“Wanted: Weapons of Fate” is the perfect adaptation of the movie and comic on which it’s based: super stylish, impeccably executed, and insultingly shallow. Vidgame’s integration of the pic’s action motifs like curving bullets and slo-mo firefights, as well as its aggressively immature tone, is spot on. But with a shockingly short running time and no multiplayer mode, “Wanted” is disappointingly limited in scope and likely to get blown away on retail shelves.
Picking up soon after the film’s ending, “Weapons of Fate” finds Wesley Gibson (Jimmi Simpson, solidly impersonating James McAvoy) hunted by the French branch of a fraternity of assassins for reasons that go back to his birth. Told largely in low-brow dialogue best appreciated by a 13-year-old boy, the plot ably weaves modern day missions with flashbacks to the protag’s father, achieving a degree of intrigue and coherence that surpasses the admittedly low bar set by the pic. However, because it takes places after Wesley has become an assassin, the game misses out on its source material’s central theme: his transformation from pathetic corporate drone to confident killer.
What it lacks thematically, however, “Weapons of Fate” makes up for in fantastic action and awesome set pieces. Too often, movie-based games manage to re-create cinematic moments only by taking control out of players’ hands. But developer Grin avoids that trap here by making two key features interactive: the ability to bend bullets and to slow down time to take out numerous enemies in a flash. As the camera follows a bullet in a winding arc toward an enemy’s head, or a slo-mo sequence ends with numerous assassins splayed out on the ground, “Wanted” brings players remarkably close to living out the movie’s best action sequences.
Several levels bring a bigscreen feel to the action, particularly one set on a crashing airplane that parallels a similar scene from the film on a train. But while the settings are often dramatic, the level-design is not, consisting of tightly directed paths full of columns and waist-high barriers behind which Wesley or his father can take cover. There are a few boss fights that require precise timing, and some tedious sniping, but the basic challenges don’t vary significantly.
It would all become repetitive if not for the fact that the game is so short. The good news for “Wanted” players is that five hours isn’t enough time to get bored with its limited number of innovations. The bad news is that it’s an embarrassingly small amount of content for a full-priced disc game. Lack of online multiplayer is particularly disappointing given the potential excitement to be had in numerous competitors bending bullets and slow-mo shooting.
“Weapons of Fate” marks Universal’s first attempt to produce a big budget console videogame itself (one that, in a bit of irony, is being distributed by Warner Bros.). By releasing it seven months after the film and three months after the DVD, the studio is showing impressive faith in the importance of topnotch production values, even if it means missing out on valuable joint marketing.
Still, “Weapons of Fate’s” goals ultimately aren’t much greater than making the film’s action playable. In a market where even downloadable titles at one quarter the price offer more gameplay, that’s simply not ambition enough.