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Related in some ways to the Karma Meter, a Wanted Meter represents how much of the local authorities' ire you've drawn. Typically, the higher it goes the more serious the response is.
Examples of Wanted Meter include:
- Grand Theft Auto is the ur-example, along with the games that followed it. One star had a single cop chasing you; six stars was the Army. Laying low could cool it down, as could dodging into a Pay 'n' Spray and having the car's colors and license plates changed.
- Grand Theft Auto IV changed up the system a bit. The progressive levels of law enforcement stayed, but rather than being omni-present they created a radius on the map. If you were within that radius you had to get out. Every time you were spotted the radius centered on you. Once you managed to escape it you had to stay out of sight until it shrunk into nothing. Each level of law enforcement brings a larger radius.
- Red Dead Redemption shakes it up even more. The radius from GTA IV returns, but there is a finite amount of police officers so you can choose to either run away or kill them all. The advantage of running away is it doesn't increase your bounty like killing a few dozen cops does. The individual wanted levels are replaced by an ongoing bounty. Different crimes have different costs associated with them and the more crimes you do the higher the bounty gets. The higher the bounty is the harder the law (and bounty hunters) will come after you. Simply escaping or killing all of the cops doesn't erase your bounty. You have to either pay it off yourself, turn yourself in or do a job for the law. The overall effect is a more dynamic and realistic system than in either GTA.
- Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines had two Wanted Meters. One represented the Masquerade, the secrecy of the vampire world. Violating The Masquerade caused vampire hunters equipped with stakes and torches to come after you. If you lost all your masquerade points you were executed by the sheriff. The other was a typical Wanted Meter that represented the police.
- Bully had this. In addition to the usual crimes, hitting anything not a teenage boy (girls, little kids, adults, prefects) would instantly max out the meter and prompt some of the law enforcement to spawn Behind the Black. If the meter was more than 2/3 full, officials who caught you would skip the usual Smashing Survival and instantly bust you; a good incentive to confine your violence to fellow delinquents... unless you wanted 100% Completion, which required you to serve a certain number of detentions to earn an outfit.
- Destroy All Humans! had four stages to its meter. The last stage drew the MIB, Majestic—which was especially dangerous because their presence wrecked your Holobob, making you a sitting duck.
- Postal 2 had a wanted meter, but the degree of Wantedness didn't have any secondary effect other than how long it took for the meter to "cool down" and things to go back to normal. Authority figures do get tougher later in the game (SWAT teams and soldiers instead of cops), but that's only due to plot progression.
- Mafia had a 3-stage wanted meter. For traffic violations, the cops would try to ticket you. For major crimes (fleeing from the police, general mayhem) the cops would try to arrest you. For assault/murder (killing civilians, killing cops, firing a gun) the cops would try to shoot you to death. It also worked so that only the cop seeing you commit the crime would follow you, if either a beat cop or in a car. If you commited a crime in a car and exited it (or the opposite) without the cop seeing you, the police would get confused and you and you could escape. For major crimes like arrested or firing, they would often try to get to a gamewell that made the whole force go after you (otherwise it was just nearby policemen), which would down as you laid low.
- Judge Dredd: Dredd vs Death had a Law Meter, which went up as you enforced the law (arresting perps) and went down as you broke it (killing civilians and unarmed perps). When the Law Meter hit zero, you failed the game; it became impossible to finish the level, and SJS Judges would constantly spawn in and attack you until you died.
- Scarface the World Is Yours has a similar wanted meter; there is a cop detection meter which at half point alerted a cop over and firing a gun will force you to shimmy out of the area before it fills up and Tony's career as a criminal comes to an end. Raising the cop meter too high makes it impossible to launder any cash from the banks. But what you should be careful of is the Gang heat meter which is gained from killing gangsters (doesn't attract much heat and killing areas filled with gang members) and drug dealers (heavily discouraged). Getting that too high will have gang members attacking you and cutting to your profits. Most of the time you will be dealing with the gang heat meter rather then the Cop Heat meter as it costs more to stop the gang members then the fuzz.
- The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction features a four-level threat meter. If the meter got full, a strike team would be called in, which eventually came to mean that you would be assaulted by a pair of 30-foot mechs along with some smaller, hulk-sized mechs. If the strike team was defeated, the meter went back to 0.
- Near the end of the game, "0" means that you're only being chased by Hulk-sized robots and missile-firing helicopters.
- Gun had a meter that filled as you killed civilians; fill it all the way and the posse appears, triggering a "Showdown". As with the Hulk example, defeating the unfair odds resets the meter completely.
- Assassin's Creed II features a Notoriety System, which increases when you commit public acts like pickpocketing or public assassinations. When the meter is full, guards will more or less attack on sight. It can be lowered by tearing down Wanted posters, bribing Heralds, or killing Officials who offer false testimony to Ezio's crimes.
- Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Carbon have a pursuit heat meter, which goes from 1 (municipal squad cars) to 6 (undercover Corvettes plus Sgt. Cross himself!). Notably the heat level didn't apply to the player character, only the car and could be lowered either by changing the car's looks with a respray or new body kit or simply by using a different car if you owned one.
- Sort-of example from Monkey Island 2 Le Chucks Revenge, where your game completion status is recorded via a list of Guybrush Threepwood's misdemeanors on an in-game Wanted poster. The authorities don't really treat Guybrush any differently based on his list of crimes, but plastering a photo to the poster will result in another character getting mistaken for him and arrested.
- The Simpsons Hit & Run has this when you keep hitting people or obstacles which raises the hit & run meter until the police arrive busting you (charging 50 coins) if you get caught.
- Although it's not shown at all, Spelunky keeps track of whether the shopkeepers camp at level exits to kill you with a counter that decreases with each level completed and raises by a level or two with each crime. There's also a completely independent flag set if you've ever killed a shopkeeper, which makes all shopkeepers hostile for the rest of the game, even if the other stat falls back to zero.
- The Hitman series features a suspicion meter, which goes up the more the player's behavior is out of character for his current disguise. At higher levels, even slightly unusual acts will attract attention, and when the meter is at maximum guards will automatically shoot at the player on sight.
- Just Cause has a "Heat" meter, which increases if you kill people or blow things up. More and better-equipped cops will chase you at higher Heat levels; at some level or other they will start calling in attack helicopters and battleships. But even at the highest level, hiding for a minute or so will make all the overarmed cops go back to ignoring you.
- The Godfather has this.