Wanted Dead wants to make hack-and-slash games accessible

By Lee Brady,

Wanted Dead aims to bring challenging hack-and-slash action to the PS5 and PS4, but the game's creative director argues there's plenty in Wanted Dead's design for newcomers and seasoned action game pros alike.

Wanted Dead may be carrying forth the legacy of the Ninja Gaiden series with its brutal hack-and-slash action and a platinum trophy that will only click once you beat its "Japanese Hard" difficulty — yet according to the game's creative director Sergei Kolobashkin, there's plenty to love even for newcomers to the genre. In fact, the developer suggests that fans of third-person shooters and beat-em-ups "will feel right at home" with Wanted Dead.

Wanted DeadWanted Dead, hack-and-slash, and accessibility.

Wanted Dead and the tightrope walk of making hard games accessible

Speaking to Kolobashkin and 110 Industries after previewing Wanted Dead at Gamescom 2022, we wanted to know how the developers handled implementing difficulty in their game. With the bonafide success of a challenging game like Elden Ring, it feels as though the road has been cleared for any generally challenging game to just go wild and ramp up the difficulty — yet, despite its Japanese Hard unlockable difficulty, Wanted Dead will seemingly be a little more sensible.

"Wanted Dead is a challenging game," Kolobashkin said, "but at the same time, it's beatable, it's doable; it doesn't have that huge of a learning curve to get in. So if you have played other third-person shooters, beat-em-ups, stuff like that, you'll feel right at home."
Making the hack-and-slash genre accessible is no mean feat — you run the risk of either missing your core audience, as many would note about the mixed Ninja Gaiden 3, or you find yourself changing enough about the genre to find your game no longer really feels like a hack-and-slash, which is arguably the road God of War took to get to God of War Ragnarok.

Kolobashkin reiterated that "the combat is incredibly challenging but accessible enough for everyone to pick it up" when we talked about drawing that wider audience into a hack-and-slash like Wanted Dead. That said, Kolobashkin also emphasised that there was more going on in Wanted Dead than just its combat, and it was in these details that he hoped the game would feel its most accessible. For example, regarding the game's story Kolobashkin said: "It might start very goofy until you actually get into it and see — oh, there's actually depth there. So it's not a paper-thin novel, there's actually depth in the story. [It's just] not on the surface; on the surface, we wanted to make a great action game supported by a good story."

Wanted DeadIt's got a cat in it, so we're in.

"And on top of that, we have a lot of visual variety," Kolobashkin continued. "So you'll have anime flashbacks, you'll have full-motion video cutscenes with a cooking show — we have our own in-universe cooking show, we got five episodes of that. You have all your CG cutscenes on top of that." This tied into our discussion on Wanted Dead's Cassettepunk/Cyberpunk aesthetic and how distinct a vibe it gives the game next to its peers.

Finally, Kolobashkin turned to additional game modes and minigames, the variety and depth of which TT news team editor Kes compared favourably to the Yakuza series. "You have all the minigames you have the crane game, you have the karaoke minigame, and my personal favourite, Space Runaway — it's a 16-bit arcade shoot-em-up. Seven levels, seven bosses, and it's absolutely true to the arcade experience I had when I was a kid playing these coin-op games, and we made no compromises in the design. So It's not thrown in there just to say, “oh yeah, we made just the one level,” so we can say hey and wink at the camera and stuff like that. No, no, no — this is the real deal."

Wanted DeadOne licensing deal away from a Sega arcade.

Still, it all sounds like it'll be quite a difficult balance for Wanted Dead, and while Kes had a great time exploring Space Runaway in his playthrough, he noted his primary concern was "110 Industries can make it all feel coherent and not just like an action game with shiny bits tacked on." So, we asked Kolobashkin about striking this balance, and whether the challenge of its hack-and-slash form might in some way, for better or worse, define Wanted Dead.

"I personally think that if the game is fun, it doesn't matter if it's hard or not. I mean, I had a lot of fun playing games like Sekiro or Bloodborne. And at the same time, very recently I finished The Quarry. It has barely any learning curve, and yet at the same time, it's a lot of fun and I had a lot of fun playing it. So yeah, as long as it's fun, it doesn't matter if it's hard or not. If there are games that are basically made hard just because it's a trend, I'm not sure it's the right way to go. Wanted Dead is challenging because it comes from a team that has been making challenging games since the 80s."

Wanted Dead CassettepunkJust make a whole trailer about that cat, and we'll be there.

Wanted Dead is currently scheduled to release on Valentine's Day 2023 — here's hoping it continues to find that balance between challenging and fun, and that its audience finds that balance too. Let us know in the comments what your thoughts are on the hack-and-slash genre, and here's hoping it makes our best PS5 games list when it lands.
Lee Brady
Written by Lee Brady
Staff Writer Lee keeps one eye on the future (Astro Bot), one eye on the past (PS1, PS2, and PS3 games), and his secret third eye on junk he really likes (Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Sonic). A PlayStation fan for over 25 years, he loves replaying classic games via PS Plus.
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