Dead to Rights: Retribution
The Dead to Rights series first got unleashed in 2002 and allowed us to meet Jack Slate, a cop in Grant City, and his loyal dog Shadow. It was a pleasant game but no top title. Still I had the idea that this could become the start for a truly awesome series. The second game, Dead to Rights II, however, was a true disappointment and my idea was torn to shreds. “That’s the end of the series”, I thought back in the days. However, time heals all wounds at Namco Bandai and new hardware might be the right solution to give the duo the game they deserve. After all, we’re already so far in the lifespan of the current generation of consoles that things can’t go wrong, right?
After softly penetrating the blu-ray in the disc opening I immediately got a first blow to the face. Such bad images! That’s never a good sign. Graphics don’t make the gameplay, but they do give an idea on how much love and care was put in the creation of a title.
The story starts with Jack Slate who in critical condition stumbles from a boat and immediately gets verbally attacked by two clowns who wouldn’t even be able to finish clown school. While teasing our hero, Slate’s dog Shadow appears from the… shadow and bites one of the painted opponents in his throat. The other clown-like figure decides to flee for safety and that’s when you get control… as Shadow. In a short tutorial you quickly learn the basic movements of the trained dog, get to slice throats, scratch open bellies and bite opponents in the balls. As from this point and the few seconds afterwards you get the idea the game is a combination of Die Hard and Turner&Hooch. The not following orders from your superiors and excessive violence are all around.
The story isn’t top notch but we didn’t expect that from a game that focuses mostly on action. The biggest problem is therefore not the story but the game mechanics used. Everything feels plump and dated. Everything Jack does we’ve seen before in other games and better. The fist fights are plain boring and repetitive and when you draw your weapons you quickly wonder whether you’ve traveled back in time to the era of the Playstation2. The enemies are really stupid and you need to do nothing more than aim your crosshair and wait until your enemy places his head right in the middle of it when coming out of cover. “Bang!”. Another headshot and trophy/achievement withou any effort.
Despite its shortcomings the game does contain some nice innovations like the taking hostage of an enemy which goes extremely fast, or the disarming of a hostile with one push of a button to then brutally slay them with a headshot from their own weapon. The part that gives the most fun is the playing with Shadow. The missions are mostly stealth but with a very brutal side to it. While sneaking around Shadow gets help from his instinct which reveals the heartbeats of hostiles through walls. He can also drag bodies into darker areas and bark to lure enemies into a trap. It’s clear: Shadow isn’t your grandma’s pet!
We already said how the graphics look but I expect you want to know just how bad things really are. They’re butt-ugly. What? You want me to go into more detail? Well, the first thing you notice are the boring ever-returning textures which are created with way too less detail. The whole is totally uninspired and contains almost no details which makes that Dead to Rights 2 doesn’t even manage to reach a level of the average mediocre game. Jack’s movements are way too stiff and the amount of detail on Shadow is way too little. Also it seems like Shadow is more flying over the ground than actually running on top of it.
The audio seems to have been recorded with the same hurry which results in bad voicing, meagre dialogues and gunfire that doesn’t sound better than hitting a spoon on a can.
Somewhere I can hardly believe Namco Bandai unleashes a game like this on us. Maybe the publisher has given up and found it easier to release it in its current state than having Volatile Games carry on without result. The ideas are there but the finishing is absent. Luckily there are currently enough other top titles available that do offer value for money.