Crispy Gamer

E3 2009: The Five: Wet

The 10-Cent Tour: Yet another byproduct of Activision's post-Vivendi-merger fire sale. (On a personal note, I've got a bit of a soft spot for all of these games; they feel as if they've been exiled to the Island of Misfit Toys, like the Charlie in the Box.) Wet is a highly stylized katana-and-guns third-person action game that feeds you blank-faced henchman the way that lumberjacks feed logs into a sawmill.

1. The title is supposedly a reference to "wetwork" (i.e., murder). But if you also think of the title as a none-too-subtle sexual reference, Bethesda probably wouldn't mind too much. Exhibit A: The main character of the game is an impossibly fit woman named Rubi Malone whose signature move is sliding on her knees across the floor, legs open, guns a-blazing, all in glorious slow-motion. In the 15-minute demo I saw, there were at least 10 of these pudendum-coming-at-you moments.

E3 2009: The Five: Wet

2. Once Rubi goes into a knee-slide or wall-run, the action automatically slows down, allowing Rubi to a) target nearby enemies with her sword/guns, and b) look for the next knee-slide/wall-run opportunity. By linking together these acrobatic moves -- think of it as linking tricks in a Tony Hawk Pro Skater game -- Rubi can maximize her score and dispatch enemies with the most efficiency.

3. Eliza Dushku ("Dollhouse," "Buffy," etc.) lends her voice to Rubi Malone. We like Eliza a lot, and having her involved certainly gives the game some nerd credibility, but her voice is probably her least-appealing aspect.

E3 2009: The Five: Wet

4. The game tries very hard to conjure a '70s action-movie vibe, right down to the faux grainy filmic look. (Which can be switched off, FYI.) In fact, the developer, A2M, is clearly cribbing from the "Kill Bill" playbook, right down to the dramatic everything-is-painted-red Rage mode. While in Rage mode, blood spills forth in white spurts.

5. Points earned during gameplay can be used to upgrade four different weapons and unlock new, even more acrobatic, ass-kicking moves. And whenever Rubi's health begins to dip, belly up to the bar and order a double. Guzzling whiskey is one of the ways that Rubi regains health. Unlike in real life, where guzzling whiskey actually depletes your health meter.

The Crispy Forecast: Clouds, followed by more clouds. And then: more clouds. This game seemed curiously out-of-place in the mostly sophisticated Bethesda booth at E3. Also: Didn't we already play this game back when it was called John Woo Presents Stranglehold?

This preview is based on a developer-driven demo of the game at E3 2009.