- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Superhero and cartoon characters are integral parts of the electronic entertainment industry. With this in mind, I salute the meld of pop-culture character and video game with a look at Wanted, Weapons of Fate (for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and GRIN, rated M for mature, $59.99).

Based on the film starring James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie and on the comic-book miniseries, this third-person action game continues uberassassin Wesley Gibson's journey to discover his heritage. It gives a single player control of his entire arsenal of deadly powers.

What's the story: From the manual - Gibson was just another worthless sheep of a human being, but then a beautiful woman appeared to him in the grocery store and said everything he knew about his life, heritage and world was a lie. His father, Cross, was the greatest assassin who ever lived, and Gibson was destined, genetically, to be one as well. Trained by members of the Chicago Fraternity, a secret brotherhood of killers, Gibson quickly unlocked abilities he never knew he possessed.

Play the role: Taking place hours after the end of the film's story, the game tasks a player to control either Gibson or his father as they challenge the French portion of the fraternity and its leader, the Immortal, through a nine-chapter adventure.

A player blasts minions and battles bosses, including a fraternity “cleaner” called the Russian and a gorgeous female assassin named Arana, as he explores the alleys of France, the Chicago chapter building and various warehouses.

Get to the action: Gibson and his dad wield the same powers displayed in the film, including shooting weapons and bending bullet trajectories, catlike speed in taking cover behind objects, and mastering “Matrix”-style “assassin-time” moves. Both need to build up their adrenaline to let loose with stunts that feature midair bullet explosions, slow-motion aiming, and firing while sliding between cover positions.

Memorable moments: Cross-battling the bad guys aboard a plane. Much as in the amazing train scene in the movie, this hero fights his way off a plane that's plummeting toward the earth. It's easily the best part of the game.

Violent encounters: You're an angry assassin out to kill and take revenge. Bullets riddle enemies, and the fallen crumple into pools of blood. Head shots become a slow-motion roller coaster of death as the bullets arc and dance on a trajectory to crush bodies. Close combat is equally bloody, with knives performing the kills.

What is excessive and ridiculous is the level of mean-spirited, sophomoric profanity that permeates the action. It's an homage to the comics for sure - and so unnecessary.

Read all about it: The film and game are based loosely on Mark Millar and J.G. Jones' 2003 limited comic-book series. Assembled into a trade paperback ($19.99), the story is another example of the violent deconstruction of the superhero genre of sequential art and definitely for mature readers only. Fans will appreciate the helmeted costumes in the game, culled from the comic.

Pixel-popping scale: 6.5 out of 10. If I hadn't just finished Resident Evil 5, I might have been a bit kinder, but the murky, fuzzy environments and often-horrendous character animations don't help the experience.

Extras and unlockables: The game tries hard here, with plenty of stuff to find along the missions. The highlights are covers from the comic-book series by sequential artist Mr. Jones. Also, grab the Blu-ray to find more codes to unlock stuff such as unlimited adrenaline and additional characters to play. Even a special edition of the game at Wal-Mart offers a code to play the game as Gibson's weight-challenged, obnoxious boss Janice.

What’s it worth: The Wanted: Weapons of Fate is the very definition of a rental. Too short, too expensive, a slim selection of weapons, no multiplayer mode and a lack of replayability, it's simply a quick fix for the player who wants to become part of a great movie. It should have been better because the developers obviously were not rushed to deliver the game - it was released nine months after the movie's debut and three months after the DVD/Blu-ray hit shelves.

* Visit Zadzooks at the blog section of The Washington Times’ Community pages (www.washingtontimes.com/communities/zadzooks).

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