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  • Writer's pictureRoberto Nieves

Wanted Dead is the Cyberpunk Action Game I've Been Waiting For

The city is in peril. There's crime in the streets. There is no Robocop or help coming. The innocent are oppressed and robbed. Those trying to make a good honest living are consistently robbed of basic decency. However, as one person famously said, modern problems require modern solutions. Enter The Zombie Unit, an elite team of cyborgs that have committed themselves to giving the people back their city and punishing those that seek to enslave the futuristic dystopia of Hong Kong. I was introduced to Wanted: Dead at Pax West and was joined by members of the Wanted Dead: Team, Josh and Tim, two young developers seeing their dream come true with the upcoming release of Wanted: Dead. After spending some time with the game, this action-packed extravaganza is shaping up to be a great way to steal some hearts when it launches on Valentine's Day, 2023.


I was introduced to a combat scenario, played by Josh, a creative director. After a quick loading screen that is clearly a nod to the internet Youtube meme Super Hot Fiya, the combat scenario thrusts our heroes into a deadly assault, where gang members have taken and occupied an important building. The demo took me into the shoes of Lt. Hannah Stone, a hard-boiled cop with a mean cyborg arm that isn't taking any bull from any crooks, gangs, or bullies today.



I AM THE LAW!


The demo showcased an interesting degree of gameplay. It was revealed during the demo that Wanted Dead was made by former members of Team Ninja, the Koei Tecmo team responsible for the Ninja Gaiden games and the Dead or Alive series. The team is known for making slick, fast, and incredibly challenging fighting and action games, known for responsiveness, style, and an old-fashioned degree of challenge. With Wanted: Dead, the same principle applies, only this time, multiple types of combat are present. Hannah Stone can wield firearms, and in that regard, Wanted: Dead like a 3rd person shooter, complete with cover mechanics and blind fire. However, Hannah can also fight in close-quarters combat with a blade and gun to form a lethal martial arts style.


When enemies get close, Hannah unsheathes her sword, slashing and stabbing her way through enemies. An exciting addition to this mechanic is the quick draw of her sidearm. This allows Hannah to engage in CQC tactics with her enemies, discharging her firearm at close range and allowing for brutal eliminations of enemy combatants. This mechanic wasn't some kind of a tacked-on gimmick but a thought-out and well-constructed addition to the melee gameplay mechanics. The melee attack allows for combos to be made, using quick and heavy attacks but also allows the quick use of the sidearm to be instrumental in applying offensive tactics. Using the pistol changes Hannah's stance and allows the player to build their combat finesse from there.



Your Move, Creep!


Enemies aren't a cakewalk. They will guard themselves, and a guard poise gauge will display. Whittling the gauge down to zero allows Hannah to unleash the finishing strike, which can be chained if multiple enemies have depleted gauges. Seeing it in action, Wanted: Dead looks like it was straight out of a high-end martial arts film and maybe even the amazing futuristic anime I grew up on. After showing the demo, I was allowed to participate in a quick boss fight. " everything is 110%. Everything is dramatic but not gross, just super cool.


With the controller in my hand, I could now get a feel for Wanted: Dead. It certainly didn't feel like the fluid and loose hack-n-slash of Ninja Gaiden, but it felt more impactful and responsive. The boss, the third in the game, was a woman that wouldn't look out of place in Ghost in the Shell, complete with augmentations that rendered her invisible. It was a brutal fight, even with multiple augments unlocked. Between dodging, parrying, and trying to use the combination of my firearm and blade, I found myself in an old-fashioned white-knuckle boss, the kind where seeing cues and learning patterns was essential.



Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger


The enemy moved swiftly, using the camo to her advantage. I was successful in eroding the boss's health to bare minimum. With only a sliver of health left, I decided to lean in on aggression and attack. Suddenly, she leaped into the air, clearly priming herself for a strong attack, but fortunately, my aggression prevailed, and she was downed, much to the surprise and delight of Josh and Tim. "If she completed that move, you would have died!" Josh exclaimed. Tim mentioned that it was a grapple move designed for maximum damage on the player. "We have never seen anyone finish the demo in one try following a tutorial, so good job with that!"


The combat was striking, not just because of how cool and stylish it looked but also how profound and impactful it was. There was a clear level of polish and attention between what was seen and felt. The input was incredibly responsive, and the stylish action was incredible to look at. " We pulled a lot of reference to the combat form John Wick and even Equilibrium," John mentioned. Equilibrium, a lesser-known sci-fi film, introduced gun-kata, or gun-fu, to audiences, a martial arts style that infuses quick movements, physical attacks, and the use of handguns. This type of style would then be adapted into the John Wick trilogy of films. It's clear from every angle of the gameplay the developers at Soleil ltd wanted to pursue this engaging combat style, and based on the demo, they greatly succeeded.



How Do the Three Seashells Work


Visually, Wanted: Dead was reminiscent of the retro-future aesthetic established in movies like RoboCop, Judge Dredd, and Demolition Man. Futures where there may be cybernetic limbs and augmentations, but a futuristic car might be considered a 1983 Toyota Corolla with neon lights adorned below the chassis. There's filth and decay, but a functioning city is doing its damndest to survive.


Josh and Tim both tell me the development team drew plenty of inspiration from not just cyberpunk in general bus specifically the kind of raw and edge cyberpunk and dystopias depicted in the late 80s and through the 90s. " Sergei, the creative director, is a Russian guy who lived in New York for ten years and worked in a record shop. He has a huge love for things he enjoyed, and you'll see various references to Robocop, Robotech, things like that."


We Cling to Memories as if They Define Us


Seeing it with my own eyes, Wanted: Dead certainly has a classic 90s style to it, from the visuals to the gameplay and the story. Wanted: Dead became one of my most anticipated titles of 2023, as it doesn't just want to mimic a certain style of game but embraces it fully. It's flinching and pure in a way I haven't seen in a game. It was a game about intense action, a solid story, and a futuristic setting. It's a game that wants to bring memorable enjoyment to players, not clouded by messaging or what is trending.


2023 in games is interesting as it is unknown. Players are getting a big wizard RPG and a remake of a horror classic, but Wanted: Dead is shaping to be my favorite game of 2023. Between the incredible action and setting, it certainly has a lot of love put into it. On February 14th, 2023, we get to see what kind of love that is.


Wanted: Dead launches for PlayStation 4/5, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and Steam on Tuesday, February 14th, 2023.



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