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"A new hybrid shooter/slasher from the makers of Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive!" Now, just wait a minute. We absolutely adore Ninja Gaiden, it's one of the all-time great hack and slashers. And Dead or Alive? Well...we mean, somebody probably likes that too, but let's not confuse the issue, the point is that Wanted: Dead has got proper pedigree, it's got history running through its veins. However, no amount of history or ties to past glories can paper over the cracks here. This is a bad game, a clunky action adventure that gives you very little incentive to keep playing.

Yes, Soleil's cyberpunk action extravaganza is, from sloppy beginning to painfully poor end, a huge disappointment. We like to think you don't get that many properly bad games releasing these days, such is the ridiculously high standard to which the industry usually holds itself, however Wanted: Dead rides the line here, serving up a nonsensical and infuriating mess that had us wanting to chuck a few controllers through our TV screens.

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Honestly, it's hard to know where to start with this game really, so let's pick on the story first, such as it is. You assume the role of Hannah Stone, a badass member of the Zombie Unit, an elite Hong Kong police patrol who deal in hunting down the absolute worst of the worst using no-holds barred violence in order to mete out brutal justice. As the game kicks off we find ourselves embroiled in some sort of corporate conspiracy, something to do with replicants, people smuggling, robots and robot ninjas, and there's a guy who looks a bit like a sort of melted Tom Cruise, and another guy, a sort of knock-off Metal Gear Solid character with a big veiny head and a fake moustache. What's his deal? The narrative here doesn't really attempt to make any sense, and the only reason you'll likely sit through the shoddy cutscenes is to give yourself a break from the miserable action at the heart of this lacklustre hack and slash effort.

The Zombie Unit in total consists of our main protagonist, Stone, a character who barely manages to speak in coherent sentences and likes to take showers a lot, she's also got some sort of violent past that we're treated to flashbacks of via low quality anime cutscenes. You've also got Doc, a medic of sorts who likes to drink Irish coffees for breakfast because he's well hard. Then there's Herzog, who is mad apparently, he's a real loose cannon is our Herzog, he's also very cool, did you know he's had sex? Finally, you've got Cortez, who is deaf and mute and gets shot in the leg at one point during the campaign, that's about the sum of his contributions to the tale. We won't spoil any more of what transpires here, because very little does and you might as well enjoy the few narrative crumbs you're pelted in the face with as this one plays out.

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On a more positive note, the very core of the action here has got some good ideas. Hannah is equipped with a flashy katana, a main gun and a side pistol and she can pull off a handful of combos that see her slash enemies and then pop them with her pistol at close range with the aim of staggering them into a stunned state, at which point you can press "Y" and "B" together to pull off a swish finishing move. You can parry attacks to open up opportunities to strike and there are special red flashing attacks thrown your way by enemies that you can counter with your pistol to pull off a fancy riposte move.

Hannah can also aim down the sights of her main gun and take on enemies from range, utilising the game's flaky auto-cover system to take a breather before popping out and taking some shots, and there are even some enemy guns scattered around the ground that you can pick up and use against them. This is all fairly reasonable. The game also wants you to press the advantage - it does this by allowing you to recoup a recently lost chunk of health by immediately going on the offensive when you get hurt, damaging your foes quickly to regain what you just lost. You've also got a few syringes to use up and Doc will revive you once if you fall in battle. Which you will. Hundreds of times. And not because the game is hard, but because it is a mess.

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Before and during battles you'll get to customise your loadout by switching various components of your pistol and your main gun, but there's nothing very interesting about any of this and we failed to notice much, if any, difference as we swapped out barrels and all that sort of thing in order to tweak variables such as accuracy, recoil, damage and stopping power. What's the difference between damage and stopping power? Don't ask us, mate, we just work here.

Anyway, you've got this basic setup and it's got something about it, it feels as though it could very well be a good time, mixing up close-quarters combat and longer range action against vicious thugs whilst revelling in finishing moves that really are very violent indeed. However, once the action kicks off - and really we mean as soon as the game starts - the cracks begin to show, the floodgates open and you're washed away on a tidal wave of problems.

The main issue here, really, is that everything you do in Wanted: Dead feels tremendously clunky, to the point you're never really sure if the plan you've got in your head is going to work out. A big part of this comes down to Hannah's movement, which feels very unwieldy. Her dodge mechanic is straight-up bad, she often auto-slides long distances across the floor to engage in pre-cooked animations during battle and, try as we might, parrying - even when we unlocked a longer parry window - just doesn't work some of the time, leaving you open to frustrating attacks.

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Enemies are poor across the board too, exhibiting very little in the way of tactical nous. They also have completely random amounts of health, which makes it impossible to plan a route through crowds. One low-level thug might take three sword slashes and a pistol bullet to go down, then the next identical enemy will soak up dozens of slashes, multiple rounds from a gun and a proper pounding from your teammates before biting the dust. Oh, and your teammates might as well not exist in all honesty. They do very little during battles other than get in the way, with only Doc's revival mechanic providing any sort of useful help at all.

Each new mission you undertake in Wanted: Dead plays out in exactly the same fashion. You'll trundle down very bland and narrow corridors, occasionally coming to a larger space, a nice big empty square with zero furnishings or details, and the game will throw boring groups of enemies at you in repetitive waves for far longer than seems reasonable. You'll try to make use of the cover system only to find it's picky about which parts of the environment you can actually hide behind, so you'll then attempt to take the fight to close quarters, at which point you'll hack and slash foes as bullets rain down on your character from all angles. It's impossible not to get to shot here. It feels bad, it never feels slick or cool or as though you're some super-in-control combat badass. You just mill about and get shot a lot and heal and slash your opponents and hope for the best.

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Then Wanted: Dead will fling a big shielded or armoured heavy character into the mix, we particularly like the large machinegun-wielding dudes who barely fit in the corridors the game attempts to squeeze them into. These guys have eyes only for Hannah - they'll make a beeline right for her - and so you'll find yourself running away because there's nowhere else to go, turning and shooting and praying they go down. You'll then run out of bullets and have to use your sword and the camera will get all twisted up because it's messy close-quarters combat in a small space and you'll die. Try again. Better luck next time.

There are a smattering of boss battles thrown in at the end of missions to try to up the ante a little. You've got a big bald lad called August who runs around after you firing his gun and shouting, a ninja lady who cloaks herself so that you have to watch for her footsteps in the rain, and that melted Tom Cruise guy we mentioned earlier - yes, melted Tom Cruise is a boss as well, and...listen...all of these boss battles stink. They are lousy. Take the cloaked ninja lady. This should be a decent battle, but beyond cloaking herself, she's got nothing, she simply runs in your direction and has a go, you deflect her attacks and then batter her, move away, rinse and repeat. We also had a few occasions where a boss - and we're looking at you here, melted Tom Cruise - simply stopped what they were doing and stood still, allowing us to whale on them with incendiary grenades.

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This whole game just feels as though it's barely holding itself together at any one time. Watch how enemies bound onto the screen then take up random positions, ignoring you entirely at times, standing right beside your squad-mates, running right past the battle and standing against a wall, sometimes getting stuck in scenery or getting caught in a looping cycle of doing little forward rolls, or even just falling through the floor. As the campaign unfolds, the clunky action gets worse, throwing more and more super annoying ninjas and robots and big machinegun dudes at you in tiny spaces and, if you make it to the end - which 90% of players will not, we guarantee that right now - well, you'll have done it out of bitterness and spite. Go you.

Beyond all of this highly disappointing action, you also have a big drab empty police HQ to mill around between missions. Here you can pick up collectible files to get background info on characters - did you know, for example, that melted Tom Cruise's real name is Mr Holiday? - and you can also (we imagine out of sheer desperation on the part of the devs to inject some fun into proceedings) play claw machines for prizes, do karaoke to a handful of tunes in a rhythm game style and play a retro side-scrolling shooter on an arcade cabinet. What can we say? This stuff is there and you can do it. It serves no real purpose other than to give you little SP to use in the game's skill tree, but you'll have maxed that thing out by the end of the third level most likely anyway.

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Oh, wait, did we not mention the skill tree already? Sorry, we were busy doing karaoke. Yeah, so there's a skill tree and it gives you more medical syringes, you can enhance your attack power and defence or add a bullet time mechanic that allows you to chain together finishers or slow down time as you look down your gunsights. That sounds cool doesn't it? It isn't though. Any fleeting moments of fun you have with these additional mechanics are drowned out by the clunk and the jank and the awful AI and the repetitive combat chatter and the looping soundtrack that sometimes drops out entirely before starting up again mid-battle.

It's drowned out by stuffy little linear levels that are entirely devoid of any surprises or innovation, repetitive AI that just bombs it in your direction, terrible enemy placement and tons of cheap instant deaths because you didn't see someone attack you from offscreen. You'll also get sent way back in levels when you die sometimes, yep, even the checkpointing is a mess, forcing you to repeat large sections of frustrating battles only to have you come a cropper to the same horrible mix of enemies who can one-shot you at random time after time again. It's incredibly frustrating stuff.

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As a little icing on the cake, we also experienced two full crashes during our time with Wanted: Dead. Fair enough, these things happen, but worse than this is the fact that the framerate absolutely falls apart a little later in the game, with a couple of battles slowing to a crawl as the whole thing struggles to keep up. Not ideal, especially considering how dated this game looks, it's full of poor character models and empty environments and still can't hold its framerate together on a Series X. It wants to be an incredibly exacting combat offering, a hardcore action effort that demands perfection from its players, but you can't demand this and then expect us to succeed through iffy framerates and clunky dodging and naff parry mechanics.

We could go on and on and on about the bad points of Wanted: Dead, but let's just sum it all up by calling it a highly disappointing release, a game that feels as though it was just thrown together and everybody involved hoped for the best. You may read some reviews that try to convince you this is a cool throwback to retro efforts of the past, the sort of tough-as-nails hack and slash effort we just don't see enough of these days. Do not be fooled. This game is sadly none of these things, it has none of the style or finesse or skill or replayability or depth of any of the old guard worth mentioning.


Wanted: Dead is an incredibly disappointing action effort that presents some decent ideas but fails to execute any of them properly. The idea of fusing hack and slash combat with shooter mechanics has lots of potential here, and the cyberpunk setting is initially intriguing. However, in practice it's all very clunky and janky and frustrating and beset by performance issues. There's a bunch of odd side activities thrown in to try to lighten the mood between battles, but it's just not enough in the end. With a very weak narrative, poor voice-acting, rubbish action and drab level design, this is one game that's best avoided.