Most Played – Wanted: Dead

On paper, Wanted: Dead puts a lot of ticks in a lot of boxes. Originating from Japan, it’s a gory third-person shooter with hack ‘n slash elements, blessed with a smattering of silliness and a bunch of mini-games that wouldn’t look out of place in SEGA’s Yakuza series. It also reminded me of SEGA’s overlooked 2012 sci-fi shooter Binary Domain, initially at least. What’s not to like?

Turns out, quite a lot. Wanted: Dead is one of those rare games where the more you play it, the worse it gets. This isn’t so much because of its niggles starting to amount into frustrations, but because it genuinely takes a nosedive towards the finishing line. Not that I made it that far – I reached the final stage through gritted teeth, but eventually admitted defeat part way through upon being ushered into narrow corridors where the camera began to judder, resulting in enemy attacks becoming impossible to counter. If you made it to the ending credits screen, you’re made of strong stuff.

Wanted: Dead Xbox Series

Things seemed quite promising during the opening, knee sliding along the floor into cover, hacking limbs off with a katana sword, crushing craniums with headshots, and performing slow-mo takedowns. It’s quite generous with achievements too, dishing out a good dozen within the first hour.

But then cracks start to emerge. Death comes often and quickly, usually at the hand of masked ninjas who can drain a health bar in seconds. Ammo is also incredibly scarce, which does make sense – encouraging swordplay over gunplay – but not when you’re in a large room surrounded by enemies opening fire. I consequently spent a lot of time backtracking from ammo, and even then, would regularly run out mid-confrontation.

Wanted: Dead Xbox Series

These sudden deaths quickly start to aggravate. Not only can you go from a full health bar to just a smidgen left in the blink of an eye, with not enough time given to retreat and heal, but the checkpoints are spread far apart. It isn’t uncommon at all to lose 10-15 minutes of progress. As mentioned, this becomes a huge issue during the final hurdle – a soldier with a rocket launcher is something to fear.

On top of this, the enemy AI is some of the strangest in recent times. If I wanted to be kind, I could say that the enemy is good at flanking, as enemies will often run behind you. But to be more exact, they’re running past you…and into the room you’ve just cleared. And then down the hallway.

Part of the way through I tried to ditch guns and focus on slashing, but this only generated more problems as the camera system is set up for a third-person shooter. It should ideally pan out to give a wider view of the surroundings, giving a view similar to something like Metal Gear Rising. Instead, it merely tilts, able to track sword swings and parries, but not wide enough to alert of incoming attacks.

Wanted: Dead Xbox Series

As the problems worsened, I found myself going back to the main menu and partaking in the mini-games instead. There’s a shooting range that tracks high-scores, a couple of crane games with collectables to grab, a ramen noodle slurping competition, a 16-bit scrolling shooter similar to the published works of Masaya, and rhythm action karaoke – which features the German version of 99 Red Balloons. Because the cat-ear wearing protagonist is German. I actually quite liked this touch.

There’s a lot of other stuff to consider when judging Wanted: Dead, such as the bosses becoming progressively worse – starting with a colossal spider tank, hence the Binary Domain comparison, and ending with mere human characters with elongated health bars. Together with the police station hub being partly recycled as the penultimate stage, this would suggest either time or money was a factor during development.

I picked up Wanted: Dead cheaply hoping to find a diamond in the rough – and potentially something to include in our yearly ‘Games You May Have Missed’ feature – but it ended up being one of the worst games I’ve played this year. Hopefully next month I can find something worthy. Time is ticking, and the list is looking a little slim currently.