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Review: Wet

Justin McElroy

You have to love a game that works solely on the strength of its convictions. Deep down in the very core of its rockabilly heart, Wet knows that shooting dudes while you slow-mo dive and slide is fun. Fun enough to build an entire game around without too much ancillary garbage? Yes. A thousands times yes.

Sure, Artificial Mind and Movement has sexed it up with a gritty grindhouse feel and some outstanding music, but Wet is a game that never forgets on which side its bread is buttered. And that's the murder side ... of the, um, bread.

Gallery: Wet | 6 Photos

A grindhouse dirtiness makes its way into every crack and crevice of the experience. Though it's perhaps not as expertly captured as in House of the Dead: Overkill, Wet certainly buys into the aesthetic with a film grain that's on the screen at all times (you can turn it off, but you won't) and occasional stops in the action that last long enough for vintage ads to remind you to get something from the snack bar.

Though it's reminiscent of Stranglehold, Wet has some tricks of its own, besides just being far more refined.

It's all perfectly complimented by an original score by Beck keyboardist Brian LeBarton, which he describes as "a lonely, stuck in the desert with no water and you're really pissed off sort of sound." The original tracks from bands like Knock Gallery West and The Chop Tops are devastating psychobilly or rockabilly (I can never tell the difference) missiles deployed at key moments in the mayhem.

These are, of course, but a mere framing of the real star, the trademark dive-slide-shooting of "fixer" Rubi Malone, who kills her way from A to B in a story so threadbare that you and I have already spent more time on it in this paragraph than the game does in all of its eight or so hours.

Though its action is reminiscent of Stranglehold, Wet has some tricks of its own, besides just being far more refined. One of Rubi's dual-wielded weapons is always auto targeting, leaving you free to aim with the other hand and deal death to two dudes at once. The addition of wall runs and slides (both of which, like dives, slow to a crawl when you start firing to allow easier aiming) allow you to fluidly and acrobatically make your way through hordes of thugs, while being rewarded with bonus points for consecutive kills.

The rare occasions that Wet deviates from slow-mo action (such as when Rubi leaps between moving vehicles to hunt her prey or jumps from an exploding cargo jet) are of varying levels of polish and frustration, but are at least never, ever dull.

The same can't be said for Eliza Dushku, whose underwhelming performance isn't helped much by crummy zingers like "Say good night, Gracie" that had me scanning the screen for Animaniacs. The blame is, however, solely on her shoulders for her death grunts, which provide a stunning facsimile of a drunken female zebra being pushed down a flight of stairs. One can't help but wish A2M had just saved the cash and spent it on a real ending, or another exploding vehicle escape, perhaps from a hydrofoil.

This is a game that's absolutely rough around the edges, and it knows it. Hell, you could even argue that it revels in it. But offer me a perfectly-crafted game with no soul and a flawed, funky one that has a point of view, a direction and embraces it almost to the point of smothering, and I'm going to take the second one every single time.

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