Wanted: Dead Review – PC – Throwback Game with Surreal Moments

Looking at the PC version specifically, although I doubt there to be too many differences compared to the current gen versions of Wanted: Dead which released on Feb 14th 2023. Video review below, or text transcript.



Today I am taking a look at Japanese developer Soleil’s action-packed story-driven action shooter game, Wanted: Dead which releases on consoles and PC. I am playing the PC version at max settings in 4K using an RTX 4090. The studio also released Valkyrie Elysium last year, and previously claims to have worked on the Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden Series.  Wanted: Dead certainly feels quite similar to Ninja Gaiden, but with perhaps less focus on the acrobatics of Ryu Hayabusa’s ninja character. Instead, I am seeing a more robust and grounded cyberpunk retro character in Lt. Hannah Stone. Who is based on the Swiss model/actress, Fee Marie Zimmermann.

Without going into story specific to avoid spoilers, there are a lot of inconsequential cut-scenes that amount to little more than seemingly random moments and crazy dialogue beats at times. It certainly doesn’t take itself too-seriously, and wears its humour firmly on its sleeves, in a very Japanese way that is. I actually found these scenes to be totally watchable and endearing, making Hannah and her cohorts feel a lot more believable, without the need to delve deeper into their personalities.  Not everyone is going to appreciate the left-field jarring moments, but within the opening hour or so, is such a jagged journey, is best to just take it all in – ramen eating mini-game and all. Especially given the length of the first mission which can take up to an hour! The break from the intense combat to the sullen moments exploring the police station and playing mini-games is welcome. 

Looking at the basics, and Wanted: Dead effortlessly fuses hybrid gameplay mechanics with satisfying swordplay, alongside tradition firearms.  The swordplay is fairly easy to master, with unlockable combos, charge attacks, standard parrying moves and such-like.  Common ground for anyone familiar with melee-based combat in video-games. The shooting is also pretty straight-forward, that is with primary weapons such as the standard upgradable assault rifle the Zombie unit Hannah works under issues to her.  As you progress, stat-based items can be used to upgrade the effectiveness of the weapons.  All pretty standard-fare for a third person shooter, aside from the fact ammo can be scarce if you decide to play shooter only where picking up new weapons from your defeated opponents becomes mandatory. Players can also upgrade Hannah, by earning points from defeated foes. Once maxed out or with certain abilities gained the game’s melee combat especially improves considerably.

Where things heat-up, is the fusion and use of the infinite ammo pistol. This is effectively a combo cancelling one-shot, that cancels enemy attacks and allows Hannah to counterattack.  When enemies perform an unblockable attack (marked by a red glow) if the pistol is fired here, then it will cause the enemy to stagger. A great opportunity to get up-close and dish out some sword combos. It’s a neat system that becomes very easy to use and somewhat more difficult to master until at least you’re a few hours in. Once it clicks, the combat becomes very enjoyable indeed as you max out your adrenaline gauge to inflict maximum carnage and receive less damage. Stringing attacks becomes like Childs play as you take on groups of enemies.

The enemy variety here is pretty decent with a range of graded opposition that use different attack patterns. Some are armed with melee weapons, shields, others with ranged firearms. What is instantly noticeable is how mobile they are. They do react to grenades being tossed at them, and they won’t always just stay putt either for the sake of it. Some tougher ninja like foes become common through the latter portion of the story, whereby some of these can take you out quite quickly. However, as mentioned, mastery of the parry counterattack is crucial for success against these foes.

What I noticed, is Hannah has to move around a lot (much like Ryu in Ninja Gaiden). It’s quite possible to run into the line-of-fire and close the distance for a melee strike and perhaps some recovery of lost health (if a finishing move is performed). It’s this combination of either playing cover shooter and aiming for single headshots to thin out the opposition, to running in and slicing them up playing the counter/parry game that is very enjoyable through the 12 hour plus campaign (my play time says closer to 19 hours on Steam).

Wanted: Dead isn’t a perfect game as a throwback to 6th generation console gaming (that’s Nintendo Gamecube, OG Xbox and early years of the PS2 era for those who don’t know). Its retro inspired gameplay works and is fun to play, but is let down by some seriously long gaps between checkpoints (which can be forgiven), and most notably, really poor camera handling when in confined spaces. There are some sections where Hannah will be attacked from an off-screen opponent, hence the need to constantly move around. When the character disappears when close to a wall and during combat, it’s a little cheap. A wall fade would have mitigated this. There are also plentiful moments of “STUN-LOCK” which in any game isn’t nice to fall victim to. That said, throughout the campaign, I saw few other issues (like glitches) which is great.

Visually, Wanted: Dead isn’t the best looking game but runs smoothly at either 120hz/60hz using the RTX 4090 max settings in 4K. There isn’t any ray tracing and if I am honest, the game looks a little dated at times but much better in certain environments, such as the impressive nightclub. However, there is a decent number of unique looking locations, some challenging boss fights and as a retro throwback game, gets a pass from me aside from the aforementioned negatives. Some neat effects such as blood splatter on Hannah being washed off in the rain, or via sprinklers set-off from explosions is a nice touch. It’s also very visceral with its depiction of gore. Hannah’s sword is suitably sharp and will often slice-off heads, limbs and even cut bodies in half. The context based finishing moves are a joy to behold (of which there are 50 animations to discover).

Audio is also an interesting area to focus on, with a variety of action-based music coupled with some overbearing soundbites. The screams from the enemies gets tiresome pretty quickly. A shame more samples were not used to add some audio variation. However, it is the b-movie style voice-acting which just feels natural rather than dramatic acting, if that’s even possible or makes any sense which is really fun to listen to. I loved Hannah’s accents and no-nonsense approach, and with a very unique set of supporting characters (including cats), offers some audio colour throughout.

After beating the game on Normal, there is a new game plus option, alongside an additional Japanese hard mode where there is no health recovery and tougher opposition. The story ends rather jarringly, and perhaps more is discovered if beating the game on the tougher settings. I am not sure of this. The ending does actually point to a potential sequel. I will say I was a little disappointed to not have any unlockable outfits. However, there might be alternate ways to do this. Players can freely replay the mini-games (ramen eating, karaoke, crane grabbing and a shmup) from the main menu once they are unlocked in-game.

To conclude then, I really like this game once I got into the flow, as the hybrid shooting and melee combat works really well. I enjoyed Hannah’s character and the plentiful goofy moments. However, I think some gamers won’t get it, and frustrations with the camera, stun-lock and long checkpoints will dampen your experience. That said, Wanted: Dead comes highly recommended for anyone looking for an old-school challenge.

Score 8.5/10Review code supplied by publisher

Written by: Rob Cram

Rob Cram has hundreds of video game reviews, thousands of articles under his belt with years of experience in gaming and tech. He aims to remain fair and free from publisher/developer influence. With his extensive knowledge, feels his gaming opinions are valid and worth sharing. Agreement with his views are entirely optional. He might have a bias towards cyberpunk.