Rubi is not your average video game heroine. She's a gun-toting, liquor-drinking, pole-swinging, opera-hating, sword-wielding, airplane-hating gun for hire with a big chip on her shoulder. She's the anti-Lara Croft; a hard-as-nails woman who isn't afraid to get some blood on her face and savagely eviscerate everything that gets in her way. She's the type of woman that will simultaneously arouse and frighten even the hardest metal head in the audience. Rubi is quite a woman.
Rubi is the star of Wet, an over-the-top action game from Bethesda Software. This action-packed Xbox 360 game takes its inspiration from the ultraviolent (and ultra-cheesy) Grindhouse movies of the 1960s and 70s. With its film imperfections (resulting in grainy, jumpy visuals), scenes missing, retro commercials and ludicrous story, Wet shares a lot in common with Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror and Quentin Tarrantino's Kill Bill series. This style sets the game apart from every other action game on the platform, even if everything else about the game is old hat to action game fanatics.
We're introduced to Rubi as she's on the chase for a stolen human heart. Within the first few seconds we learn that this chick isn't afraid to dual-wield a gun and carry a big sword. We also find out that she's okay with jumping from car to car on a busy highway, all while making sure to kill motorcyclists and cause as much chaos as possible. My type of girl.
Before long Rubi finds herself hired for a kidnapping job, unfortunately not all is what it seems and her reward for a job well done is being stabbed in the stomach and left for dead. As you can imagine, this kind of betrayal isn't to be taken lying down. So, after she has fully recuperated, Rubi vows revenge and goes on a globetrotting mission to rain bloody terror on the people involved (and maybe even a few that weren't). This simplistic (yet somehow convoluted) story is just enough to keep you engaged through this 13 level adventure.
Fans of movie-inspired action games like John Woo Presents Stranglehold and Max Payne will feel right at home with Wet's acrobatic gameplay. Rubi is equipped with two guns, allowing her to shoot bad guys when she's jumping, sliding, swinging on a pole, sliding down a ladder, running on a wall and much more. While in the middle of an action you can pull the trigger button and suddenly go into a cinematic slow-motion mode that makes it easier to aim your gun and get out of sticky situations. There is no limit to the amount of times you can use this slow-motion technique, it happens any time you shoot your gun while doing something acrobatic.
As you might imagine, the whole game revolves around you killing your enemies in the most exciting ways possible. You get extra points and multipliers for chaining together kills, something that will no doubt improve your style score and allows you to buy new abilities. As you play through the game you will learn all kinds of cool techniques, including a lot of stylish ways to kill your foes with your sword. By the end of the game I was an unstoppable killing machine; a one-woman army with so much style and grace that it almost looked like a well orchestrated dance. A bloody, ultraviolent dance.
What sets Wet apart from the other games is how it chooses to target the enemies. As you enter the acrobatic slow-motion one of your guns will automatically target a close enemy. This allows you to manually aim the other gun, giving you the option of taking down two (or more) bad guys at once, or aiming both of your guns at the same guy to get a faster kill. No matter what weapon you're using, you will always have the ability to shoot at two different people at once, which can be a real rush as you're adding up kills and increasing your score multiplier.
On top of the normal run and gun levels, the game adds a couple of mini-games that need to be completed before advancing the story. The first mini-game is set in a closed off arena, where you have to battle endless swarms of bad guys while cutting off their entrances. To do this you have to search around the level for the markers that need to be destroyed, all while dealing with a bunch of never ending bad guys that are only there to see you fail. Early in the game you'll find these arena levels to be easy and simplistic, however, late in the game you will be forced to deal with some truly powerful foes in levels that require you to explore your surroundings while dodging the bullets.
The second mini-game is called Rage and it happens only a few times throughout the course of the game. Unlike the arena, this mode actually changes the look (and feel) of Wet. The moment you enter Rage mode you will discover that everything looks like a comic book, using only red, white and black to display the visuals. Visually speaking, this mode looks a lot like Sega's stunning (yet underrated) MadWorld. Here you are tasked with killing as many people as you can; chaining kills together to increase your score and life. I almost dropped my control the first time I was sucked into a Rage mini-game, it was that impressive. Unfortunately a bit of its charm wears off after you've done it six or seven times, but I still love the way the game changes the graphics to emphasize the urgency of the game.The first half of the game is set up to make you feel like the badass killer that you are, taking on dozens of enemies without even breaking a sweat. However, just as the action is starting to get stale, the game switches gears and turns into a lighter version of Tomb Raider. The second half of the game features a surprising amount of puzzle solving, as well as a lot of jumping from ledge to ledge and figuring your way through labyrinthian level designs. Thankfully the level designs never feel as dense as those in Tomb Raider, so I found myself actually having a good time with these platforming sections.
Unfortunately it's in these Tomb Raider-esque levels where I discovered the fundamental weakness of the game's controls. The game is built around these exciting action sequences, but when you're just trying to get around things become a little more frustrating. One of my biggest complaints is that you can't simply jump straight up; instead you jump at an angle or with movement. That means that it's easy to accidentally jump off of a ledge to your death. What's more, gauging how far you can jump can also be tricky, especially when you're dealing with wide gaps between platforms. There were a lot of times when I needlessly died simply because Rubi wouldn't grab onto a ledge or didn't make the gap. I quickly learned that while the clunky controls were fine for the action aspects of the game, the control scheme was woefully inadequate for the latter half of Wet.
While I couldn't get enough of the acrobatic action and nonstop action, I was a little disappointed by Wet's outdated visuals. The developers do their best to mask the visuals through a heavy graphical filter that makes the game look like it's an old print of a 1970s movie. You get film scratches, there are scenes missing and when you die the projector literally burns the film reel. All of these flourishes give the game a unique look and feel, but none of this makes the graphics any better. If you can get past the rough graphics you'll find that there's a lot to like about the game's presentation. There's a lot of untapped potential here, something I hope will be rectified in a possible sequel.
While I have very little good to say about the visuals, the game's audio is second to nobody. The game's soundtrack is easily the best thing I've heard all year, immediately making me scour the internet looking for a place to get these tunes. The songs come from a number of bands I've never heard of (Mushroom Lounge, The Creepshow, Long Tall Texans, The Chop Tops, The Arkhams, Notorious MSG, Corpse Show Creeps, etc.), all of which I will make sure and become acquainted with after playing the game. The songs in the game come from all genres, yet they all feel specifically created for each part of the game. Whoever is responsible for getting all of these bands together needs a raise, because they clearly have a superior ear for game music. Hands down Wet has the best and most original soundtrack of the year, no easy feat in a year that brought us The Beatles: Rock Band.
The game's spoken dialogue is fun and understandably hokey. The main voice work comes from three well-known performers -- Eliza Dushku (currently starring in Joss Whedon's Dollhouse), Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, Planet of the Apes) and Alan Cumming (X2, Titus, Spice World). These three character actors pull their weight, offering solid readings (even if the writing is a bit hammy at times). They all seem to understand that they're in a cheesy Grindhouse-style game, and they certainly make the most of their time. Some of the secondary voice acting isn't as strong as the three leads, but even that fits in perfectly with the type of atmosphere the game is going for.
There really isn't a whole lot to do outside of the game's 10 hour campaign. There are no multiplayer modes to speak of and no alternate paths through the game. You can play Wet on a higher difficulty, but outside of that there isn't much replay. The game does have a couple of challenge modes, though. One of them features a race through your Texas home and another has you going through the levels again for points. The race challenges are fun, even if they can be easily beaten. It's a shame there isn't more to do.
Even though it's a little rough around the edges, I found myself having a lot of fun with Wet. Some of the game's trappings get tiresome by the end, but there's enough original content here to keep you on the edge of your seat through all 10 hours of gameplay. At the same time I felt like there was a lot of untapped potential, something that will hopefully be rectified with a sequel. If you're looking for an exciting action game with the same vein as Stranglehold and Max Payne, then Wet is the perfect game for you. Anybody looking for a game with a lot of substance and replay value should probably look elsewhere. Either way, Wet is definitely worth a play through.