When Dead to Rights was released in 2002, it combined Metal Gear Solid and Max Payne to create a game that was incredibly average. How can you take the innovative mechanics of those two major games and get such mediocrity? Well you’ll have to play the game to find out, or simply play the reboot of the series, Dead to Rights: Retribution. You will discover that combining the fun elements of two different games into a new one doesn’t actually make it fun.
Jack Slate is just as badass as his name sounds. As a vice cop in Grant City, Jack knows all about the crime going on in his town. When a hostage situation appears to be the work of some hoods who have more clout behind them then they should, Jack begins to investigate who’s really behind the new wave of crime in the city.
Dead to Rights: Retribution has three core elements that make up the game: hand-to-hand fighting, gunplay, and stealth. Hand-to-hand is the standard combining of weak/strong attacks to create combos. You hit both the weak/strong buttons together to do a guard break attack in order to stop the smarter-than-average thugs that do know how to block. You can also grab the poor bastards to give them some powerful knees, or throw them around in a very ragdoll-like fashion. You literally throw them around like nothing, with seemingly no effort at all.
Now, Jack will have to disarm enemies to take their weapons and make the battles somewhat even. The problem with disarming is...IT IS THE SAME DAMN BUTTON AS THE SPRINT BUTTON!! How the hell did this leave QA?? You press one button to disarm enemies and use the gun on them for a quick kill. Unfortunately, that same damn button makes you run right by enemies as you sprint. Thus, if you don’t have a weapon, you run right by them, then walk to them slowly to disarm them, all while getting shot at point blank range like an idiot. You want to talk about taking all the fun of a game; this is a perfect example. A simple change of button assignment, especially considering that both the PS3 and Xbox 360 have 10+ buttons to use, could have made for a much more entertaining game, but instead it is the focus of what is wrong with this game. Normally, I wouldn’t dwell on something like this, but you have to use the disarm very often, which requires you to keep dealing with the screwy setup over and over again.
When Jack does finally get a gun, you get a standard over the shoulder view, and you can take cover behind the various objects around the level. I found two annoyances with the shooting, the first one is the fact that every weapon has a minuscule amount of ammo. This means you’ll be lucky to get a gun with a full clip. Ammo is so limited that you’ll be forced to go back to disarming enemies, which creates a circle of annoyance. My second gripe with the shooting mechanic, although minor in comparison to the first, is that the enemies constantly keel over like they’re dying, only to pop right back up. Seeing this animation again and again only provides more irritation.
On the plus side, while armed or unarmed, Jack has the ability to do some nasty �takedowns� when an enemy has low health. Reminiscent of a 90’s Segal movie, Jack will finish off an unlucky bastard with multiple bone-breaking moves, or a gruesome blast to the face with whatever weapon you have equipped. Jack also has a kind of �bullet time� option to slow down the action, which allows you to take your time to target the enemy. In regards to both, they seem so dated that they don’t really help make the game any more fun.
The stealth part of the game takes the form of Jack’s loyal dog, Shadow. While making your way through a level controlling Jack, Shadow acts a computer-controlled teammate who can takedown enemies on his own. At certain points, you control Shadow. Here, the focus is on incapacitating enemies from the shadows. Shadow can draw enemies out by barking at them, and then slowly sneak behind them from spaces that only a dog can fit in. If you don’t stay stealthy, Shadow will gain the attention of multiple enemies and be quickly disposed of. The stealth element is not as sophisticated as other stealth games out this genre, it is hardly anything special unless you count the whole �controlling the dog� shtick.
Volatile Games did do a nice job with the character models and backgrounds for the game. Grant City does have some character in the stages that you play through. Jack’s voice acting is on par with a gritty vice cop full of attitude, this reminded me of a standard cop movie. Again, like most of the game, it’s on the level of most of the games out there, but nothing to really take note of.
I’d like to say that Dead to Rights: Retribution deserved a bigger score, but yes, one button made all of the difference. Disarming enemies is so crucial to this game, yet I cannot think of any more horrid way to implement it than by making the �disarm� button double-up as the �sprint� button. This fatal flaw easily brings down the whole game, making it far from fun or exciting. As crazy as it sounds, one button can make all the difference in a game and Dead to Rights: Retribution is proof of that.