A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
There are small kindnesses that some main characters display, such as being gentle yet uncondescending to a child who has undergone a traumatic event, or helping someone who has been wrongly convicted of a crime. There's even an underlying narrative about standing up for the rights of an oppressed group, but moments and themes like these are overshadowed by jarring tonal shifts and excessive violence.
Positive Role Models
Being war criminals, the main cast of heroes often deal out apathetic violence and cruelty. Even when enemies are worthy of judgment, there are other targets they blindly kill with little remorse or restraint. There are glimpses of wanting to do right since they work for the police, but it's hard to root for them when they have bland, unlikable personalities.
You play as a female cop who is (essentially) the leader of her squad. One member is a Black man who's deaf and uses sign language. The police chief is Black as well. For a game set in Hong Kong, most characters are strangely White, but gender diversity is fairly equal.
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Ease of Play
The game initially throws too much at the player in a single tutorial with little to no reminders afterward of how to play. This means memorizing the controls will take a couple hours, with referring back to the pause menu many times over, but once you get a handle on things, there's little else to learn. Players can rebind keys on the keyboard but can't do this with controllers; no other accessibility features of note. Difficulty is very frustrating: throwing waves of easy enemies at you between lengthy checkpoints, and having mini-bosses and bosses with ridiculous amounts of health and damage output. Players are encouraged to switch to the "Neko-chan" setting (essentially "super easy") if they die enough times, which is much fairer, yet insults the player by perpetually putting them in a pair of cat ears.
Violence & Scariness
Players shoot, stab, and slice at human enemies, which causes a lot of blood to splatter and spray around, even on themselves. You can slice off appendages and decapitate targets, which often accompany "finishing moves" where your character expertly takes down enemies. Such moves include slicing people in half, stabbing them through the skull, or wrestling them to the ground before putting a bullet through their head. Enemies can also catch fire and scream upon death, but gore leans more toward the cartoony side rather than disturbingly realistic. Curiously, players can use a chainsaw to cut enemies in half, but the game selectively censors this carnage with an ironic warning label as it cuts through someone.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The female protagonist is shown taking a shower in a few scenes, but the perspective only shows her back, head, feet -- no private parts. But there's a cutscene where a man pretends to drop something that a waitress proceeds to pick up, briefly exposing deep cleavage. An achievement players can earn from getting headshots is titled "Get Some Head." Some rather raunchy jokes, too. One mentions testicles and implied gay sex; another uses incest as an insult with a man asking a friend what it's like "going down" on his sister.
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The game has a steady stream of strong language. "F--k" and "s--t" are the most common. The likes of "goddamn," "bitch," "p---y," and "d--k" can also be heard.
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Products & Purchases
Some licensed music plays while you're hanging out in the police headquarters.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A few characters are shown lighting and smoking cigarettes. On one occasion, your character shares one with another woman. Bottles of alcohol are visible in the environment, and some characters are shown drinking wine or beer. One cutscene depicts a man who is paranoid and scatterbrained from overdosing, but the drug(s) he took aren't shown.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Wanted: Dead is a futuristic shooting and sword-fighting game available for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Windows. You play as a member of an elite police squad made up of war criminals who are making up for their wrongs by upholding the law. But a massive corporation's shady dealings begin to unveil who the real criminals are, as well as which side the police squad must stand with. Players wield a katana and an assortment of firearms to shoot and slice their way through waves of ninjas and gun-wielding enemies, with some cutscenes and mini-games in between all the action. There's a lot of strong language, with common instances of "f--k" and "s--t." Strong violence is par for the course with the aforementioned weapons; decapitation, amputation, and blood sprays and splatters are constant. There are some provocative jokes that mention sex, testicles, and incest, and a short scene with significant cleavage. A few characters are depicted smoking cigarettes and holding alcoholic drinks.
Is It Any Good?
The gameplay in this action title will sell many people on its premise, but the horrendous story and out-of-place mechanics will simply let them down. Being able to seamlessly switch between shooting and sword-fighting in Wanted: Dead sounds dreamy, and the game lands the fundamentals well enough. Movement, aiming, and melee combat feel good, especially when you can parry enemy attacks with a katana block or pistol shot, which is key to surviving and thriving in the fray. This is especially important since enemies are fast and will always get in your face, which prevents you from only relying on your firearms, and also makes cover pointless in every level. All of the weapons look and feel good, and pulling off special takedowns on a group of foes is cool to watch, but encounters become monotonous after a couple hours. Enemies have little variety in their moves and are poorly balanced. Even on the easiest difficulty (which is not only unavailable from the start, but also insults the player if it's chosen), the challenge is barely tolerable when these frequent difficulty spikes arise. Several game crashes also frustrate progress.
An incomprehensible story hampers the experience further. It says a lot without saying anything, with promising themes about law enforcement protecting corporate interests, and the morality and philosophy surrounding robotic sentience. Still, these concepts never go anywhere with meaningful or evocative dialogue. It'd be one thing if the game was intentionally comedic or zany in tone, but the voice acting and writing are so uninspired and wooden that they might just put you to sleep. Even worse are bizarre mini-games that are completely out of place between the paltry five levels to play. In the end, Wanted: Dead may have something promising buried under its core gameplay, but everything built on top of and around it falls apart.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.