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Review: Wanted Dead Is Perfectly Bad

Janky cult classic triggers PS2-era action game nostalgia with enough chaos and off-the-wall storytelling to make it work. Kind of.

Derek Swinhart

Feb 21, 2023

Wanted Dead works hard to remind you of an era when games were simpler. You could rent a game and play through the story over a weekend and end up perfectly satisfied. It wants to replicate the PS2 era of action games with its linear story, flashy combat, and wild characters. Maybe on purpose, or totally by accident, the game ends up landing in the halls of jank classics like Deadly Premonition. More unpredictable and unhinged than polished, Wanted Dead is as fun as it is broken, making for a uneven but memorable ride. 



The Good

Wanted Dead is chaos. From the beginning of the game, it is willing to flip tone and gameplay on its head. You’ll be violently slicing up enemies as an unhinged paramilitary police force one second and then be slamming ramen to a rhythm game the next. The combat is generally fun, with a plentiful number of entertaining finishing animations that have your character pulling John Wick-style takedowns and grapples. Wanted Dead reminds you of the days when you played a game over a weekend and it didn’t have a live service or micro-transactions, just straightforward levels, and challenging encounters. 


The Bad 

Wanted Dead is bad on almost every level. The voice acting is atrocious most of the time, and the lip-sync animations are so bad that it can seem like lines are coming from a different character. The visuals are occasionally good but mostly bland outside of some more inspired moments, and it has the story pacing of a fever dream. Almost every element and design decision in Wanted Dead is baffling, to the point of whether you can’t tell if the developer is in on the joke or the butt of it.


What Surprised Me

Wanted Dead is kind of great? It fits right in that niche of nostalgic PS2-era action games but also has enough chaos and off-the-wall storytelling that it kind of works. Wanted Dead can end up as a cult classic of jank along the lines of titles like Deadly Premonition. While it most likely won’t reach that status as it isn’t nearly unhinged enough, it has plenty of inspired insanity to entertain, and I found myself unable to put it down, only to see what left turn it took next. 


What Was Predictable

The Ninja Gaiden and Devil’s Third inspirations are rampant across the design. It makes perfect sense given that the developers have a crew of veterans from Team Ninja, and the game wears that inspiration on its tattooed sleeve. Even the feel of the short dash followed by a roll reminds one of the cadences of Ninja Gaiden, although it fails to ever reach those lofty heights.


Bottom Line

Wanted Dead is a hard game to recommend: it is truly bad in most areas, but it also has the opportunity to click with you depending on your tolerance for jank and of old-school character action games. If you really need a dose of nostalgia, or you love movies like The Room, Wanted Dead could be a hit. 


Visuals: C

Wanted Dead is a visual mess. Lighting is muted, textures are flat, and skyboxes are empty. The character designs range from perfectly normal to anatomically confusing, but there is some real inspiration behind some of the cutscenes and the animation work. The lead has a memorable design, and her John Wick-style takedowns are high-point of the game.


Sound: D+

Featuring a soundtrack full of licensed music and synth bops, it is surprisingly good. Otherwise, the sound is as janky as the rest of the game, with it seemingly being projected from the wrong source half of the time. Characters repeat the same lines until it becomes hilarious (in the literal sense), and the voice acting is so bad it is baffling.


Playability: C

The third-person shooting in Wanted Dead is atrocious. The timing is loose with a large dead zone, and nearly every weapon feels pithy compared to the main rifle. Luckily you rarely need to engage with the gunplay and the sword combat fares better. With a Sekiro-style parry and some genuinely satisfying challenges, combat shows flashes of brilliance. The flashy combination of katana slashing and John Wick gun-fu make combat fun and memorable.

Story: D

The story is borderline indecipherable and will spend more time on a scene of the main character eating bad prison food piece by piece than it will on the final revelation. It occasionally switches to genuinely well-made anime scenes on a whim, which ends up making the rest of the cutscenes feel that much worse by comparison. But, it is frequently hilarious and always surprising in a way that kept me hypnotized like watching a train wreck from afar.


Replay Value: D

There is not much to Wanted Dead. If you really want to mine it for everything it has a new game plus multiple challenging difficulties, with both unlocking once you finish the game. The skill tree is so small though that I had everything before credits rolled, negating the need for NG+ outside of some collectibles. The game itself runs 8-10 hours depending on your skill, as some bosses can become tediously challenging.


Overall Grade: C -

Derek Swinhart

Derek has worked in games journalism and PC gaming hardware and has a depth and breadth of experience across many genres. He plays almost everything but has a particular fondness for challenging games like the -Souls series and real-time strategy titles.

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