Wanted Dead preview — a funky Yakuza and Ninja Gaiden combination

By Kes Eylers-Stephenson,

Wanted Dead is one of the oddest games we played at Gamescom 2022, but with its hack-and-slash action combined with third-person shooting ready to chow down on PS5 in February 2023 — the former Ninja Gaiden devs might have a hit.

TrueTrophies previewed Wanted Dead at Gamescom 2022 — the new hack-and-slash from the ex-Ninja Gaiden developers now at 110 Industries. What surprised us most about the PS5 and PS4 title was how Wanted Dead combines classic hack-'n-slash action with Yakuza-like eccentricity.

Wanted DeadWanted Dead is coming 2023 to PS5

Yakuza meets Ninja Gaiden in Wanted Dead for PS5, PS4

Wanted Dead is coming to PS5 and PS4 on February 14th, 2023 — but you'd be forgiven for thinking the lead-up has been a touch quiet from 110 Industries. As I stood to play the game with QA tester Josh, I had only the mildest idea of what to expect: action, shooting, melee combat, and violence. What wasn't expected, though; were absurd mini-games about ramen, a fully-formed sidescrolling shoot-'em-up, and the karaoke mini-games that give it a definite Yakuza series flavour.

After a tutorial guiding me through the action fundamentals, it was clear there was no need to fear about it losing any of the Ninja Gaiden series heritage. The core of Wanted Dead is still swift, brutal combat. Third-person shooting with an AR or other weapons is triggered with L2, letting you aim down sights and thin out the herd of enemies swinging for you. Melee is on the face buttons, allowing you to swing your katana in quick swift motions that slice and dice, as you would expect, with a parry attached to L1. Finally, the surprise mechanic: the pistol. This, as aptly described by team, is the chaining move that allows you to combine shooting and combat, while also being a good parry move and finisher — all of which brings back pleasant memories of trying and failing to earn Devil May Cry platinum trophies.

As I walk into a hotel lobby with police cordoning off the site for your special Zombie Unit to enter — led by former chef and Hong Kong cop Lt. Hannah Stone — its clear death is close at all times. I'm not being poetic here, I was told I was going to die by QA Josh playing the game with me in the booth in no uncertain terms. So, I set off to disprove him like a rebellious teenager. Indeed, as suited men flew at me and my CPU teammate, it became clear that you will need mastery of those three edifices of combat to get through encounters. I was chaining gun combat, melee, and pistol-whipping goodness, but it wasn't enough. You need a rhythm to survive, but after being beaten to a pulp, using my health refill, and again being absolutely mangled by Hong Kong gang members with big sticks — yes, I died.

Unwilling to let Josh have the satisfaction, for he was now a mortal enemy, I dive back in. This time, I have much more fight in me. The parries are coming off, letting me get the pistol finisher in to quickly disintegrate enemies into a curtain of blood that whips up Stone's face. The rifle is out and helping create spaces in the line of suited Yakuza members for Stone to enter with katana in hand before, with a press of the button, sliding disks of yet more viscera across the room. This is good stuff... really good. Josh tells me there is a slow-mo thing you can pull off, giving you the time to kill enemies in a burst — which I do thanks to my skill and not because Josh told me how to do it. Definitely me.

Josh then informs me — just to burst my bubble, I know it — that several perks were on to help me out and that the fight wouldn't have normally been that easy. You will be able to adjust Lt. Stone for all kinds of situations using the perk system, so Ninja Gaiden specialists can get the melee chaining perk, whereas the shooter fan might try to equip for longer range and perks that help create wide spaces for you to attack in. This stylish and varied combat is immediately gratifying but also plays out like a skill-intensive puzzle.

Having completed this arena, Josh tells me about the Cyberpunk setting (for which we will have an interview for you later this week), the conspiracy that the narrative will unfurl, and the fact that Zombie Unit teammates are vitally important to the story at hand. Through all the messed-up stuff you will see in this dystopian Hong Kong your array of comrades will be at your side after missions. This time will be spent in a karaoke bar singing or smashing ramen down your gullet — I would beat Josh at both of these things in real life, no doubt.

However, it is the Sine Mora Ex-like a sidescrolling shoot-em-up arcade game that is really cool. It's not just a throwaway, either — a developer on the team happened to have experience and made it by himself. It's fleshed out with six levels and will be released on Steam in the lead-up to Wanted Dead's Valentine's Day release. It's certainly not a one-to-one Yakuza-like selection of minigames, but it has the same whacky energy. It was genuinely very good, so you can see why the emphasis was put on making six levels of it.

Wanted Dead, then, is a strange coalescing of genres from a team of interesting talent. There is solid, deep, and varied combat — that much is clear — and an intriguing storyline with some wild side activities. My hope, and primary concern, is that 110 Industries can make it all feel coherent and not just like an action game with shiny bits tacked on. There was a little animation jank as the game struggled to deal with quick motion shifts in combat, but this is well before release and so one would imagine it is patched up by then.

Wanted Dead is shaping up well and really does have the potential to be a sleeper hit, so keep your eye on it. Also, Josh, you were great. Thank you for showing me the game, but I would beat you in a real-life ramen duel and you know it.

For more Gamescom content, check out our System Shock gameplay impressions which were positive, to say the least. Also, we have plenty to read up on the The Callisto Protocol and Tunic from the conference, as well as more coming. Are you excited for Wanted Dead? Hoping the trophies aren't as hard as the ones Sean outlined in the Yakuza series trophies? Let us know in the comments, and see you there!
Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Written by Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Associate Editor Kes is our resident expert in PlayStation news. He writes about upcoming exclusives like The Last of Us and God of War, PS Plus and PS Studios news, and his favourite games — The Witcher 3, Assassin’s Creed, and The Outer Wilds — before an evening swim.