Happy Valentine’s Day or Single Awareness day. February 14 is not only a holiday focused on romance and fertility but also the release of Wanted: Dead.
Last year, I met with Soleil Ltd. and 110 Industries to preview their upcoming game, Wanted: Dead. During that preview of the game, I was not sure what exactly to expect from it but now that I have finally got my hands on it, it was exactly what I expected. You are probably wondering, what did you expect? Well, the easy answer is a blend of cyberpunk and 90s retro elements showing corporations as evil entities who want to control everything.
Now after diving into Wanted: Dead, I can clearly see that my theory was correct. While playing through the game, it is easy to see elements of Ninja Gaiden and dead or alive. With that in mind, I knew that I would be in for a challenge and the game did not disappoint. However, there were more challenges than I expected. Beyond the story, the game features a variety of activities for the player to enjoy while bonding with their team.
This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review or read the full review of the below:
Developer: Sun Ltd.
Publisher: 110 Industries SA
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, & PlayStation 5
Release Date: February 14th, 2023
Price: $59.99 USD
Wanted: Dead Story
Wanted: Dead is the story of Hannah Stone, a former war criminal turned Lieutenant leading the Hong Kong Zombie Police Unit. After a break-in at Dauer Synthetics, the captain sends the unit to reinforce local units.
Rather than waiting for permission to enter the building, Stone makes the decision to enter and investigate. This leads the unit to investigate the break-in and encounter the thieves. Surprisingly, these thieves are not your run-of-the-mill thieves but high-tech mercenaries.
Due to entering the facility without permission, Stone and the team are reprimanded for their actions, making them an enemy out of Dauer Synthetics. This leads us to the overarching plot of the team investigating the Dauer Synthetics break-in & disturbances around Hong Kong.
At the end of the story, it felt like the overall narrative is too short despite it solves the mystery behind the break-in. The final cutscene alludes to there being more than meets the eyes; either it is leading to a sequel or eventual DLC.
Wanted Dead Gameplay
Wanted: Dead‘s gameplay is a blend of hack-and-slash combat with third-person shooter mechanics. While playing through the story, the player can take time to relax and bond with the team by completing a variety of mini-games.
As the player kills enemies they earn skill points; skill points can also be earned by picking up collectibles and executing the enemy. These skill points can be used to unlock skills in the offense, defense, or utility tree. I highly recommend unlocking the base level for each of the three trees within the first level.
Prior to starting the game, the player can choose between normal or hard difficulties; the game does show the Japanese hard mode as a difficulty but it is not available at the start. These three difficulties are not the only difficulties available within the game.
Wanted: Dead also features a secret game mode for those wanting to just experience the story, but you have to earn it first. The fourth game mode is called Neko-chan mode and is unlocked by dying multiple times within the same level. If you are ultimately looking to experience just the story, then this mode is for you.
The combat of Wanted: Dead is no easy task to master. For fans of Ninja Gaiden gold dead or alive, you will notice a lot of similar gameplay elements. Hacking your enemies to pieces can be a lot of fun, but only in small encounters.
Trying to fight with the sword can be overwhelming when swarmed with enemies. Players need to switch between shooting, slashing, countering, and even throwing the occasional grenade in order to survive.
Countering is a rather important feature of the game; players have two options in order to counter attacks. The first and most memorable option to counter an attack is to block the attack. Executing a perfect block will allow the player to counterattack.
Players can counter a strong attack by shooting the enemy with their sidearm; a red warning symbol will appear over an enemy’s head indicating that a strong attack is coming. Executions in the game can be satisfying, but unless you trigger the right condition, it is very easy to get the same one.
Story & Gameplay Thoughts
Looking at Wanted: Dead’s gameplay and story it is hard to judge how a player will receive the game. At times, the combat feels rather unfair and even frustrating. Gamers who are not fans of Ninja Gaiden or others will very easily be put off by the game. Camera control when trying to jump from enemy to enemy in combat can feel rather slow, making it hard to rotate between enemies.
During my playthrough, I did not find an easy way to rotate between enemies during combat. Even focusing on agile enemies could be difficult. Yes, it makes for intense combat, but enemies rapidly moving around can be exhausting on the eyes.
In combat, the player receives three health packs that they can use to heal LT. Stone, but at times they feel pointless. The first time the player is downed they will be healed by Doc. Players can also pick up ammo and health packs from enemies they killed but these drops feel too randomized.
Combat in the game can be fun and challenging but the game crashes and returning to checkpoints can be exhausting. When the player dies, any skill unlocked after that checkpoint will be reset so you will need to reunlock any skills you want to have. The game does offer a variety of skills and weapon attachments to choose between, but in a way, they feel rather lackluster. Gun alterations feel rather minimalistic and unimpactful.
The game’s story feels like it has a disconnect. Rather than explaining what is about to happen, the player is just thrown into the situation; in a way, it would have been a good idea for Soleil Ltd. to flesh out the story more. Additionally, the change in cutscenes from a realistic to an animated style can be off-putting to some. In a way, it feels like the game developers could not decide on an art style.
The standard gameplay visuals can look beautiful with their high textures, but at times it feels like it comes at a cost. Earlier I mentioned I encountered a few bugs while playing. Most of the time, this came when too many effects were going on in the area. Additionally, the developers put a weird censor bar in the game for the chainsaw killing animation, yet allowed the katana to slice through enemies–this easily feels like a double standard.
Wanted: Dead‘s controls are fairly simple to understand but perfecting them is no easy task. Using an Xbox controller, the player hacks through enemies with the katana using the X button. The Y button is used to shoot the side firearm which counters enemy strong attacks.
The B button allows the player to reload the gun or in combination with the Y button, execute a weakened enemy. The A button is used to slide, sidestep, and even roll. The directional pad is used to change the fire rate of the gun, and heal LT. Stone. As a controller layout, it is fairly simple to understand and utilize. The lack of a lock-on system, however, feels like a missed feature.
Wanted: Dead tries to be the 90s cyberpunk action game I wanted it to be but falls short of the mark. The game’s story feels as if it has too many missing narrative plot points to tie the story together well while having too many to be an episodic tale. The game is supposed to be a look into a week in the life of LT. Stone. Instead, it seems to jump around only really tying that focus point by giving a date rather than blending the narrative to lead players in that direction. The game’s controls are fairly simple to understand but executing them against the game’s AI can be more of a challenge than expected.
Wanted: Dead‘s base difficulty can be unappealing to most gamers and the game’s insinuation of Neko-Chan difficulty could insult players who are already frustrated. Although the game does feature a variety of checkpoints and auto-save features, these checkpoints feel inconsistent and underutilized. Yes, they do allow the player to save and restock supplies, but at the end of it, that’s all they do. Skills unlocked do not save prior to the next checkpoint forcing the player to reunlock skills after death.
If you are up for a challenge Wanted: Dead can be a fun experience, but for those who don’t like dying or having to learn perfect timing, it can be rather frustrating. The game’s shift in graphics between mini-games, gameplay, and cutscenes can be a bit much for those looking for a uniform experience. Sun Ltd. try to make Wanted: Dead the experience that Ninja Gaiden was, but misses the mark. Combat can be fun if you don’t get frustrated at a challenge, otherwise, if you are looking to just experience the story, Neko-chan mode is the way to go.
For fans of the old hack-and-slash action style, Wanted: Dead will be right up your alley; otherwise, most gamers will most likely skip this game. My biggest complaint regarding the game is its price point. The game can easily be completed in four to eight hours. Knowing that, the $59.99 price tag seems overpriced. $29.99 to 39.99 seems like a fairer price point for the game and would attract more buyers to pick up the game. If you are considering picking up the game, I recommend waiting until it goes on sale.
Wanted: Dead was reviewed on PC using a copy provided by 110 Industries. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Wanted: Dead is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.