Dead to Rights - PS2 - Review
Namco's Hollywood inspired action game, Dead to Rights, which was released for the Xbox console in August is now also available for PS2 owners to enjoy. The game's fairly involved storyline revolves around a cop, Jack Slate, who after discovering his father dead, decides to seek the murderer and avenge the killing. Unfortunately, for Jack, this manhunt doesn't quite go as planned and almost immediately he ends up getting framed for another murder. As things continue to snowball on him, Jack will run from the police and fight against lawless villains with only the help of his trusty dog Shadow and a few others.
Dead to Rights is a game that revolves around nonstop action. There are fifteen total chapters within the game and each involves a combination of taking out hostile threats, solving puzzles/mini-games, and defeating unique bosses. All of this is done using a mix of pure firepower and an assortment of awesome fighting tactics that are unique to this title. The whole game is based in Grant City, which needless to say isn't the nicest of places, and as Jack you'll actually end up fighting just about every single bad guy citywide, or so it seems.
Luckily, Slate is handy with the steel because most of this game involves simply going to different locations and shooting an extraordinary number of enemy characters. Whether in a strip club or an abandoned mine, this guy proves to be a one man killing machine, as he takes on more enemies at a time than any known superhero and defeats boss characters like nobody's business. The weapons found in Dead to Rights include a variety of pistols, machine guns, shot-guns, assault rifles, rocket launchers, etc. Most of these can be obtained by killing enemy characters, but sometimes it's necessary to go fist to fist when there are no weapons around.
While the game has a lot of cool features that are detailed below, once a decent amount of it has been completed it's obvious that a lot of the action is repetitive, even though the locations and characters themselves are very unique and well done. The AI is usually a little too predictable and most of the enemies aren't very challenging to defeat. The result is an expectation that you will always be able to conquer any given situation. Don't get me wrong, Dead to Rights is enjoyable to play, but it simply could have used more variation in scenarios. Too often you end up simply having to shoot at groups of enemies that are just standing around or at guys that almost endlessly appear out of nowhere. Especially since the game has a film style setup and is focused on being somewhat realistic.
Dead to Rights is unique because in addition to allowing you to kill an insane number of people in a number of ways, there are also a wide variety of mini-games/puzzles that typically must be completed to progress in the game. These range from making a stripper dance by pressing the right buttons at the right time in order to district bouncers to disarming a bomb by directing a small piece of metal through its internals to lifting weights, boxing and arm wrestling in order to collect cigarette packs in jail. While these games are often a nice break from the typical gameplay; they aren't something you'd expect in a game targeted at an older, more mature audience. Some of them are definitely more enjoyable then others.
This game has some sweet tactics for both close range and longer range combat situations. Some of them, such as those that allow you to disarm enemies will send shivers down your spine. No other title has allowed for such a variety of ways to immobilize enemy characters with such great camera views!
Much of this is a result of the control scheme and what it allows for, which is as follows. The left analog stick moves Jack, while the right on changes the camera position, which allows you to look around the surrounding area without actually moving. Pressing R1 allows you to auto-target enemies and besides x, the fire button; it is the most used control in the game. Since there are so many enemies that often come at you very quickly, this button must be used to cycle through these targets without delay to stay alive (it defaults to the closest enemy first). The auto-targeting system is actually pretty cool, as the crosshair changes colors depending on the range of the enemy as well as their current status (dead or alive), but it makes the game relatively simple and monotonous after a while. There is also a manual targeting mode, but it proves to be almost worthless due to the number of enemies that constantly rush you. The different weapons can be cycled through by pressing the left and right d-pad buttons, making it pretty easy to switch.
Circle, the action button, is used for a wide variety of purposes in Dead to Rights. First of all, it is used to open doors, hit switches, etc, based on the particular situation in the game. Also, this button allows you to use an enemy as a human shield; that is, if you have a gun and are in close proximity to the enemy. Using this tactic is a must during heavy gun battles because it gives you an extra layer of armor when taking a lot of fire, but you have to watch your back! If near a wall, pressing circle will allow you to go into wall mode, so you can peek out and shoot at enemies. Triangle lets you dive in a variety of ways that can be beneficial during gameplay. Pressing the button briefly results in a normal dive, while holding it down results in a slow motion dive (assuming your adrenaline meter is full enough). These dives are sweet because while in mid-air you can target and kill multiple enemies. While L1 lets you crouch, no jump button has been included in the game.
When forced to fight unarmed against enemies, Jack has the ability to block incoming hits as well as punch, kick, throw, and disarm enemies in a variety of ways. Overall, this hand-to-hand combat is somewhat disappointing though, lacking a good feel and not allowing for very good combo moves to be pulled off. The disarms, however, consist of very sweet animation sequences and it's a challenge to unlock them all. While disarming enemies you have the option of going into slow motion or changing camera angle to optimally view the amazing, very graphic moves. Slate can bust necks, arms and otherwise eliminate enemies without even breaking a sweat; this guy is truly incredible.
Another integral component of the game that can be used strategically in a number of ways is Shadow, Jack's trusty K9 partner. Besides being used to sniff out bombs and go into areas where Jack simply cannot fit, Shadow has the ability to attack enemies upon Jack's command. All you have to do is use R1 to target an enemy (assuming they're close enough) and then press square for a quick Shadow attack. The cool thing is that once he kills the enemy for you, he returns with their gun, so it's a great tactic to use when weaponless. To keep the game somewhat challenging, there's a meter that must be full to use Shadow that takes some time to fill back up after each use.
There are other unique fighting tactics within the game too, such as having the ability to throw a flammable container at an enemy, or group of enemies, and then shooting it just before it lands, resulting in a huge explosion.
A variety of meters in Dead to Rights keep you informed of Jack's status as well as the targeted enemy's status. For Jack, there's a meter for health, armor, stamina, and there's also one that shows Shadow's stamina. If the health meter completely runs out the game ends and you must start over from the last checkpoint. To keep this from happening you must collect the health packs that are placed around the levels in addition to armor packs. Having armor is crucial because it allows your health to remain constant until the armor is totally gone. Having adrenaline allows you to perform some advanced tactics, so it too is important; this meter is automatically filled up over time.
The more advanced fighting tactics, which are crucial to use during gameplay, are what really make this game unique. Dead to Rights is a game that looks great and sounds incredible. However, the gameplay overall is not varied enough.
This game is rated M for mature and requires 110 KB on a PS2 memory card.
With all the different possible maneuvers that can be performed by Jack, such as the variety of disarms, using a human shield for cover, diving in slow motion, and having the ability to command Shadow to attack enemies, the game is pretty intriguing. In short, Dead to Rights is nonstop action (a.k.a. nonstop killing). However, even with the backing of the developed storyline and all the unique features the game offers, this action gets somewhat monotonous well before the end of the game. This is partially due to the fact that the game has to be played in a totally linear manner. Not just from level to level, but within each mission there are certain tasks that must be done in a pre-defined order and as a result, the game does get tedious. Including the mini-games to breakup the gameplay is a great idea, but after picking far too many locks or having to disarm more bombs than seems necessary; these too get less enjoyable as the game progresses. Having received a mature rating from the ESRB, it's obvious that this game was focused at the older gaming crowd, so the inclusion of these often laughable button-pressing tasks is surprising.
Graphically, despite some noticeable frame-rate slowdowns when there's a lot of action on the screen, this game is actually very innovative. The detail level is high, while the lighting and shadows are generally appropriate for each particular environment. However, Dead to Rights really shines when it comes to the character animations that have been included in the game as well as the player-controlled camera. The combination of these two components makes the game more enjoyable as it's possible to watch Jack perform one of his awesome disarm moves on an enemy in slow motion from any angle you want; this really gives Dead to Rights a Hollywood, even Matrix-esque feel. While the adjustable camera is great for certain situations; the camera mode used during normal gameplay, which automatically moves (rather than staying behind Jack) does get annoying. An option to lock the camera in straight on third-person view would have been nice.
The audio proves to be very well done in Dead to Rights. Continuing with the film theme, the background music consists of an impressive score that complements the action perfectly. The sound effects won't disappoint you either. From the noises that the different guns produce to those made when bullets ricochet off of different objects; all are of great quality. On the dialogue side though, the game could use some work. While not all of it is bad; the handful of sub-par voice actors and the enemies that constantly repeat the same phrases over and over again could have been done without.
Three different settings allow for a decent variance in the difficulty level, but overall the game is somewhat easy, which is largely due to the auto targeting system. On the normal (middle) difficulty level the game can be beaten within a day or two without much trouble. The game becomes significantly less challenging as you learn how to best take advantage of all the different tactics that can be used during gameplay. These tactics are all explained very well in a short tutorial that's has been implemented into the first level.
Taking this strong movie-like storyline and putting it behind some great action and innovative gameplay turns out to be a pretty impressive formula. However, the story is somewhat cheesy and predictable, while the gameplay is too often repetitive.