I am a fan of B-movies. If there is such a thing as a B-game, Wet is it.
When Activision and Blizzard went through their cyclopean merging last year and formed the entity affectionately known as Blactivision there were inevitable casualties. Two were Brutal Legend and Ghostbusters, who found new homes in the diamond-encrusted maws of EA and Sony, respectively. Another was Wet, a much lower profile development, and the fact that it has reached retail at all is due to the unlikely auspices of roleplaying powerhouse Bethesda Interactive.
Wet is a game which is nothing but rough edges. There's not an aspect of the game you can look at without seeing how money, time and polish would have vastly improved it. Travelling through its rather short story involves pinballing from limitation to limitation, and the whole thing eventually sputters out in an unsatisfying finale.
But, you know what? It's a blast.
This is a good game. It's a good game not because it is rough, and not despite being rough, but simply through enabling us to not care about it being rough. You can run on walls, you can slow down time, and you can shoot fools right in the muthafucking head, and beyond that really everything else is window dressing. If you get to the end and feel like you haven't shot enough fools in the head, you start a new game, maybe on a different difficulty setting, and introduce more heads to more bullets. It's not the milestones that are fun here, but the process of reaching them.
Wet knows it's a B-game. It glories in it. The graphics are overlaid with artificial film scratches, loading times are covered by drive-in cinema adcruft, and the plot is ripped straight from a 70s blacksploitation epic with a gravel-voiced Eliza Duskhu shoehorned into the leading role. Characters with improbable names like "Tarantula" abound; the game treats them with a completely straight face but never manages to elevate them to more than a gun-toting freak show.
Other games have gone down this path; House of the Dead: Overkill is a recent example. But Wet is somehow more authentic, because we, the audience, can see that this could have been a different game. All that separates Wet from something like Devil May Cry is six months in development and a budget to match. It's in the finest tradition of B-movies - reaching for the stars but settling for cardboard and glitter, and like B-movies of old it makes the perfect fit for the bottom half of a double bill. Enjoy a week of Brutal Legend, and follow it with a chaser of Wet.
Wet was clearly never destined for preorders and midnight launches, and in that sense it's a got a refreshing freedom of movement. It's firmly in the "stylish action" genre but it's free to borrow tricks from sources that haven't enjoyed Devil May Cry's level of commercial success. A "never stop running, never stop shooting" philosophy is lifted from Bizarre's The Club. Stylised swordplay and dry humour evoke No More Heroes. A kinetic variety of parkour-inspired motion brings to mind Mirror's Edge. But Wet picks and chooses from these very idiosyncratic games and it largely picks wisely.
Largely. It features one level so rage-inducingly-awful as to nearly make me give up in disgust. About halfway through the game, you find yourself exploded out of a plane in mid-air, and forced to dodge burning pieces of that very same plane while in freefall, while shooting at and being shot at by faceless goons who, like you, are also falling out of the plane, all with the intention of catching up to and utilising a mid-air parachute. It should be the game's definingly awesome set-piece but purpose-built mechanics, cheap one-hit kills, an inability to effectively read the environment and a complete lack of checkpoints make it a brick wall in the path of fun. Once you've solved it once it gets easier on replays but that's poor consolation to those struggling the first time around.
Wet is not anyone's Game of the Year. It's not a critical masterpiece or a roadsign along any of the streets that lead to the gaming nirvana. But it doesn't have to be. Even among mediocrity there is the good and the bad, and in that halfway house Wet is some of the best there is. There is room for the B-game, for that mixture of passion and compromise, of vision and clumsiness, and when a game like Wet emerges from the very heart of that territory it is a joy and a treasure that should not quickly be passed by.