Dead to Rights - XB - Review

Dead to Rights stars Jack Slate, a cop whose life is about to be turned upside down.  While investigating a murder, he's shocked and saddened to find out that the dead body is his father.  This infuriates Jack.  He's determined to find out who did it, so he blindly goes after the most obvious suspect.  Big mistake.  Before he knows it, Jack is being lead into a deadly trap that could put an end to his career as a cop.  Or worse yet, it could put an end to his life.

As you have probably heard, Dead to Rights is an action game that was largely inspired by the work of filmmakers like John Woo.  At the start of the game, you don't have any weapons, but the brief tutorials quickly show you to disarm an enemy.  With a weapon in hand, you can rush into the action and slow things down, Matrix-style, to give yourself the advantage.  While moving in slow motion, your enemies can still shoot you, and they move a bit faster than in Max Payne, so it's not always the best option.  But I had so much fun slowing the game down that I didn't care.  While in slow motion, the camera can be moved all around your character.  Bullet shells slowly fly out of your gun, carefully landing on the ground, while your enemies gradually roll over and die.

Fitting right in with other action games/movies, Dead to Rights lets players lean up against walls, peak over them, quickly sneak out and fire, and then move behind the wall again for cover.  There are also some new action movie elements that haven't been used in any other game, my favorite being the human shield.  The phrase "over my dead body!" never had so much meaning.  When equipped with a weapon, Jack Slate can grab any enemy (except a boss) and take him hostage!  The enemy's health meter will then appear under Slate's, and any shot taken from the front will be blocked by the enemy!  I know what you're thinking: didn't MGS2 allow you to take hostages?  Yes, it did -- but you couldn't fight back while holding the enemy, but in Dead to Rights, you can.  And if you get tired of dragging the enemy around, you can shoot him in the head with a handgun, professional killer-style!  If you're holding a shotgun, Jack will hit him on the back of the head, and when the enemy is on the ground, he'll pull the trigger to prevent him from getting back up.  This is the kind of stuff that action movie fans have been waiting to see in video games for years!  And the fact that you can actually do it all yourself makes it even cooler.

If you weren't already aware, I'm sure you can tell by now that this game is not intended for young children.  (The ESRB rating is "M" for Mature, citing blood, mature sexual themes and violence as the primary reasons for the rating.)

The gameplay itself is, although unique in some ways, a lot like Max Payne.  The aiming is different, and so is the targeting system.  In Max Payne, you would usually only battle a few enemies at a time.  Jack Slate doesn't have it so easy.  When you combine the three or four guys that attack you head on, with the many enemies that surround you and the snipers shooting from above, you end up with enough enemies to end your game in a matter of seconds.  A bit of strategy is needed to conquer scenarios like these, which are in high abundance.  Sometimes a secret weapon is all you need.  Jack's secret is his dog.  Aside from sniffing out bombs, Jack's dog can be used to attack enemies and steal their weapons.  The dog can only be used at specific points in the game, and the dog meter must be full before it will attack.  But it is a very helpful tool, and a sneaky one at that.  Every enemy expects you to shoot them in the head -- but no one expects to be attacked by an animal!

Much to my dismay, not all is well in the world of Dead to Rights.  The standard, Max Payne-style action levels are awesome!  I can't get enough of them.  But that's the problem: there aren't enough of them.  As you will quickly find out, Dead to Rights is filled with mini-games.  These mini "games" are simple, yet frustrating, and in some cases, extremely aggravating.  The first mini-game isn't too bad.  It's short, and involves a naughty female dancer.  Who can complain about that?  The rest of the mini-games aren't so appealing though.  In the third level, Jack is forced to lift weights.  In a movie, this sort of thing is okay.  But here, the player must do the weightlifting, and he/she must do it by repeatedly pressing the A button.  The goal is to keep the bar in the middle of the weight meter and, when the power meter is full, press the B button to unleash your power and lift the weight higher.  If you fail to continually press the A button, or press it too quickly, the bar will fall out of the meter and you'll begin to lose your power.  If you lose it all, you must start over.  I know it sounds simple, but it will make you very tense.  Worse yet, it took me away from the rest of the game, which I was enjoying very much!  All I wanted to do was get this mini-game over with as quickly as possible.  That, of course, only made it take longer.

Sadly, that isn't the only mini-game that takes you away from the fun.  From lock-picking to bomb-defusing, Dead to Rights has more than a few distractions.  There are two decent mini-games (that take up enough of DTR's time to be called full-fledged games): kick boxing and light gun-style shooting.  The kick boxing scenarios are like a 3D version of Virtua Fighter.  Although a bit on the clunky side, this is one mini-game that I didn't mind too much.  It's not what attracted me to the game, but it brings some diversity so I can't complain.  The light gun-style shooting game is like Virtua Cop, but with fewer enemies.  After killing all of the enemies in the room, you'll have to defuse a bomb.  Repeat this process three or four times in your head and you'll know exactly what this level is like.

The lock-on targeting system can be a royal pain as well, since it almost always targets the enemy that is closest to you.  This leads to an abundance of problems that occur during the game's most difficult scenarios.  The most common problem happens when you are standing near (but not necessarily up against) a wall.  Enemies surround you from all angles, which is where the problem comes in.  If there are two enemies -- one on the right side of the wall, the standing behind or to the side of you, the game will always target the one near the wall.  That guy can't hurt you.  In fact, he's in the perfect spot for you to come out from behind the wall and take him out.  But the other guy, the one shooting you in the back, is perfectly safe, unless you swing the camera around and press the right trigger till it targets the desired opponent.  By the time you do that, Jack Slate may be dead...

This is all due to the game's interpretation of who the closest enemy is.  The guy on the other side of the wall is a few feet away, whereas the other gunman stands roughly ten feet behind you.  Technically, that makes the wall enemy the closest one to you.  So it's not like this was an obvious mistake.  The game does what it was programmed to do.  Unfortunately, that means that we have to struggle to get through some of the game's toughest levels...

Dead to Rights is, without a doubt, a very entertaining shooter.  The action levels are some of the best out there.  Even when I was dying like crazy, and even when the mini-games drove me insane, I still wanted to keep on playing.  Why?  Because I knew that once this frustrating moment was over, great gameplay would be there.  In many ways it's better than Max Payne, but it's also very different.  Cautious gamers may want to rent Dead to Rights first and see if it's their cup of tea.  I have no doubt that every gamer will love the standard shooting levels, but the rest of the game may annoy you to the point of no return.  And that can be a real problem, since most stores won't take back opened games.

Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 7.9
This is an exciting game that will entertain you for hours...when it's not frustrating you to death.

Graphics: 7.5 
Dead to Rights started out as a PlayStation 2 game and it shows.  For the most part, it looks a lot like Shenmue.  It's more detailed than that game, since it uses a more powerful engine, but there are many visual similarities between the two games.  Two things I don't like about the graphics: the enemies don't have real-time shadows, and the puddles of water barely move when you run through them.

Sound: 6.5
Jack Slate sounds almost exactly like Max Payne!  The tone of his voice...the sarcastic remarks...it's uncanny.

Difficulty: Medium
Dead to Rights is frustrating, but not always challenging.

Concept: 8 
Dead to Rights isn't the first game of its kind, but it is one of the most unique.  I don't like most of the mini-games, but the rest of the game is very entertaining.

Multiplayer: N/A

Overall: 7.9
On one hand I love Dead to Rights, and on the other, I'm disappointed.  Can these mini-games be overlooked?  For diligent gamers, the answer is a definite yes.  I am a diligent gamer, which is why I overlooked them as much as I could and decided to give DTR the high score it deserved.  For everyone else, the answer may be no.  And if you can't overlook the mini-games, which take up a large portion of DTR, then you may not have the desire to play through the entire game.  That'd be a real shame, because you'd be missing out on a lot of fun.  I understand why you'd want to quit.  A game shouldn't have parts that you want to rush through.  Every moment should be a joy.  However, in listening to gamers whine about the lack of diversity in video games, Namco tried to do something different and cram a whole bunch of gameplay styles into one title.  Regardless of the outcome, Namco should be commended for their efforts.

Good

Gw
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