Review: Wet

There are a couple things that are absolute game-breakers for me: terrible voice acting and subpar gameplay mechanics. Bethesda’s Wetoffers up a healthy portion of both, and it’s a real shame. It could have been the beginning of something beautiful. Instead, it only manages to stand on its own two feet as an extremely derivative third-person shooter in the vein of, well, too many other games.
That isn’t to say that Wet is without merit. That’s not true at all. I’ve played far many other, far worse games. It’s just that the antics of femme fatale Rubi Malone nor the (admittedly spectacular) grindhouse aesthetic the game has going on manage to grip me and really pull me in the way I’m sure Bethesda was counting on. Not to mention it’s almost exactly like titles that have come before it. If you’ve ever picked up Stranglehold, then you should know 90% of Wet‘s gameplay style. If not, I’ll happily provide a refresher course.

Remember bullet time? Yes, the very same that Max Payne popularized and then the industry subsequently bludgeoned to death by overuse. Well, Stranglehold did a decent job of providing gamers with style and flair via bullet time. Everything’s slowed down — you do an exponentially higher amount of damage and pull off special effect extravaganzas. Wet works in an identical manner, though it ups the gloss and style in order to try to cover up where it ultimately falls short.

Rubi Malone is your never-do-well protagonist that you’re unfortunately saddled with. I say unfortunately because while the character herself is an interesting work of fiction, you must also contend with the fact that Eliza Dushku has lent her voice and lack of talent. We’ll come back to this in a bit. Miss Malone is what she’d like to refer to as a “problem solver,” meaning that for the right price, she’ll lend her talents to fix any problem. Wet follows her adventures, caught up in various shady deals and intricate webbing of plot that didn’t come off as too invigorating to me. Rubi is another typical female protagonist laced with hints of sex and debauchery yet still isn’t full-on distasteful. She’s simply bad. Bethesda did a great job with her character design and costume, so it’s a shame that they chose Eliza Dushku to voice her.

Rubi, as an acrobatic action heroine, can pull off a myriad of stunts including wall-walking, dual-gunning, swordplay, as well as other physically demanding tasks. I’d liken her abilities to those similar to Faith from Mirror’s Edge, simply because as a problem solver, she must be able to ambulate fairly quickly to get her work done — oh, and shoot fast. That’s where bullet time comes in. Wet, as you might have imagined, is very straightforward. Shoot to kill. Or, slash to kill. It’s up to you. Rubi can use many different weapons, but she can also employ bullet time at any given moment. This is simply performed by jumping. While it’s most certainly a useful tactic when the going gets tough, it also becomes severely tedious and time-consuming when a simple dodge or run-through and area would have sufficed. Not too long after first putting the mechanic to use it quickly wears out its welcome, no matter how cool Rubi may look sliding in slow-motion away from a hale of gunfire.

It all ends up feeling very mundane after doing the exact same thing over and over, and unfortunately that’s pretty much all you do in Wet. Take out all the bad guys via gunplay and slice and dice methods, destroy spawn points, and partake in the occasional quick time event. Quick time events are scattered throughout the game, testing your patience if you can’t make the correct button press as quickly as necessary. Luckily they do tend to spice up what would otherwise be a very humdrum gaming experience, with spicy highway chases and lip-biting chases that would put an action movie to shame. I enjoyed these far more than simple combat and jumping puzzles that almost put me to sleep. It all seemed so painfully mundane that I began to question if this was really the work of Bethesda, the brains behind such classics as Fallout 3 and Oblivion.

What could have made the game a bit more polished and enjoyable would have been a more capable voice actress for Rubi. While greats such as Malcolm McDowell were employed, I found it appalling that Eliza Dushku was chosen. She delivers a flat and uninspiring performance of a woman who is supposed to be relentless, fearless, and simply bad. Instead, she comes off as a bored twit. Rubi’s groans of death mimic the exasperated sigh of a pretentious high schooler rather than a freelance problem-solver who was just riddled with bullets or fell off the side of some scaffolding. This was entirely unfortunate, as Dushku’s pitiful performance was a complete turnoff for me and made the story too disposable when it should have been much more engrossing. At least the great selection of music more than made up for Dushku’s shortcomings.

Wet employs a very Grindhouse-esque visual style, and I greatly appreciated it as a fan of the films and inspirations behind the game. The game’s menus, music, and interface all reflect this, as you’ll be seeing a lot of the film grain effect as well as the burning of a film roll if you happen to die. Very cool, and fantastic presentation. This was one thing that kept me playing long after the game began to stagnate, which was unfortunately far too quickly for my tastes.

So, should you jump in and get Wet? If you enjoy typical third-person shooters with obviously high production values, you’re going to want to grab this even if it’s just one more game to toss onto your pile. It’s not especially standout in any way, but as an unorthodox effort from Bethesda I can appreciate their first attempt at something particularly different from them. I have a positive outlook from any future attempts, as hopefully Bethesda can learn from these silly mistakes and return with a Wet sequel or similarly-styled title that will knock one out of the park. Or, a voice actress who can deliver a reasonable death moan. That’d be nice.

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