Format: 360, PS3
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
There was a moment in Bethesda’s Wet presentation when a few people looked from side to side, to see if it was OK to laugh. A German journalist had just asked whether Rubi, the reckless acrobat whose gymnastic gunplay forms the spine of Wet‘s appeal, would perhaps have unlockable costumes. He tentatively suggested a bikini.
That’s not why we wanted to laugh, although it did seem to be ripped from the xenophobic ‘Allo ‘Allo inspired list of things to expect Germans to say. What raised the eyebrow and dropped the jaw was the earnest response to the question. There’ll be none of that: developer A2M doesn’t want you thinking of Rubi in that way. It doesn’t want her to be a sex symbol, and it’s going to great efforts to stop that perception. This isn’t Tomb Raider.
Nobody told the guy designing the posters. Rubi’s lips are so pouty and swollen that they look like someone’s hung an inflatable sex dinghy from her nose. Not to mention the word WET spattered across her body. Yes, it’s a contraction of wetwork – a euphemism for assassination – but come on. Mirror’s Edge successfully prevented the objectification of Faith. It did this by putting the game in the first person, a similar gambit to Metroid Prime‘s, whose predecessor dealt with the issue by keeping Samus’ gender secret.
To be fair, the last thing you think about watching Wet is the gender of its protagonist. Wet uses pleasantly absurd gore to dampen that teen ardour. It looks good, taking House Of The Dead: Overkill‘s 70s cinematic aesthetic, but without the hardware limitations of Wii. And it sounds good, with a indie-rockabilly feel that’s the only sign of Rubi’s previously-advertised life as a beer-drinking junkyard dweller.
Bullet time is no longer a commodity to be conserved or earned – it’s your basic tool. Pulling off any acrobatic move triggers slowdown, giving you one auto-aiming crosshair and another you can control yourself. Useful, since later enemies develop a resistance to auto-aim. The effect is that every acrobatic move doubles your firepower, and A2M has made the benefits of chaining these moves together so obvious that only an idiot would ignore them.
When enraged – imagine a hard close-up on eyes and the Kill Bill siren – Rubi transports to a super-stylised red environment, with enemies rendered monochrome white by her fury and dissipating into ash as they’re killed. The combo bonus multiplier is replaced by a counter that discourages you from going too long without a kill – it’s like swinging from vine to vine, only with murder replacing jungle creepers.
Tarantino is an obvious inspiration – himself an inspiration sponge, so that’s a bit like saying a few photocopied pages of a dictionary inspired your novel. But the developer happily namechecks the feel of the Crazy 88 battle from Kill Bill as its aim for the setpieces, and the intermission jokes aren’t new, but they’re fun. It’s all in good humour – Wet is the opposite of Mirror’s Edge. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, guns are absolutely not optional, and the soundtrack is thumping jangling rock instead of ambient gusts and chimes.
It’s going to take a hands-on before anyone can say anything truly insightful about Wet as a game – but as pure spectacle, it’s far and away the most interesting thing Bethesda wheeled out last week.