Action Review

Wanted: Dead – Review | Zombie and Cyberpunk

Wanted: Dead is brought to you by guys and gals who worked on Dead Or Alive and Ninja Gaiden. Will it be Dead on Arrival or Gaiden Greatness? Grab your katana and handgun. We have a Cyberpunk conspiracy to tackle. 

I’m A Cowboy…

Wanted: Dead thrusts you headfirst into a cyberpunk world through the eyes of Agent Stone. They’re a badass Katana-wielding leader of a special Police unit lovingly dubbed the “Zombie Unit”, partially because of their act first, think later attitude and partly because of the rafts of corpses they leave in their wake.

After a brief and confusing introduction, your team takes on a rather routine mission which is the catalyst for the events of the game. Through this, you get a brief glimmer into corporate greed and politics that have the potential to change the living dynamic of everyone that inhabits the world.

Soon enough after, the game starts to border into almost Blade Runner territory when the Zombie Unit comes head to head with rogue androids. Questions start getting asked that raise issues for the Unit and all who support them.

The Zombie Unit is made up of several personalities who have their moments during cutscenes but don’t have enough time to shine. The same issue damages the antagonists and the overall arc. The story is over just as it hits its upward swing!

By the time I found myself growing fond of Doc and the other members of the Zombie Unit and getting invested in the story, I had hit the end game. I was then met with an abrupt ending that left me scratching my head but craving for more.

Read the File to Learn More

The game adopts that age-old storytelling technique of bouncing around a timeline, back and forth to build its story. Unfortunately, it isn’t always clear what is going on. Sometimes this style of storytelling works, but not here. With the limited run time of the game and the sheer amount the writers have tried to cram into it, you’ll be left scratching your head until it’s red raw!

You can find much more about the world of Wanted: Dead in the many purple-highlighted collectibles. These range from maps to dossiers on the characters you’ll meet throughout. Sadly, this is where you learn the bulk of information about the antagonists. These are some of the more interesting characters, but outside of collectibles they’re only seen in a brief cutscene before you throw hands with them.

Devil’s Fourth

All of the marketing for Wanted: Dead and even on the blurb before you boot the game up (at least on the PlayStation 5 version) boasts that the game is developed by people who worked on the famous fighting franchise Dead or Alive and iconic character action series Ninja Gaiden. While this is true, what would have represented the game much better would be saying they also worked on the failure that was Devil’s Third. Anyone familiar with that title knows it isn’t going to help them sell units!

Wanted: Dead is a third-person shooter with hack-and-slash melee combat to boot. Unfortunately, neither really felt all too satisfying and genuinely feels very similar to the aforementioned terrible Wii U title by the same developers. I would like to point out that I did, at least at the time, like that title somewhat, but there is a real shock going in expecting the combat skills and nuances of Ryu Hayabusa and instead getting the female equivalent to Ivan the Russian.

The game is divided into a handful of linear missions. In between, you have some downtime in which to tackle the plethora of mini-games and explore the Police Station, speak to some NPCs, and find even more of the collectibles which expand the lore.

The missions are where all your action happens. You are either storming a place with the full unit or paired up with one of the members. Who you’re paired with does affect how you’ll tackle the stage; for example, if you have Doc with you, you are given an extra life at each checkpoint whereas the other members get a little more hands-on in combat.

Wanted: Dead - Cover Shooter

Well, it Shoots at Least

As mentioned, Wanted:Dead melds third-person shooting with melee combat. The third-person shooting here is very much in the style of games that were popular in the Xbox 360 era of gaming; Ones involving bullet sponge enemies and cover-based shenanigans. You have your main assault rifle and can collect sub-weapons from downed foes, SMGs, Shotguns, and the like, but I found they didn’t do much damage outside of the Grenade Launcher and the LMG.

You can customize your assault rifle at checkpoints throughout the stages. Gradually, you’ll unlock a fair amount of tweaks for the trusty sidekick. While it’s not Call of Duty amounts of customization you can still perfectly tailor your gun to suit your needs.

The gunplay in Wanted: Dead is the very definition of fine. It’s serviceable but lacks any real weight to it. Feedback isn’t great, the enemies can take a little too much damage, and the cover system just has you sticking to nearby cover rather than pressing a button to get in and out of it. 

This is paired with some god-awful A.I. Both friendly and enemy units will have you seeing Grenades thrown around like sweets and cover being changing like it’s going out of fashion.

What is more damaging to the gunplay is the sheer lack of ammo. This forces you to run out of cover and hope someone has dropped one of the peashooters they call sub-weapons. There are also a handful of enemies that aren’t designed to be taken down in ranged combat, so you need to just suck up every shot taken until you are familiar enough to know when it’s time to draw swords.

Wanted: Dead - Skill Tree

Slow and Steady Melee

Melee combat fares a little better than the shooting combat and when you’ve leveled everything up it becomes quite fun. Initially, it feels cumbersome and coupled with the insane amount of damage you can get from it, the early hours of the game are not a great time.

The melee combat favors patience. If you go in button-mashing, you’ll see the game over screen far too quickly. Instead, you have moves you can block, ones that you can parry if you time it right, and you can shoot your handgun to stun during unblockable attacks. Naturally, you’ll end up disarming and removing legs in combat and this brings up the execution moves which kill stylishly. As you fight, you’ll also accrue adrenaline and when it’s full you can let off a devastating pistol combo which is more than capable of putting many enemies into the killing state.

Fortunately, as mentioned there is a skill tree that you’ll fill up through the game, which is surprisingly easy to complete, even if it takes a while. Once you’ve topped that out, you’ll have all the extra stuff to make it much more enjoyable. Bizarrely the fun stuff like grenades are locked behind this skill tree. The game only really felt good to play when I had maxed it out, which happened just before the final stretch of the game. I feel the game would have been much stronger if this didn’t exist and it just let me feel like a capable glass cannon from the get-go rather than bumbling around for nine-tenths of the game.

I’m a Baws

Boss fights are a mixed bag and either bully you relentlessly or are absolute pushovers. Only two of them I found I enjoyed and these boiled down to 1-on-1 melee combat rather than gunplay and mobs making it much more difficult than it should be.

MiniGame Mania

As mentioned, when you’re not bashing and blasting you are also given quite a fair few mini-games. These range from a generic shooting gallery to an arcade claw game, a rhythm-based eating game, and an ear-splittingly bad karaoke rhythm game where the team butcher 99 Red Balloons. There’s even a fully-fledged Shoot Em Up called Space Runaway which can be downloaded separately on Steam and has seen about as much playtime from me as the main game!

Stumble at the First Hurdle 

Wanted:Dead has a truly horrid first level. I was ready to drop it once I’d slogged through it, but it needed to be reviewed, so I carried on and to its credit, the game does pick up. Unfortunately, much like its narrative, it’s so disjointed that by the time the game starts to shine, you’re left looking at the credits wondering why the whole game couldn’t have been that enjoyable.

A common theme throughout the game is that it feels like it’s pulling away in all directions. The mini-games and the gameplay feel at odds with each other and while other games such as No More Heroes have seen success with this style of disjointed chaos, Wanted: Dead just doesn’t nail it where it needs to and this is as equally as prevalent in the presentation.

Wanted: Dead - Anime Scene

Punk Is Not Dead 

Wanted: Dead fuses Cyberpunk with an over-the-top punk style that would make Swery 65 and Suda 51 blush. It throws in some well-drawn anime cutscenes and then bashes you over the head with a futuristic world bursting with neon signs and the kind of cyber curiosities you’d see in stuff like Blade Runner or Altered Carbon.

Graphically the game looks like it belongs back on the 360 or PS3. It doesn’t seem to be taking any advantage of modern console hardware and despite you getting covered in blood and other substances it disappears over time as do the owners of said fluid. Animations are stiffer than the robots that inhabit the world and the whole thing is solely saved by the great art direction which some of the stages, namely the first, are sorely lacking.

Unfortunately, this is made even worse as Wanted: Dead suffers horrible performance issues when areas got populated. If you’re in a gunfight and a grenade activates the sprinklers, don’t be surprised when the game is replaced with a PowerPoint presentation. I was hitting some truly dreadful frame rates throughout, and again this was on the PlayStation 5 version!

Wanted: Dead - Karaoke

Did She Work Hard For The Money?

Cutscenes range from awkward in-game ones to rather well-done CGI cutscenes and my personal favorite the fleetingly used but so well-drawn anime cutscenes. Again, it’s a bizarre mix where the sum of all its parts doesn’t quite add up.

On the subject of cutscenes, we need to discuss the voice acting and the fact that I hate it, all of it. When the best you have to offer sounds like generic NPC in other games you know you have a problem here. I’m not a voice actor and I can only fathom what happened here, but the acting is painfully wooden and you can almost hear the actors going into autopilot with some of the absolute crap they have come out with.

The game also has the outstanding ability to have characters talk over each other or repeat lines in the game with reckless abandon. At one point I just turned my volume down because I was going to put my foot through the screen if I heard Doc shout “Grenade” or “Why do you think I Exist” for a moment longer.

Sadly, turning the volume down didn’t do the game justice because I was denying myself the aural pleasure of an outstanding soundtrack featuring many well-produced vocal tracks from Stefanie Joosten of Metal Gear Solid V fame. Castaway and She Works Hard For The Money are just two standout tracks, but the game just has some well-thought-out music seeping throughout. That said, it’s also got the karaoke mentioned earlier which sounds like a drunken chorus of cats butchering 99 Luftballons, so it’s swings and roundabouts.


I wanted to love Wanted: Dead. It has everything I love about that charming AA middle ground from the PS2/3 era, but sadly even at its highest of highs, it still smacks of average. 

The game has a lot of heart but zero focus, resulting in it trying to do too many things and barely achieving any of them well. I’ve no doubt this title will get a cult following and I’d be down for a sequel, but as it stands I can’t suggest anyone gets involved unless you’re craving something a little different wrapped in average and bland paper. 


Platforms: PC (Steam/Epic), PlayStation 4|5, XBox

Want to see more Action games? How about checking out our review ofSamurai Maiden? Or maybe you’re interested in checking out the physical press kit for Wanted:Dead?

Many thanks go to 110 Industries for a PlayStation 5 review code for this title.

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