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Preview: Wet

| 20 Aug 2009 21:39
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Things get slippery when we go hands-on with Artificial Mind and Movement's hyper-stylized shooter, which turns out to be a bit more than just a straight up kill-a-thon.

"I hope you shoot better than you f**k."

Rubi Malone, the protagonist of Artificial Mind and Movement's action-fest Wet, isn't the sultry, mysterious kind of femme fatale. She's like The Bride from Kill Bill, minus the tragic backstory. Basically, she kills stuff and is a mean, mean lady. She swears (example above). She kills people while sliding down a ladder upside down, she kills them while doing mid-air flips, she shoots them while running along walls. She opens doors with a katana ("F**k you door!"), drinks whiskey to regenerate her health, then throws the bottle in the air and shoots it.

If Rubi Malone, who's voiced by Buffy and Dollhouse star Eliza Dushku, sounds like some kind of amalgam of Lara Croft and Dante from Devil May Cry, you wouldn't be too far off from an estimate about how her game plays. Wet has the over-the-top gun-and-sword play of a modern third-person action title plus the platforming and feminine wiles of a Tomb Raider, all dolled up with a pitch-perfect 70s B-movie vibe.

Rubi basically lives her life in super slow-motion. At the press of a button she'll do an acrobatic leap, a rock star style slide across the floor or a wall-run (all in slow-mo, obviously), at which point you can pull the R trigger, which brings up a reticle and a cursor that sticks to an auto-chosen target. You control the reticle to shoot one gun, the game auto-fires onto the other target, and you can rack up double, triple, quadruple kills in a single slow-mo maneuver.

Kill 'em all, kill 'em in a cool-ass way, and kill 'em while talking trash to them. That's one half of Wet. The other half, which I spent the second part of my two-hour test drive of the game with, is less blood-pumping. In sharp contrast to the non-stop killing fields of the first couple levels, I was dropped into a seaside fortress surrounded by mines. Getting past them meant perfectly timed jumps, climbing along walls and, believe it or not, dodging falling explosive barrels. A mistake meant instant death, and straight back to the last checkpoint, which wasn't always conveniently placed.

Sounds less Devil May Cry and more Prince of Persia, right? As a fan of over-the-top action I found myself digging into the gunplay of Wet, which, if some of the mechanics are obtusely presented, still looks really cool and is satisfying on the most fundamental "I'm killing dudes with a sexy girl" level, but the platforming was something of a buzzkill.

There's even more of it in the challenge levels I tried out where you need to take Rubi through a series of hoops while shooting targets. These aren't optional levels, and they're difficult in the same brazenly artificial way the platforming is: if you miss a hoop or a jump, you're going to have to run all the way back around and find it again. Usually I'm not one to fuss, but I asked the producer to skip me forward to more shooting.

Wet certainly has more variety than you'd expect it to. In between the shooting and platforming, I was treated to a QTE-filled interlude in which Rubi did some "car-hopping" across the Golden Gate Bridge, jumping from car-to-car in moving traffic, bounding off the sides of 18 wheelers, killing folks with her katana along the way. It was exhilarating stuff, a bit like the Pegasus level in God of War II, except with uh, cars instead of Pegasuses.

I'm not entirely sure on what the ratio is for just straight up killing to platforming is in Wet, but the game could turn out to be a bit uneven if it's 1:1. Otherwise, it certainly seems to be a stylish and fun experience, a nice dose of gaming's simpler pleasures done up with a heap of retro flair and R-rated attitude. Fans of Stranglehold, Devil May Cry and Eliza Dushku's voice would do well to keep an eye on Wet when it hits stores September 15.

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