Wanted: Dead

released on Feb 14, 2023

Wanted: Dead promises "spectacular melee combat and exciting gunplay," and is set in a "dark and dangerous version of science-fiction Hong Kong where you will need sharpened skills to survive."

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It's really weird that the narrative around this game has become that it's some kind of corporate money laundering affair or some other cheap passionless writeoff when it's just, like, no? Obviously this is an extreme passion vanity project the likes of which rarely gets mass distribution in video games even in the indie scene, let alone a boxed product by a reputable developer. This is more like something that would get dropped by Pendulum Pictures on a box of 50 shot on video flicks than anything else. And guess what? That is my entire vibe.
Every moment of a cutscene in this game is an unhinged surreal delight, CGI PS360 cutscene anime filtered through 9 layers of google translate. I can't tell you a thing that happened in this game but I can tell you that Herzog's stories have more male nudity in them than a Joaquin Phoenix movie and I did a stunningly difficult karaoke minigame to 99 Luftballoons while my character and Stephanie Joosten looked like they were singing at gunpoint.
The weirdness carries over into the traditional levels too, with dialogue peppered in and just an incredible awkwardness to every combat encounter. Guns are formally useless (one of the things I think is surprisingly worse about this game next to Devil's Third, a modern gaming classic) and swordplay is very simplistic, but there's fun to be had in the RSI inducing button mashing, mostly because it's really difficult so you have to actually learn parries and shit. There are encounters that are like pulling fucking teeth though, the boss fight against August is one of the absolute worst I can remember, the game is just not fair or deep or varied lol. It is fun tho. I like the lil hub zone too, love a hub, love wandering around hearing the inscrutable cop dialogue.
This game is set in Hong Kong but there's like no Chinese characters at all?
Also it's explicitly set in 2022 so I guess it's alt history?
Sometimes the cutscenes are anime?
Sometimes you see actual Stephanie Joosten playing with her band?

Wanted: Dead is when Soleil games played one of D3 Publisher's many bargain bin action games like Onechanbara but realized they didn't have the talent to actually make something closely on par. Soleil also clearly doesn't have the humility to price Wanted: Dead as the unfinished bargain bin title it is, either. Skip it.

This game is not very good. I had a very good time though. It’s flawed, but oozes charm. Like, the bizarre dialogue coupled with iffy voice acting with an extra dose of horrible sound mixing should be a recipe for a bad time. But I found it very endearing. The actual story is not good, though. It starts off interesting, but has absolutely zero pay-off in any way, shape, or form. I don’t know if this is a time or budget constraint or it’s just bad on its own. Either way, it doesn't really matter to me.
The gameplay is a mix of linear combat levels, with some minigames and exploration of the police station in between them. The minigames are fun on the first go, but I never went back for seconds. And exploring the station was fun the first time, but after that you just kinda mindlessly run around it looking for new intel pick-ups after every level. It’s nothing special, but offers a nice repose from the combat. The combat is pretty simple, but effective. You have a sword, and some guns. I mostly played aggressively, not using guns for the most part. Just slashing around, and finding it very fun. Attacking, and parrying. This being a game made by former Ninja Gaiden devs, I’m sure there’s plenty of secret techniques that deepen the combat. But I’m a scrub, and don’t know anything about that. I did discover block canceling tho, and felt like a genius. The actual game is pretty hard. Those ninjas, man… A nice challenge is a good thing, but the checkpoint placement really grinded my gears. Dying could mean having to repeat like 5 minutes of constant combat which gets pretty annoying. But other than that, I honestly had a fun time.

"Damn I wish they still made rough janky action games that got critically eviscerated like the PS2 days. No no not like that it's too rough and janky, and look at those reviews it's being critically eviscerated"

You know I knew exactly what I was getting into with this game and yet somehow I still left disappointed lol. While this game has a lot of charm and fun combat ( can be clunky at times ) there is still so much wrong with this game.
Lets get this out of the way first of all this game is on purpose trying to replicate the era of 6th gen consoles which is fine! I LOVE that era to death which is why I bought into this game right away. Issue is they are selling this game at a full $60 which quite frankly is a huge ripoff. I didn't mind myself because I had coupons for my store so I saved a good amount so I didn't buy the game full price I instead bought it at the price that is should have costed day 1 which was $20 lol ( $40 at MOST). You are paying $60 for a older type of action game with insane amount of issues ( at least on PS5) that will take about 6-8 hours to beat just let that sink through your head lol.
The story was there but uninteresting and boring you will find yourself really not caring lol. As I stated there are bugs and issues with this game ranging from poor performance in some levels , AI issues , Hard crashes , Save loses ( didn't happen on my end but I have seen it happen) , Annoying difficulty spikes later on, Trash bosses etc etc the list can go on for awhile honestly lol.
The last 2 levels are some of the worst designed levels I have played in a long time where the game just throws tanky enemies by the pack at you back TO BACK TO BACK TO BACK. While this may not seem like an issue the checkpoint system is utter trash and if you die anywhere in these segments you are starting from the START and this issue really shines in its final 2 levels that are simply atrocious.
There are some mini games in here and some are fun and some are not. there is a Shump game that was pretty cool , crane games which were fine and 2 Music Rhythm games that were terrible with strict timing on when you have to hit buttons and the screen layout making everything seemed cluttered making you get confused a lot and losing your combo.
Voice acting is cheesy and bad imo but honestly its a part of the charm and I did not mind it honestly but the comedy bits sucked.
I really wanted to like this game more and to be frank I did enjoy this game in its early levels. The combat can be very fun hitting combos and parrying into combos its all around very fun and they had something going for this game. There is so much charm in this game and I cannot knock it for that because it did nail the era so well but man by the end the issues just started being more prevalent to the point of unenjoyment which sucks.
I recommend this game on a deep sale at like $30 or below.

As someone who saw promise in the developer’s previous works, and after seeing the interesting flavor Wanted: Dead was putting on display in its advertising, I was truly hopeful that the game would finally squeak past that threshold of being just short of greatness and deliver something flawed but truly excellent or interesting in its own right. Unfortunately, this one just wasn't it for me, either.
Everything is just a tad too clunky for my liking, even by the standards of a game trying to evoke an era of clunkiness, and the mechanics feel like they needed another pass or two in making sure they all work together in a captivating and fun way. Yet again I get the feeling while playing a Soleil game that there might have been something here, because (very) occasionally everything clicks and I feel like I see the vision, but I don’t think it hits that point nearly enough unfortunately. Most encounters are kind of a mess of bullets flying and tenuously rushing in for your strikes, with every melee hit feeling like it lacks impact, and every gunshot floppy in aim and flat in delivery.
The story is being compared to Deadly Premonition or other "so bad it's good" games, but it instead feels like it exists in a weird middle space where they didn’t go far enough on either end of the spectrum. Yes, there are weird and wacky minigames that try to accentuate those aspects of the game and the sudden presentation bending into anime and the like does give the game some sort of flavor as well, but on the moment to moment story, I never felt it really went far enough in embracing its camp to truly sell me on it.
Maybe with whatever roadmap they’re working on they’ll sand off the rough edges, but for the moment, especially at the midway~ point where the story starts to drop off, I simply couldn’t bring myself to play any more of it. At least the soundtrack kicks ass.