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Score: 8.3 / 10
When any console game hits the “Platinum”
stage, the developers must have done something right. (Of course, a wily
marketing department can help, too.) For the most part, Dead to Rights (DtR)
gives action fans what action fans want: action. But it also deals out
its own fair share of frustration in the form of a camera that is, to be
fair, somewhat wanting.
You play as K-9 cop, Jack Slate – in the same tradition as other
two-syllable action game protagonists – who is bent on revenge for the
murder of his father and to clear his name in the traditional action
game manner: killing anyone that looks at you sideways. Slate goes on a
one-man crusade for answers by laying waste to the underbelly of society
– gunning them down in slow motion, using them as human shields, beating
them senseless, performing some of the most brutal “disarming”
moves ever, or having his dog, Shadow, leap
up and rip their throats out. Needless to say, if you balk at violent
content, stay away!
But if action is your thing…
Besides Slate’s arsenal of up close and personal fighting moves, he has
access to a wide assortment of guns. There are shotguns, automatic
weapons, a sniper rifle, and
handguns, each with varying firing rates and effectiveness. Targeting
foes with your weapons proves to be no problem thanks to the good
controls. Holding the left trigger locks you onto the nearest target.
The reticule phases color depending on your chances of hitting the
target – when it’s red, unload; when it’s green, get closer for better
accuracy. This method works extremely well, especially in conjunction
with Slate’s adrenaline (read: bullet-time) acrobatics. It never gets
old leaping out from behind a parked car and dropping three or four
opponents with one frantic slow-mo dive. Except if you’re in restricted
quarters, like hallways.
In the outdoor areas, problems with the camera are largely unnoticeable
but when you go inside you’ll often be attacked from off-screen, either
by fist or bullet, which often results in Slate’s untimely demise. The
problem is that the camera doesn’t react automatically to the situation
(unless it’s scripted). Instead of objects taking on transparency, your
view is blocked. Take for example a showdown with a bevy of gun-toting
masseuses in a massage parlor. There is one large room in the middle of
the complex, with many small rooms and hallways pin-wheeled from that
room. Never mind Slate, you also have to keep an informant alive – a
nearly impossible task given the fact that you can be fired at from
off-screen enemies (often in the back). Winding up in a cramped corner
(and dead) time and again is inevitable. Talk about frustration!
Particularly when you give up and turn off the game and realize you
didn’t save your progress – one of DtR’s oversights is the lack of an
auto-save feature, you have to do it manually – which may mean replaying
sections you never wanted to revisit.
To break up the action (or maybe frustrate you) DtR sports many
mini-games. From picking locks to lifting weights in prison, your timing
and button mashing skills will get a workout. At one point you’ll even
face a coordinated button sequence to have a stripper distract some
guards. It breaks up the action, which can be a good thing. In fact, the
pacing is pretty good. Just when you get tired of fighting your way out
of prison Slate gets to break-out the guns.
In the presentation department, DtR is all about quality. The character
motion is smooth and explosive when it needs to be. One of Slate’s
“superpowers” is the ability to grab a fire extinguisher, toss it toward
a group of enemies, and then blast it out of the air for a satisfying
explosion and a great way to clear a room. Another cool feature for
action fans is the slow-mo disarming moves, which can be brutal to watch
but are animated in such a way at to make them morbidly fascinating. The
cutscenes are great and surprisingly well acted – although I never
really connected with Slate. He may have been wronged but he does some
truly nasty things and the story doesn’t really offer a solid reason for
Slate’s actions, like when he throws the warden in the electric chair. I
guess it was done for a sight gag… I think.
Aside from the camera issues, Dead to Rights can’t be faulted for what
it is – an unapologetic action game in the same vein as Max Payne, but
with a dog sidekick and hand-to-hand combat. The dollars ($20US) to
gaming ratio makes Dead to Rights a no-brainer purchase for action fans.