top of page


Wanted: Dead - Review

I've been writing reviews for a long time, and once in a while a game emerges to really show me how things have changed. It's 2023, and I'm in my early 30's. If Wanted: Dead were to come out 12 years ago at the highest of the seventh generation of consoles (Xbox 360, PS3), it would have been a pure hit. But like I said, it's 2023.

If you're young, recently got into gaming, or just perhaps got back into it, take this chance to give this one a deep, long look, because Wanted: Dead is a game in the true sense of the word. It's not a live service, not a realistic simulation nor an "experience". It's a game. It's a game prioritizing gameplay over everything else. Back a couple of generations ago, we had a lot of these games. Ninja Gaiden, NeverDead, Gears of War, Binary Domain, Lollipop Chainsaw, and many other top names highly focused on gameplay.

Wanted: Dead would fit right in that list, as a fun console action game like they used to make them. It's amazing we still have a company like Soleil, developing such an hardcore action title, and 110 Industries for publishing a Triple-A entry that does not rely on over sensationalist visuals to appeal to an audience that would be better off watching a movie.

Even though we live in a state where games need to be realistic, must appeal to the human side, are required to show emotions, or depict a human simulation, there is still hope out there for gems like Wanted: Dead. Let games be fun, goofy, nonsensical, wild, crazy, unexpected, unrealistic and an absolute blast. That, my dear reader, is what awaits you. A ludicrous mess of style and pure action, pumped by an insane mixture of swordplay with guns.

On contrary to popular belief, the game was not directed by Tomonobu Itagaki, in fact, that gentleman is too busy with his NFT game to even remember about what games used to be. Regardless, Wanted: Dead was directed by Hiroaki Matsui who was quite active in the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive series. An experienced director who recently directed Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time.

With that out of the way, Wanted: Dead presents the player with the Zombie Unit, a team composed by ex-military personal serving a life sentence. On contrary to the A-Team, this unit does have an official second chance, as long as they manage to keep themselves on the line while handing over the harsh and cruel justice to the enemies of Democracy.

In a cyberpunk-ish world where major corporates uphold their power and corruption in almost all fronts, we take the role of Lt. Hannah Stone leading the pack and fighting off private military organizations, mercenary groups and not giving a single damn about following the rules. A luxuriant young lady that has the perfect attitude for the job.

The game is not to take it seriously, in fact, as soon as you jump in you'll start to notice the huge amount of references, comedic dialogues, and even memes here and there. Imagine if a festival of hipsters was transported into Cyberpunk, while inside an Avant-Garde dream. I'm probably not still close enough but you get the idea. It's really funny and smart how Sergei Kolobashkin wrote Wanted: Dead to be fun while being modern and, sometimes, even brave.

As soon as I started Wanted: Dead, I got a huge nostalgic feeling from another game I deeply love, called WET. Both featuring a female hero with guns and swordplay mixed with intense action combos. Other games like Sekiro and Ninja Gaiden may be used as a reference, but ultimately, Wanted: Dead is a product of its own. It's solid enough to be unique, that much the game deserves.

Unfortunately, many games from the Xbox 360 / PS3 times are considerably better mechanically and that is the first biggest issue with this latest product from Soleil. I feel it could have been further polished, or perhaps further tested. This truly hurts me, because I really do miss a pure action title with no intermediary compromises and zero stalling, while having a profound respect for players' time. Unfortunately, this isn't it.

Wanted: Dead has a lot of features in its gameplay and focuses mostly in a deadly combination of swordplay and guns. The mechanics go much deeper than a simple button smash hack and slash. In fact, if you're button smashing you'll have a hard time here. A lot of thought went behind the conception of the game and on paper it's flawless. Once playing, though, things change a bit.

The character moves very fluidly, but I immediately noticed we could have all benefited from the ability to lock-on-target. Not that I don't enjoy a free flow movement, in fact, since Hannah can't block attacks unless she is facing them the free camera helps. However, it's the same camera that sometimes becomes too much loose and conflicts with your intended target.

The parry ability was a fantastic addition and when it works it's impressive. Relies entirely on blocking attacks at the right time. Enemy attacks may be single, or multiple, with all sorts of weapons. It's not very consistent and you'll easily miss them, especially with the camera being inconsistent. It's an obligatory skill, as without understanding it you won't go far in the campaign.

Wanted: Dead passes the message of being a freestyle action game but the truth is, as a shooter, it's terrible. You're forced to memorize the parry timings of the bosses and their animations. Hannah does use her handgun to interrupt enemy actions, which is handy, but as far rifles and shotguns go they will leave you open to damage with no reward for taking the risky approach.

Understanding that swordplay is the key to success we come across another issue, the I-frames. Hannah is truly only having I-frames when using her Finishing Moves, which are dedicated animations to kill enemies with style once they are weakened. Every other animation is susceptible to damage you can't control, including grenades from your team mates.

There are a lot of little details that separate the top games from the ones with, well, Mixed reviews on Steam. It's the little things that make a difference. Unfortunately, many of such details are lacking in Wanted: Dead making the gameplay frustrating and many times messy. One disgraceful detail is the simple fact Hannah cannot stop a weapon reload. There's no cancelation option, unless you replace that animation with something else. Imagine the fun of reloading a 12 shell Shotgun in a middle of a fight.

Most actions reward you with XP, which can be used to unlock new skills in the Skill Tree. Many of those skills add impressive abilities, and even a few for your team mates. You'll have plenty XP to unlock everything in a single playthrough. New Game+ is available but you cannot carry those unlocked goodies into a new difficulty. Clearly the game wants you to give it your all on harder difficulties. I found many of the unlocked skills highly important and essential even.

A few Mini-Games are included, from a fun crane machine with action figures to collect, to Karaoke and eating Ramen, all the way to my favorite: a full retro 2D Bullet-Hell arcade game called Space Runaway. Includes 7 Stages and impressive pixel art. If only they devoted themselves to the main game in the same way...

It hurts me to realize it but Wanted: Dead truly does have mediocre gameplay, even when compared to titles released 10 years ago. Unfortunately, that alone isn't the reason why so many negative reviews are present around the web. The optimization could, and should, have been improved especially when dealing with the PC market. A market that, rightfully so, is very demanding of PC functionalities.

Wanted: Dead is unfortunately archaic in its methods, starting with the very limited support for keyboard and mouse. That alone destroys the hopes of many, as you can't rebind extra mouse keys, such as, Mouse 4. The keyboard scheme itself is obnoxious and feels extremely counter-intuitive, even when compared to older action games.

A few extra accessibility options are lacking, such as a proper Field-of-View slider, which is a top-requested feature across the forums. Forcing players into a constant zoom-in when aiming is also disorientating, but it's unfair to complain about it when almost every modern game does it. The real issue though - it's the game's optimization on PC, assuming it had any to begin with.

I'm writing this for the third time but we really are in 2023, and try to guess which API Soleil used in the game. DX11! You know what this means for AMD users? A nightmare. My GPU (RX 6700 XT) spikes in mini-games which is ridiculous, constant frame loss in busy areas, and a horrendous performance across the whole game, with as low as 17 frames per second! I tried to use DXVK, which fixed the performance in open spaces, but didn't do much for closed areas.

Since I can't do much about the port, I decided to take the most simple and obvious approach: Trying out a controller/gamepad, which I must say is absolutely required. There's just no other way and to my early surprise, the game rocks. Menus start to make much more sense, presenting a smooth navigation, and the gameplay absolutely baffled me with how well things come together in a totally effortless way, with a new and impressive satisfying touch to it.

That's where it came to me, I have forgotten just how good games felt in the mid 2010s. All the memories and passion I once had holding my Xbox 360 controller, came rushing through me. Wanted: Dead reminded me how much I love these games, and it's exactly what you'd expect from that seventh generation era. It's painful to see such a fantastic title unpolished and not given the love it deserved.

The campaign may hold you up to just 12 hours, containing great replay value, with skills to unlock, add-ons for your weaponry, mini games to clear and complete, rewarding you with all sorts of nice little extras. To top it off, the pleasant gameplay growth as you adapt and become a powerful killing machine.

Whoever is brave enough to overlook the controls will find himself beholding a masterclass of an action game. Even more so if you can ignore its awful performance on AMD, accept there aren't and there will never be any future updates, and realize this is a straight-up console game that could benefit from a few extra months in development.

Steam Review

Steam Store

Epic Store

PlayStation Store

Xbox Store

bottom of page