Wanted: Dead – Xbox Series X Review

Wanted: Dead – Xbox Series X Review

Published by: 110 Industries

Developed by: Soleil

Available on:Xbox (obviously), PlayStation, and PC (via Steam and Epic Games)

If there’s one thing we don’t see as much of these days, it’s action-cop flicks. I’m talking Die Hard level of over-the-top action.

It’s something that has been missing in media for a hot minute. All the tongue-in-cheek campness of an ’80s fever dream.

And when it comes to video games, there isn’t really a market for them either, it seems.

Sure, we have photorealistic army combat simulators. And bleeding-edge technology coming out of every pixelated protagonist from here to Night City.

But where’s the pizazz?!

Thankfully, one such game might just scratch that itch you may have. And its name is Wanted: Dead.

Even the name is kitschy. And I mean that in the nicest way possible here.

Quick side note; our Wanted: Dead copy came courtesy of the publishers. It was performed on our dearly beloved Sammy. You know, James’ pet name for his Xbox Series X. Who’s a good Sammy? You are. Yes, you are.


Bang Bang, You’re Dead

So, a neo-noir cyberpunk action-shooter police simulator. I mean, with a premise like that, how can Wanted: Dead be anything other than amazing?

Well, I’ll do the usual run-through of the content we tend to critique over in our reviews, and we can see where we end up.

So, the narrative of Wanted: Dead, in case you hadn’t already picked up on it, is of a cop action drama. But, with cyberpunk augmentations. And cats!

You take control of Lieutenant Hannah Stone, perhaps the most cliché female cop name imaginable, I’m sure you’ll notice. Stone is the leader of a special elite Hong Kong police squad known as the Zombie Unit.

It is Lt Stone and her unit’s job to handle the jobs the uniformed officers can’t. And, in this case, that means taking on a major corporate conspiracy. So far, so standard boilerplate nonsense that we love.

Stone, herself a former prisoner, rocks some major hardware – both in terms of weaponry and a prosthetic arm. There’s plenty of cyberpunk detailing on show across Stone’s body – that metal plating stuff on her palms, the weird lines that separate one part of her flesh from another needlessly. Basically, Stone is your atypical cyberpunk super-cop.

As Stone and the Zombie Unit progress through their week, the conspiracy unravels and more and more intrigue falls out of the woodwork. No spoilers here, though.

Zombies? I Thought We Were Cops.

In terms of gameplay, Wanted: Dead prides itself on being a hack-and-slash third-person shooter with combat finishers. Whilst I was playing it, I got some WET flashbacks mixed in with some Gears of War cover-based firefights. Side note; Bethesda, can you please do something with WET? Like, either remaster it, remake it, or just straight-up port it somewhere? I need that in my life again.

Where was I? Oh yeah. The combat sees Stone either engaging in hand-to-hand (with her obligatory katana, of course), or gunplay. The guns range from your trusty pistol as an always-available sidearm that never runs out of bullets to more exotic pieces, like a shotgun, various assault rifles, etc.

I should clarify a little; You’ll always have the aforementioned pistol, and a standard-issue assault rifle to play with. You can then pick up various other guns from defeated enemies. Obviously, depending on your preferred playstyle, you may choose one weapon over another. And that’s okay.

In terms of the two core weapons, however, Wanted: Dead put a lot more effort into things. Both have slight areas of customisation to start off with. But, to really make your weapons do the job, you need to unlock better improvements through gameplay.

You’ll typically find these unlocked upgrades when you reach a drone operated by the Hong Kong Police Department’s resident gunsmith, Vivienne. (More on characters in a short spell, though). These drones act as your checkpoints and where you can upgrade your guns (by adding new unlocks onto them).

However, all of that doesn’t really matter too much when I tell you the first big issue for Wanted: Dead. The gunplay and combat in general are unbelievably hard. Honestly, the first level saw me die dozens of times, especially when a certain ninja bastard pops out to play at about the halfway mark. The learning curve to Wanted: Dead is outrageous at times. Though, I suppose that should be expected when you learn the developers also made Ninja Gaiden.

I’ll check my criticism of the game’s difficulty at the door and…ahem…git gud.

He Said It! James Said the Thing!!”

For reals though, there is a weird clunkiness to the swordplay at times. And whilst that does right itself further down the line with the right upgrades (more on that in a moment), when you’re fresh out of the title screen, it isn’t a warm welcome.

Wanted: Dead is less a game of getting better by practising it – at least, at first – and more a game of using a bit of the right upgrades/load-out and a lot of luck. At least, when you first start off. Things do get a bit better as you progress further.

However, the game isn’t all shooty-shooty-bang-bang. There are a number of, I suppose we could generously call them, side games to play. These range from arcade claw machines – yes, those ones – to, erm…rhythm-based ramen-eating competitions. Which is, perhaps, the hardest part of the game. Seriously, the timing is…weird for your button presses, and, once you get the two lines to follow (you start off with one line wherein the button prompts appear), you really are fucked!

It’s a shame, really. I quite enjoy ramen.

Anyways, those upgrades, are the last part of the gameplay I’ll discuss. As you perform more stylish kills or collect different collectables (they got ’em), you gain XP. Typically, you’ll get up to ~100 points per enemy encounter. And you can spend those points to upgrade your katana skills (big must), your health (bigger must), and your ally’s fight abilities. All of them will help you survive, but you’ll inevitably think “damn, I should’ve chosen this upgrade over that one”. I’m sure it’s like buyer’s remorse or something. But nothing is locked out to you, meaning you can, realistically, get every upgrade you want. If you can stomach it.

It Ain’t All Synth-Shooting and Claw-Machine Kickin’, Yanno

From gameplay, I feel it might be a good idea to touch upon the characters. Stone is, well, she’s a tough badass Swedish (at least, I think she’s Swedish) assassin who works for the police. She wears tatty jeans and a tee, has tattoos all up her arm, wears some high-top kicks, and has graffitied over her guns and prosthetic arm. She’s like an angsty teenager who never grew up despite being in a really grown-up occupation.

Her squad, the Zombie Unit (wait, what did I just say about being a really grown-up occupation?) features three misfits who definitely shouldn’t get along. That old cliché.

Firstly, there’s Herzog. A womaniser and a right twat if ever there was one. He does, however, seem competent in a firefight. Then we have Doc who seems to have the emotional range of a wet napkin. Probably the most helpful member of the team, however, as he’s the one to revive you on your (first) death. And then there’s Cortez. What can we say about Cortez? Erm…he’s deaf. He’s sassy, despite never actually speaking (unless you count ASL). And he has awful tattoos. But yeah, he’s a good one.

Outside of them, we have the Captain, who is, hand to God, the walking cliché of “every single police chief who gets in the protagonist’s way and makes it harder for them to do their job their way”. Think Captain Holt in Brooklyn Nine-Nine or Deputy Chief Matthews in Dexter and you kinda know what I’m getting at.

Vivienne, or “Gunsmith” as she goes by for most of it, is the biggest pain in your ass. Which isn’t actually fair as she is the most helpful for you. But by God is she annoying? Like, there isn’t really a likeable character in the whole game, but she just seems like a vapid anime girl. Turns out she, in lore, is a minor celebrity*

And then there’s the main antagonist. Richter. I honestly don’t even know where to start with this guy. He’s clearly a pompous douche-bag. But, he’s got a faux English accent, dresses kind of like a Nazi, and has a pornstar moustache. Oh, and he rolls one of his sleeves up to his elbow and forgets about the other one. Major issues with this guy.

And do you know what? These paper-thin stereotypes and archetypes wouldn’t even be that much of an issue if it weren’t for the game’s worst offence; the voice acting.

From the opening cinematic, the actors sound like they either don’t want to be there, or this is their first time behind a microphone. Everything sounds hammy and feels phoned in. And, in a campy B-movie sort of sense, that works. But if you take it seriously, and the gameplay difficulty suggests you should, it is flat-out awful.

Stone has, perhaps, the worst go at things as she has a…Swedish?…accent, so it comes across even worse for her. And the delivery of some lines doesn’t work, either. I’m not expecting God of War levels of VO work, but this just feels criminal!

So Much Bloodshed

One saving grace for Wanted: Dead is the music. There’s a plethora of licensed songs available. I say licensed, but chances are you won’t necessarily be familiar with any of the artists; Bella & the Switchblades, Stefanie Joosten, Nems, and Raney Shockne. Do any of them ring any bells? Apparently, tangent but, Stefanie Joosten might be familiar to Kojima fans amongst you. The actress did the motion capture, VO, and likeness for Quiet from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

*And, in case you hadn’t clocked, she also does the VO and body acting for the aforementioned Vivienne

Anyways, the music blends in well with the game throughout its many…interesting paths. And the above music can be played from a jukebox. So, there’s that.

Aesthetically speaking, Wanted: Dead has a weird mix going on. Design-wise, the game is luscious and keeps with its setting and genre really well. Graphically, however, there are some texture drops that run from the scenery to the props, to the characters. A no-name NPC had tattoos that looked akin to PS2-era detailing; really dark lines that look more like paint than actual body art. Sadly, however, this texture issue is also apparent on Stone at times, too.

But, what’s worse than all of that is the fact that aside from the few set pieces present – the opening levels destroyed interior – there is so little life to the game. The police station, the second location you play in is quite expansive for a game of this level. However, the whole thing feels empty. Sure, there are other police officers working in a cubicle or walking to another room, but for the size of the building, it’s like a ghost town.

Our Closing Statement…

Now, I can forgive the game for these limitations. After all, this hasn’t been developed by a AAA studio. However, what I can’t forgive is that the price tag is $60! 60 dollars for a less-than-AA game is painful. Sure, I got it for free, but that doesn’t mean I can’t dunk on the game.

And that’s a shame because despite some of its more glaring issues, Wanted: Dead has a good premise. Sadly, however, that premise isn’t enough to make it worth too much of your time. If you can get past the hammy acting, the iffy combat, the huge difficulty spikes, the madcap mini-games that completely left-field you, and the price tag, you’ll have an okay time. But, if you want a decent cyberpunk game that hits all of the right buttons, I hear 2077 is doing okay now.

All in all, with enough skill and (most crucially) luck on your side, you will probably get about eight hours out of Wanted: Dead. That is presuming you don’t die as often as I did in the first level, and don’t spend a further 30+ minutes on the claw machine. Or the ramen minigames. Yeah, core gameplay should be about an eight-hour affair for most of you. For me? Well, let’s just say the only other game I’ve spent more time on this year was God of War: Ragnarok. And that isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Sadly, despite its great premise and allure, Wanted: Dead just doesn’t quite cut it where it counts. It falls at many hurdles, some as early as the opening cinematic. And don’t get me bloody started at the overuse of that meme they use.

Wanted: Dead, despite all the potential, doesn’t impress enough to garner more than a 5/10.

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Wanted: Dead is available now on Xbox (obviously), PlayStation, and PC (via Steam and Epic Games).

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Wanted: Dead Review
  • 5/10
    Overall - 5/10


Wanted: Dead starts life out as a truly intriguing-looking game. I mean, it’s got cats, cyberpunk aesthetics, and a cheesy ’80s cop action flick. However, despite a great visual appeal, Wanted: Dead doesn’t hold do enough to impress.


  • intriguing visuals
  • somewhat decent score
  • quirky minigames

  • voice acting is woeful in places
  • combat is clunky
  • level design is bland and repetitive
  • world-building is non-existent – police HQ is lifeless and empty


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