Rubi Malone is a fixer; she’s a gun-for-hire who gets the job done with acrobatic moves that combine Chow Yun-Fat’s Tequila-style gunplay with Lara Croft’s graceful maneuverability. As a femme fatale, she’s a little rough around the edges, favoring more direct approaches than seductive trickery to finish what she’s been paid to do.
Where else can such a character exhibit acts of pure, relentless violence and unbelievable action than behind the veil of the grindhouse genre? Artificial Mind and Movement (hereafter AMM) uses the high-action, low-budget approach to propel Rubi through a loosely knit story of rival drug cartels and her quest for revenge in WET. Titled as a euphemism for “wetworks,” or acts leaving the hands literally wet with blood, the game succeeds in living up to its namesake; however, an over-reliance on slow motion shooting and trial-and-error pitfalls kill an otherwise artistic arcade-like action game.
That isn’t to say WET doesn’t deliver in charming its audience by thriving off of irony and using vintage drive-in adds instead of blank loading screens to create a fairly unique experience. No, there’s plenty of content that contributes to the allusion of a late 60’s grindhouse flick: a scratchy film filter, an afro-touting heart surgeon, dissolving film negatives after Rubi dies, and loads of violence and action that’s just too surreal to not appreciate. Though, it’s not all about sliding around on your knees or down a ladder while shooting hordes of enemies.
AMM tries to balance objective-based, arena-style run-and-gunning for points, with platforming and intermittent specialty stages that find Rubi leaping from cars on the 101 or vying for a single parachute while freefalling amongst the fiery wreckage of a large transport aircraft. While these portions act as seemingly thrilling fillers between bouts of slow motion gunfights ad nauseam, their execution leads more to frustration than to excitement after a fifth continue due to slow, jerky aiming and unfair AI—though by that time, you should be able to figure out the pre-mapped paths of whatever is giving you trouble.
Being picked off by bad guys at terminal velocity is frustrating, and so too is trying to maneuver Rubi around non-combat areas, either in London or Hong Kong, as well as her free-roaming training Boneyard in Texas. In all cases, movement is hampered by indecisive camera angles that lead to accidental leaps of faith and choppy transitions as you grapple onto ledges. Platforming in WET desperately tries to fuse Prince of Persia with Tomb Raider, but the combination is clunky. These portions, however, do lend to some spectacular set pieces and environments with a lot of visual verticality.
The real gameplay for WET is in its arcade-style shooting, which relies too heavily on slow motion and only a couple of slicing combos courtesy of Rubi’s decorated sword. Staged arenas create death games where it’s your objective to close off doors of continually spawning enemies in the most stylistic ways possible for points used to upgrade Rubi’s skills and weapons. What ends up happening, however, is what people railed 300 for: added length due to copious amounts of slowed time. “Rage” sections also fall to similar scrutiny, only here, things change visually to a noir aesthetic with white blood smearing across a black and red color scheme.
On the whole, the game feels like it struggles with itself: On one hand it presents some enjoyable artistic and campy elements, as it plays homage to an old film genre, and delivers a star cast of mildly acted voice talent complemented by a superbly fitting rockabilly soundtrack; while on the other, it tussles with quirky gameplay mechanics that sometimes just don’t work. Essentially, a scratchy filter holds everything together. Should you choose to turn off the filter, what you’re left with is a game that could have easily been a simple arcade shooter thanks to a thin-as-hair story, and, not to mention, an experience that ends with quick-time button mashing.