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Summer was made for games like the bizarre Wanted: Dead

This summer's hottest game is several months old, got negative reviews, and is totally awesome

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Wanted: Dead
Wanted: Dead
Screenshot: YouTube

Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?

Ah, the summer video game drought. The perfect time to huddle up indoors because it’s too hot outside and/or the air is toxic, sit in front of the TV, and bemoan the fact that there simply aren’t any good video games to play. We’ll all feel silly for ever thinking that come November or so, when every new video game is out and competing for our attention (yes, Starfield and Spider-Man 2, you can both marry me!), but what in the world are we supposed to do until then?


Alright, Final Fantasy XVI and Diablo IV just came out, and—let’s be honest—you’ll probably never really finish The Legend Of Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom, but what are you supposed to do if you’re not interested in any of those? That makes summer the perfect time to go back and explore some games you might’ve missed, like, say, Soleil and 110 Industries’ Wanted: Dead, a game that I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you definitely missed.

It came out back in February, and though reviews weren’t especially forgiving, everything about the game made it sound exactly like my kind of shit. It’s a big, dumb shooter, one of my favorite genres, and you play as a cool lady with a robot arm and a sword. A video game like that would have to actively harm me or my family for me to not be at least mildly curious. But, of course, I didn’t play it. Those reviews, you see.


So, with me having no interest in FFXVI or Diablo IV but still having a column to write this week, I accepted a copy of Wanted: Dead that 110 Industries offered so I could finally see if my suspicions about it were correct. And reader, let me tell you: This is my kind of shit.

Oh sure, it’s got shooting and robots and the player character is a woman with a sword. You can put that generic stuff on the back of the box. But it also has random anime sequences, a deranged rhythm game where you eat ramen and it’s kind of set to music but not really, John Wick-style execution moves that are animated so well that it makes you wonder what the fuck is happening with every other minute of the game, a lady with a cat named 12 and a cat named 11 (but when you ask her about it she explains that the rest of her 12 cats all have real names but she couldn’t think of any others), and the cat lady is played by Stephanie Joosten—a.k.a. Quiet from Metal Gear Solid V, who also sings a bunch of songs on the soundtrack.

Wanted: Dead - Official Gameplay Trailer (4K) | TGS 2022

The game opens with a montage of news clips setting up its alternate-history version of the world, where the introduction of robot workers completely upended the world’s economy during the Cold War, leading to decades of disarray and constant global conflicts, and it ends with a news reporter dropping what may be one of my favorite lines in video game history: “Future historians will condemn this period as a colossal failure of common sense.” If your story starts with someone saying that, I think you should be able to get away with whatever the hell you want.

I’ll concede that the combat takes some work before it becomes fun, specifically unlocking a few of the upgrades that make things easier and accepting the fact that every fight will end with you eventually getting all of your ammo and health back (so just go for broke and don’t try to be too smart about it). But that’s not the case for the boss fights, which require a level of Dark Souls-style planning that doesn’t really click with the other mechanics.

So I can see why it got some prickly reviews, but I also don’t think this is a game that would ever review especially well. It has quantifiable issues that might make a critic knock it down a few points on some arbitrary grading metric, but it also has a ton of heart. Most numbered review scales don’t really account for that.


Like the writers in that Key & Peele sketch about Gremlins 2, the team behind Wanted: Dead—which includes veterans from Ninja Gaiden—apparently just went for it and included everything in this game that they like to see in video games, and I can’t fault them for that. It helps that I also like to see a lot of those things in a video game, but before anyone accuses me of giving this a free pass because it’s about a woman with a sword and a gun, let me just note that Wanted: Dead also gives your character… a cell phone. That’s right, the absolute worst thing you can have in a video game. And yet it still fuckin’ rips! Mostly!

There’s a little sprinkle of magic in games like Wanted: Dead (which, conveniently, is available for a discount on the Steam Summer Sale now) that tends to get sanded down when budgets and expectations get higher, and in a world where it costs more and more to simply make a video game (let alone market it and all that), it makes me happy that something as oddly personal and gleefully bonkers as this can still get released alongside mega-budget blockbusters like FFXVI. And without the summer video game drought I probably never would’ve had time for it! Now, if I may, I’m just going to sit quietly and wait for Starfield.