Wet - Review

Review by Will Templeton (continueorquit.com)

In movies, the best characters are those with which the viewer can sympathise; a character that, while flawed, can be enjoyed and identified with by the viewer. Considering that Wet draws so heavily from cinema, to the extent of running it as a motif throughout the game, it seems somewhat out of place that the protagonist is as blank a slate as she is. Rubi is a humourless, callous bitch, an outcast with only the pursuit of money on her mind and nothing interesting to say, and I simply do not identify with her, nor do I want to.

It seems that the characters in Wet are torn directly from a film-makers’ archetype handbook, with a broad smattering of accents and each one firmly in the roles you’d expect from a movie of its type – the old crime syndicate boss struggling to keep up with today’s business, the wisecracking but streetsmart contact with his ear to the ground, or the slightly crazed henchmen who specialises in one particular brand of combat to the point of excellence. It’s all here, and it brings to mind the thought that Wet perhaps wants to be a film more than it does a game.

A case in point - the idea of quicktime events is to allow a cinematic sequence to be interacted with in some way, to allow the player to have some element of control over something that ordinarily they would not be able to do. The car chase sequence, present early on in the game and in the demo, is a great example of how QTEs can work in this context, with free aiming and combat around a core mechanic that is nothing more than the game being on rails with the odd button prompt. It’s exciting, cinematic, and skill requires concentration and skill in order to pass the sequence. Later in the game, however, there’s a transitional cutscene in which Rubi shoots a window in order to jump through, with no controller input at all. It’s not as if the action is even far out of reach of the usual mechanics in the game, either – it appears perfectly possible for the player to be able to shoot the glass and leap through on their own, but one many occasions Artificial Mind and Movement have opted for the non-interactive, film-like approach.

This motif of film and of traditional cinema underscores every aspect of Wet, from the film grain running over the visuals at every point to loading screens ripped straight from pre-screening lobby advertisements - after one particularly bloody sequence, the player may be invited to hop to the concession stand and grab a Chilly Dilly: "No muss, no fuss; the ideal snack for all of us!" - a constant reminder that Wet is aware of its own ridiculousness, that it's intended to be tongue-in-cheek and that some of its more elementary missteps should be forgiven. It's hard, however, to write off certain aspects of the game as intentional missteps. The fact that the voice acting, while excellently performed, never quite matches up with the animation of the characters on screen is distracting, and that the combat system and collision allows for an unexpected fall from a ledge during combat more often than can be blamed on the player.

It's unfortunate, because otherwise, Wet's combat system is its crowning jewel. In many ways, the game seems to be constructed to allow bridging points between combat arenas, locked-off warehouses or courtyards where enemies stream at Rubi continuously until their entrance doorways are blocked. At all points in Wet, killing enemies provides a points multiplier, but in these areas, managing this multiplier is critical to survival - the higher the multiplier, the faster Rubi's health will regenerate, and therefore the most efficient way to ensure survival is through flamboyant, acrobatic and consistently violent play. As the game progresses, and the player comes across more complicated and challenging combat arenas, unlocks for both Rubi's weapons and abilities become available, which slowly moves the bar from simple jumping and firing in slow-motion into (for example) a slide, to wall-running, strafing along the wall, leaping off to a horizontal pole and chaining two swings together, constantly firing the whole time and landing gracefully on a platform with destruction behind you.

Nothing is quite so satisfying in Wet as these perfectly-executed moments of fluidity, especially when using the incredibly well-chosen soundtrack as a backdrop, but they're infuriatingly hard to accomplish due to the aforementioned unforgiving control - there are far too many moments in which a planned run through a room will fail multiple times through no apparent fault of the player. One particularly consistent frustration is Rubi wall-running horizontally because the wall was approached at anything less than a 90-degree angle, ruining any route that was planned and invariably dropping the character into the middle of three enemies she was trying to shoot. It's a problem that could be overcome with any other mechanic than the aforementioned kills-to-multipliers-to-health scenario - without the perfect run, Rubi dies almost immediately due to the lack of opportunity to learn multipliers in slow motion acrobatics, but with a well-executed performance throughout a run the player loses very little health and as a consequence the room seems far too easy. There's very little middle ground, which leads to an odd set of difficulty spikes, in which any given area's difficulty relates directly to whether or not the game interprets the player's actions as expected or not, which ultimately leads to irritation.

Every now and again, these combat arenas are altered slightly, providing a cel-shaded, viscerally themed stage for Rubi to rip apart enemy after enemy in a blood-fuelled rage. These moments could easily become tedious were they over-used, but they’re placed in such a way that they are a relief and a pleasure to unwind with after a particularly lengthy platforming section or gunfight. The simplicity of the environment and colour scheme lends itself very well to enabling the fluidity and constant motion that Wet relies on, to such an extent that every rage-triggered scene rides that edge of difficulty and cinema almost perfectly. It’s unfortunate, then, that there doesn’t seem to be any way of replaying these sections after completing the game, because they seem ideally suited to speed runs.

That's not to say that the game's difficulty is entirely scattershot, however. As the game progresses, Rubi is introduced to various different archetypes of enemies to fight, such as the swordsman who can block bullets, or the bullet sponge with a minigun, and in order to combat each of these, the player has access to an upgrade system. The points that are earned for stylish kills and kill chains can be spent on new acrobatic moves and health for Rubi, or for upgrades to damage and clip size for each of the four weapons available - unlimited pistol, SMG, shotgun and crossbow. While leaping through the air and landing on an enemy sword-first is visceral and appealing, the practicality of it is that once Rubi has the ability to shoot from anything she's moving across, the combination of acrobatics and pistol is adequate for most situations, even without augmenting the damage or capacity of the gun. It’s just another thing in Wet that seems like a nice idea, but not quite well-rounded enough to be of any use.

That’s Wet in a nutshell - a game that seems to have missed its potential due to good ideas implemented without enough thought about the whole experience. At its best, it can be a game that just works, a rhapsody of violence and acrobatics, and at worst, its clunky controls and inconsistencies in plot and difficulty will drive you to frustration or confusion. At its core, Wet wants you to enjoy it, and it’s clear that there is something there to enjoy, but struggling through the interface to get to one of those rare moments of bliss almost isn’t worth the effort.


Anonymous said...

I played the demo. That was all I needed to see. It was fun. I now have no interest in seeing the rest of the game. In short form for free it was fun. To basically get more of the same, hardly seems worth it.

Jacob said...

i bought wet for £24 from thehut and I've loved every second of it. Its not perfect- this review doens't tell you that it has some major glitches. but they aren't game breakers - as in, you can load from last checkpoint and they're gone. but aside from that and the very, very occaisonal frustrating "why did I die" scenarios (two in the whole game) I am in love. I'd score this game high.

No one else on the internet would :(