi fights her way through a minimalistic landscape of reds, whites, and blacks, are brief brushes with genius. To see such cleverness back to back with bad writing, worse acting, and shoddy AI is almost heartbreaking.

While Wet doesn't try hard enough in some areas, in others it tries too damn hard. It desperately wants you to believe its lead character is a cool and tough-as-nails broad and clubs you over the head with her whiskey-swilling foul mouth as often as it can. She never saw an opportunity to say "fuck" she didn't like or a bottle that she wouldn't rather see broken. She's not written or acted well enough to be ironic, and she's not genuine enough to be cool. Rubi could have been interesting, a female counterpoint to the musclebound mercenaries and marines that we're usually stuck with, but instead she's just a dull caricature with a nice ass.

All of these disappointments aside, there is fun to be had with Wet. Once you've unlocked and purchased enough upgrades to your skills - many of which you should've had from the very first level - Rubi is capable of some awe-inspiring maneuvers that will make you shake your fist with fury at the game's lack of an instant replay. The moments when you can chain together a series of jumps, slides, shots and slashes and send your multiplier into the stratosphere are nuggets of giggle-inducing gaming glee that are almost - but not quite - good enough to distract you from the last-gen graphics and uncooperative camera.

Bottom Line: With just a little more polish and thought, Wet could've been a brash and ballsy shooter. It has plenty of good ideas but is just broken enough to be forgettable and disappointing.

Recommendation: Spend a weekend getting your jollies out of Rubi, then toss her aside and forget you ever knew her.

Score:

Susan Arendt is adding "Wet" to her list of Dumbest Game Titles Ever. Yes, it's an actual list.

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