The cyberpunk genre, known for its gritty cities, mega-corporations, and exploration of what it means to be human, has found a unique narrative expression in the video game ‘Wanted: Dead’. A mix of non-linear storytelling, intense action sequences, and deeply-layered characterization makes this game a compelling experience.
What is Wanted: Dead story about?
A Convoluted Tale Told Out of Order
In the world of ‘Wanted: Dead’, we’re introduced to Hanna Stone, an ex-mercenary turned law enforcement agent, released from prison to work for the Zombie Squad, a special task force within the Hong Kong Police. As an ex-mercenary, she carries a heavy past, including war crimes, which we come to learn through intermittent flashbacks.
The game’s narrative doesn’t follow a linear path but jumps through different time periods, with some cutscenes serving as flashbacks. The storyline includes everything from corporate intrigue, android protests, to police station attacks, and city-wide sieges. The game cleverly misdirects the player by revealing information gradually. For example, the initial mission at Dauer Synthetics showcases their high-tech androids, which later come into play in a significant way.
The Human-Android Question
As the story progresses, the player is confronted with the profound question: what defines a human? During a mission where Hanna’s team is sent to break up an armed android protest, they end up killing many “toasters”. The game then hints at a deeper layer to the androids’ existence: they have tattoos, and one of them even smokes, exhibiting human-like behavior.
In a surprising twist, an android brought in for interrogation is revealed to be a human – or rather a cyborg, someone who has been turned into a semi-android through implants.
A Dark Past, A Mother’s Sacrifice
Perhaps the most impactful narrative device used in ‘Wanted: Dead’ is the revelation of Hanna’s real identity. Through anime-style flashbacks, we learn that Hanna Stone was once Emma Lautner, a young woman who chose to sign a contract with a shady corporation to secure a future for her sick son.
In a deal that promised a comfortable job for a year in exchange for her memory and identity, Emma was instead turned into a war criminal, performing deeds she never agreed to. The company betrayed her, altering her body and erasing her past. The poignancy of this plot point is further enhanced by Hanna’s donations to an orphanage, the one where her son resides, showing her deep yearning to connect with her past and to ensure a better future for her son.
Wanted: Dead Ending Explained
The ending of ‘Wanted: Dead’ is a masterful blend of suspense, emotional resonance, and ambiguity, leaving players with plenty to contemplate.
A Haunting Goodbye
In the final scenes, we find Hanna sequestered away in a hotel room, engaged in a phone conversation with the orphanage where her son resides. Hanna’s emotional connection with the boy, who is unaware that she is his mother, is palpable. The conversation is not just a touching moment; it provides a stark contrast to the intense action and violence that permeate the rest of the game. The care and concern Hanna expresses for her son reveal the depth of her humanity, which has remained intact despite her transformation into a cyborg and her brutal past.
As she talks to her son, Hanna becomes aware that her enemies are closing in on her. She ends the call, leaving both the player and her son in suspense about her fate. Hanna calmly prepares for the imminent fight, showing her determination and resilience. This heart-stopping moment emphasizes the relentless dangers that Hanna faces and the strength she possesses.
The After-Credits Scene
Adding to the emotional weight of the ending is the after-credits scene. Here we see a flashback of young Hanna, then known as Emma Lautner. Emma is in desperate straits, struggling to find a way to pay for her young son’s medical treatment. A friend introduces her to a dubious corporation, which promises to cover her son’s medical bills if Emma agrees to work for them.
Emma is told she will wake up far away with a different name and no memory. The corporation’s manipulative promise is revealed as a cruel trap. Instead of waking up from a ‘nap’, Emma finds herself transformed into Hanna Stone, a mercenary forced to commit war crimes.
An Unsettling Revelation
The ending is a bitter commentary on corporate exploitation and the commodification of human life. Emma’s desperate decision, initially made out of love for her son, leads her into a dystopian nightmare, robbing her of her identity, her memories, and her humanity. The corporation’s abuse of power is starkly portrayed, leaving the player to ponder the ramifications of unchecked corporate influence in a society teetering on the brink of dehumanization.
Analysis and Interpretation
The game’s ending is a powerful juxtaposition of the intensely personal and the ominously impersonal. On one hand, there is the poignant, intimate conversation between Hanna and her son, and on the other hand, there is the cold, uncaring machinations of the corporation.
In essence, the ending of ‘Wanted: Dead’ is open-ended. It leaves Hanna’s fate uncertain, and the player yearning for more. What will Hanna do next? Can she ever reclaim her lost past? How will she fight against the forces that have manipulated her life?
With the game’s narrative arc unresolved, there’s a hopeful expectation for a sequel. We are left to hope that in a follow-up, Hanna might find some measure of peace and resolution, and continue her battle against the corporate forces that have dictated her life. Ultimately, ‘Wanted: Dead’ presents a compelling narrative about the struggles for identity and autonomy in a world overrun by technology and corporate power.
The Impact of the Narrative
‘Wanted: Dead’ is a roller coaster ride of intense emotions, unexpected revelations, and thought-provoking moments. It manages to blend the rawness of cyberpunk with the intricacies of human emotions, creating a profound narrative impact.
Its strength lies in its well-developed characters and the gradual unveiling of their backstories. It keeps the player engrossed, guessing, and empathizing with the characters, especially Hanna/Emma. Her struggle with her forgotten past, the sacrifices she made for her son, and her continued fight in a world that has used and discarded her, create a deep emotional resonance.
Moreover, the game uses the cyberpunk genre effectively to question the boundaries between human and android, to explore themes of corporate greed and corruption, and to delve into the very nature of identity. All these elements combined make ‘Wanted: Dead’ a game worth playing and pondering upon.
Conclusion: A Hope for a Sequel
Despite its confusing chronology and seemingly disjointed plotlines, the narrative of ‘Wanted: Dead’ is deeply impactful. The game’s ending leaves many questions unanswered and a yearning for a sequel. As a tale of survival, sacrifice, and human resilience in a dystopian future, it is a standout addition to the cyberpunk genre. As for Hanna Stone, her journey remains unfinished, her story untold, and the player is left hoping for more.