Wanted: Dead PAX West 2022 Hands-On Preview: Hard to the Core

The upcoming slasher/shooter hybrid Wanted: Dead is exactly what one would expect from the team that brought us Ninja Gaiden and similar action-shooter mashes. Even if you are an experienced Master Ninja, Wanted: Dead is a whole new ballpark. Prepare to get your teeth kicked in with this upcoming hardcore action game.

Wanted: Dead PAX West 2022 Hands-On Preview: Hard to the Core

Wanted: Dead is an upcoming slasher/shooter hybrid published by 110 Industries and developed by Soleil, a company made up of former Team Ninja developers who left in 2008 after the release of Ninja Gaiden II. Since then, the development team has worked on the infamous Wii U exclusive Devil’s Third, Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time, and at the end of this month, will release Valkyrie Elysium. Throughout my preview of Wanted: Dead, I found it a lot of fun, but expect a stiff challenge. It will most definitely satisfy players of hardcore action games.

Wanted: Dead will be available on Steam, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S on February 14, 2023, with no set price yet.

Wanted: Dead - Official Release Date Trailer

Story

The premise of the game will sound familiar to people who have played the developers’ past work. Set in a 90s-inspired Cyberpunk vision of Hong Kong, you play as Lt. Hannah Stone, a woman who’s been imprisoned as one of the losing fighters in the global war. However, she’s been given one last chance to escape her imprisonment as she takes charge of the “Zombie Squad.” The elite team is tasked with uncovering a major corporate conspiracy surrounding the biggest company in the world “Dauer Synthetics.”

Wanted: Dead’s story is standard fare for a cyberpunk action game. However, the story typically isn’t the main focus of these developers’ titles anyway. I do think the basic premise is a bit too similar to Devil’s Third, with the lead character also being a prisoner released temporarily to take charge of an elite team. I am looking forward to learning about and bonding with the various members of the “Zombie Squad,” though, due to Wanted: Dead’s episodic structure. 

Gameplay

Wanted: Dead is an episodic game consisting of 5 in total, representing 5 days. After each main segment of an episode, there is a portion where you can do side quests and activate optional cutscenes. Each episode ends with a Yakuza-style mini-game. I was informed that they only have one karaoke track in the game, and the song’s licensing cost almost blew the entire game’s budget. Licensed music sure ain’t as cheap as it used to be with 2003’s Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball having Christina Aguilera, Bob Marley, Baha Men, Spice Girls, and like 8 other artists in one game. Times have changed.

After a sword combo, you can press the Y/Triangle button for a gun attack, and that allows you to string together multiple melee combos.

After a sword combo, you can press the Y/Triangle button for a gun attack, and that allows you to string together multiple melee combos.

Combat

I played 3 sections. I played the quick tutorial first, which teaches you the basics. Then I played a night-time park level. The combat is customizable in terms of how you want to play. Wanted: Dead does cater to people who want to play the game more like a shooter or people who want to play it as a souls-like or a hybrid of the two. The game has a progression system, and it’s designed where you should have every upgrade in the game right before the final boss. I asked about enemy variety, and thankfully each episode will feature new enemies to fight. The game’s combat is quite fun and challenging, but my Ninja Gaiden muscle memory didn’t do me any favors here.

I was holding block most of the time in fights, but that’s actually bad because movement is much more restricted while blocking than in something like Ninja Gaiden. In NG, you should be holding block anytime you are not actively attacking, but the restricted movement while blocking in Wanted: Dead will get you absolutely crushed if you do this. I definitely needed time to adjust to how Wanted: Dead plays. The hud, I thought, was a bit too small. A few times, a developer said you could press down on the d-pad to heal, and I had no idea my health was that low. I prefer other action games where the hud is more easily noticeable from a glance when playing.

There is a parry system with the Y/Triangle button, which as a Punch-Out!! veteran, I'm totally down with.

There is a parry system with the Y/Triangle button, which as a Punch-Out!! veteran, I’m totally down with.

Bosses

The final section I played was a boss fight. I got a sense of déjà vu as I was fighting a woman who periodically goes invisible. The boss was quite fun to learn and master and did utilize the parry mechanic. Unfortunately, my journey came to an end when I failed to parry an attack in the second phase of the fight and died in one hit. A developer then clarified that it does 95% of your health.

These one-hit or near one-hit kills can be quite frustrating until you’ve figured out how to consistently avoid or counter them. I’m fine with insane damage, but one-hit kills are just cheap. Even in NG2 on Master Ninja, very few attacks will outright kill you with a full life bar. I did play only one boss, but considering the developers previously made Devil’s Third which featured a lot of bosses having one-hit kills, I think this will be a common trait with the boss fights. Overall the gameplay was quite fun, but I am eager to play it again to fully click with the mechanics. Combat has quite a lot of tools available for the player to play around with, and I definitely didn’t utilize all of them. 

Graphics & Audio

I think the graphics are overall quite good. Character models and environments look solid, but there are a few blemishes. Blood effects could pop out a bit more. Sometimes it’s satisfying, but other times it feels kind of weak. The enemy character models also look a little too generic, but overall the game does look like a AAA title

In terms of animations, I thought the finishing moves just didn’t hit as hard as something like the Obliteration techniques in NG2 or the killing animations in Devil’s Third. Not all of them have that awesome satisfying visceral feeling that I got from the moves in those games. The audio design in the demo was nothing really noticeable or standout. To be fair, I was playing at a busy convention center while actively talking to the developers. With that in mind, the audio wasn’t prime on my radar, given the situation. 

Wanted: Dead was previewed at PAX West 2022 with developers at 110 Industries and played mostly on PC, with a small section being played on an Xbox Series X development kit.

Summary
Wanted: Dead is an action game that I immediately want to get my hands on again because it is a lot of fun, but also, I played so poorly. I really want to master the gameplay systems here. Just writing this makes me want to test out the game's combat, learn the combos, and try to string them together. There are a few issues, though. The biggest one is that the hud needs to be bigger. There is a reason why fighting game huds are designed the way they are, so I can immediately get information from a quick glance. This game doesn't do that. I think this title will be a must-play for action game fans and hardcore gamers.
Good
  • AAA Presentation
  • Combat
  • Challenging difficulty
Bad
  • Small hud
  • Not every finishing move has that satisfying visceral feeling
  • cheap one-hit kill moves from bosses
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x