Wanted: Dead is a hybrid slasher/shooter developed by Soleil Ltd and published by 110 Industries and released on PC, Xbox and PlayStation on February 14, 2023. It’s a game that doesn’t take itself seriously, with some buddy cop action that has you blowing up bad guys in blood-soaked rages one minute, then eating ramen and having a jibe at each other the next. You could critique almost every part of this game and it plays pretty rough at times, but I enjoyed it for the most part as a bit of slapstick humour mixed with some great gunplay and melee combat.
We play as Lt. Hannah Stone in cyberpunk Hong Kong as the leader of Zombie Squad, a ragtag team of misfits with a police chief that reminded me of watching Bad Boys and Lethal Weapon sequences in the cutscenes. And with minigames interspersed between intense missions, with you hacking off limbs with your katana as well as some brutal finishing moves, I felt like I was playing somewhat of a Yakuza game but with real-time combat one minute and then playing crazy minigames the next. The voice acting of members of your squad are often cringeworthy but also absolutely nails some of the dry and sarcastic humour that suits this type of game.
You will face a range of enemies, some are ranged, some melee, some have shields, and then others will have some powerful weapons that you will want to prioritise. We have an assault rifle and a pistol that we can upgrade at checkpoints, and a katana at our disposal initially. We can also pickup secondary weapons as we kill enemies, like a submachine gun, though the rilfes have very little ammo. In the first couple of hours of the game, I really struggled with the lack of ammo.
Killing enemies will drop ammo, but it’s still not enough if you are spraying and preying. So in you run with the katana and when the enemy flashes grey, smash that ‘c’ button for some glorious finishing moves that get cooler the more you play. The developers have said there are up to 50 unique finishing moves, and an appropriate achievement if you manage to trigger them all. There’s bullet-time too which allows you to stun multiple enemies and smash that finisher button.
I quickly learned that while a couple of headshots will take out ranged enemies behind cover, I would empty entire clips into melee enemies, and they would still come charging at me. You really have to think like-for-like, so ranged baddies can be killed with rifles while melee baddies are best dispatched with melee attacks. Some melee baddies are tough and there will be a red flash before they do a special attack, so a quick tap of ‘e’ will interrupt them with a powerful pistol shot. Enemies that have a grenade launcher will indicate that you are likely to face something big later in the level that a grenade launcher will be required, so don’t waste that ammo.
While you are hacking and slashing limbs off, they shrug off the wounds and keep coming at you – it’s just a flesh wound! Blood is going everywhere and sometimes you will have close-up slow-mo shots of Hannah completely covered in blood. However at one point I came across chainsaw and started charging the enemy. As I clicked to melee attack them, it showed up a big censored sign to cover up the carnage which I thought was funny considering we can chop limbs and heads off no worries.
With the constant spawning of enemies, I found the combat got monotonous pretty quickly, especially if I was dying a lot. Mini-boss and major boss fights were frustrating at times too with very little instruction, you are just thrown into the fray. I knew in my mind that rifle bullets against a massive tank wasn’t going to cut it, but try I did through multiple deaths. It turns out the little guys that are around him will drop the rocket launcher secondary weapon that you need to take it out. Getting it to half health put it in a stunned phase and it said to get in close, but didn’t prompt me with what key to press, so another few frustrating deaths later and I realised it was asking for the finisher button of ‘c’.
At this point I also learned that each time you die, any skills/talents you unlocked previously need to be re-assigned. The skill upgrades provide decent increases in damage and versatility, though I often forgot about spending experience points and would wonder why I was struggling at times. The graphics aren’t the greatest compared to games of today, and the character movements, especially for the AI companions are a bit janky. The environments are well detailed, but you are funneled linearly through these areas. There are collectibles around the place if you are willing to look slightly off the path. Gameplay generally feels like something we would have played in the 00’s, but that’s not to say it wasn’t fun – far from it! I had a great time, though it did get challenging often and I needed to take breaks to keep from getting frustrated.
Once you do get through a few challenging sections, some the last a fair while with others that are short in comparison, we are rewarded with some classic banter amongst the squad, and we slowly get to know them more as the game progresses. The minigames add to that connection and are a good change of pace. The ramen eating contest and karaoke sessions reminds you they are still human despite what’s thrown at them on missions, and also builds on the humour and banter between the squad.
Overall, Wanted: Dead is a fun and challenging game if you relax expectations and roll with the banter punches. It is rough at times and the gunplay is decent, but gets frustrating with the lack of ammo, while the katana combat is satisfying with some gruesome finishing moves. Boss fights were frustrating to learn but easy to complete once you are aware. But it was the slapstick humour and banter that kept me playing from mission to mission, helped along with the minigames.
This review utilised a key provided by Plan of Attack and Wanted: Dead is out now on PC, Xbox and PlayStation.