Wanted: Dead is stupid. Stupid rhythm games while eating ramen, stupidly long cutscenes, and stupendous difficulty with lengthy checkpoints when you need them most. Yet this is an excellent title, and perhaps, not so stupid. Let’s begin with today’s letter, V. Variety.
Set in an alternate Hong Kong, you play Detective Hannah Stone, leader of the Zombie Unit, part of a privatised police force. Don’t expect much in the way of investigations, as you’ll be the instigator for the Forensics Team; creating the problems by dismembering all sorts of perps and their synthetic uprisings. In this world, the superpowers no longer exist, corporations rule, and there are no more cultural divides. Peace and harmony? Yeah, right.
Wanted: Dead (here it comes) is a love letter to… bleurgh! In short, it takes action from Gears of War (cover and chainsaws), the fluidity of Ninja Gaiden Sigma, the storytelling and quirkiness of Deadly Premonition 2, and some iffy dialogue similar to House of the Dead 2. It mostly looks the part, albeit for some janky animations that are jerkier than a teenager with a free pass to OnlyFans, and some dodgy, repetitive computer-generated voice acting from the lesser characters. The main ones are cool such as Stone, played by Fee Marie Zimmermann.
Wanted: Dead Review (PS5)
Each mission has you dropped into a hostile environment, and you have to take down the threats using force. Zombie Unit are despatched when results are needed. But let’s make it clear: this is a tough game. As a huge Soulsbourne fan, challenging gameplay doesn’t phase me, but Wanted: Dead, a game by Soleil and 110 Industries, was giving me flashbacks to my first rage quit, Ninja Gaiden Sigma. The dependency on defensive, counter-attack play was a hard pill to swallow as enemies can be relentless, and some battles feel hopeless. Note, ‘feel’ – they are doable with practice.
Stone has two core attacks: a katana for melee and guns for range and these can be upgraded via weapon parts and a skill tree – accessible on-demand. Without a doubt, close-quarter combat is highly effective, but it’s easy to get hit if sloppy or button-mashing. The block and parry will help, as will your trusty handgun (infinite ammo) that not only does damage to enemies but defends against unblockable attacks. Combat can be incredibly satisfying once you unlock new skills, but some very frustrating camera angles leave you exposed far too often.
Sometimes the levels can feel massive due to lengthy gaps between checkpoints and having to redo a section, so having something different to do is spot-on. For Wanted: Dead, the Yakuza-like mini-games such as the UFO crane game or karaoke will break it up. But a rhythm game based around eating ramen? Once again, it’s as challenging as the combat timing and, bizarrely, doesn’t feel so much like a conventional rhythm title, more so a QTE. Still, it’s fun to play, and these extras and Space Runaway (free on Steam) are fab.
Unfortunately, the game is a little on rails at times, and though the mini-games and cutscenes add to the experience, it can be a bit of a process to level up Stone and unlock the numerous attachments to their arsenal. Granted, starting with these spoil the challenge, but these benefits are a slow drip-feed for players who might lack the skill and need some OP. Stone can feel underpowered in some sections. I played on the Normal mode but would have happily played Easy if there was an option. According to the game material, there’s a Neko mode, but at the time of writing, I couldn’t seem to access it.
A crucial part of Wanted: Dead’s playability is that word variety. This isn’t an open-world game where you can wander willy-nilly, but breaking down the game into fun, replayable mini-games, dialogue exchanges between the team, and locating scattered codecs that fill in the gaps in the story make it worthwhile. It also gives you a breather. I have never spent so much time on individual levels – it felt like I’d just done circuit training for three hours solid. I’ve platinumed Elden Ring, and the Sentinels were more accommodating than some enemies here. They’re ruthless!
Wanted: Dead looks a little rough around the edges, has some quirky cutscenes, and the challenge can be brutal. That said, it’s an entertaining package, features some neat sword/gunplay combos, and has a decent cast of characters that make it work. Did I mention the anime cutscenes? Due to the high risk in gameplay difficulty, there’s a high reward, and beating a boss means something here. It’s an adrenaline rush from start to finish.