Dead to Rights
Namco July 2002--Namco's U.S. studio (Pac-Man World) is helming this sweet-looking bullet-fest, mixing Syphon Filter-ish run-and-gun shooting with the over-the-top martial-arts style of a Hong Kong action flick. Plenty of minigames promise to spice things up as well (like weightlifting and arm wrestling when you get thrown in jail). It's safe to say that this game is gonna rock if Namco can pull it off.
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Namcos latest Xbox title might surprise you its not a racing, fighting or light-gun game. Its not an arcade port and it wasnt even developed in Japan. Dead to Rights is a gritty, Max Payne-style blast-Cem-up steeped in the style of film noir. You play as Jack Slate, a streetwise cop serving in the K-9 unit of Grant City. His career comes to a crashing end, however, when his father is gunned down, and Jack finds himself framed for the murder of a prominent businessman.
Clearing your name demands massive firepower, fisticuffs and a little help from your canine pal, Shadow. The central gameplay mode involves Jack blasting baddies with a wide variety of pistols, shotguns and machine guns. When the action heats up, Jack can execute a stylish, Matrix bullet-time dive to stay one step ahead of the bad guys. Sure, its not terribly original, but it gives Jack an edge over his myriad foes. Shadow is the other secret weapon at Jacks disposal. This powerful pooch can maul thugs and bring their guns back for Jacks personal use.
The developers also spiced up the proceedings by adding a wide variety of other game-play styles. Youll punch, kick and throw your way through Bouncer-style brawler bits, snipe enemies from a helicopter, arm wrestle, hold your breath underwater and simulate sexual acts with a pole, just to name a few.
Stuffing all kinds of different gameplay concepts into DTR might have seemed like a great idea, but really, the shooting/action game at the core is the only one that Namco needed. You get a taste of the gunplay in the brief introductory level. But following the short opening youre thrust into a silly stripping mini-game with abysmal, simplistic control. Surely, after that dorky interlude, youll get back to the good stuff, right? Nope. Instead, you play a lame, dumbed-down brawler that boils down to just mashing on punch over and over. Once thats over, you do get back to the awesome shooting mayhem its life-giving water after wandering across the desert of misguided mini-games. The entire game suffers from this curse, as every traditional shooting stage is hampered by disappointing, unnecessary mini-games. Admittedly, some of these diversions are somewhat enjoyable, but strung together, they just muddle the stronger, more cohesive main attraction. The endless lock-picking and bomb-defusing made me groan, yet I still felt compelled to keep playing the plots not bad, and the white-knuckle shooting never disappointed. Visually, DTR doesn't push the Xbox too hard, but the functional graphics get the job done. The real draw here is the core gameplay...well, at least most of it. Fans of Max Payne and Syphon Filter should definitely check it out, but prepare for an uneven experience.
DTR does one thing pretty well and thats put you in the middle of some Hong Kong action movie shootout, replete with Chow Yun-Fats two-fisted, slow-motion dives. But when the game strays from its hook, everything goes straight to hell. Crappy graphics and terrible story aside, what really pissed me off about DTR was its canned game design. Examples include boss battles with henchmen you cant kill. Why? Because the developers couldnt think of a more clever way to make the boss fight harder. Or when youre forced to engage in shallow hand-to-hand combat for no good reason other than to mix it up.... DTR is a total letdown.
DTR certainly reflects Namcos ambition to create a thinking mans shooter that would outdo Max Payne. But its an ultimately unbalanced hodgepodge of well-intentioned game ideas. DTR does give the gamer lots of things to do: fight, shoot, use a K9 unit, do a strip-tease...the ingredients are there for a good time. But where DTR falls flat is in the execution. Why learn the subtleties of the fighting controls when the most effective attack is punch, punch, punch? The most exciting parts of the game are the shooting bits, but you spend way too much time fussing around with lesser diversions. This one just feels rushed.
Although comparisons to other crime-related, action-intensive games like Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto 3 and Max Payne are inevitable, Namco's Dead to Rights has a lot more up its sleeve than is readily apparent. Yes, it is a hyper-violent video game where much blood is spilled. But the multitude of ways in which you spill this blood is what sets DTR apart.
A plot-driven noir (defined as a crime fiction featuring hard-boiled cynical characters and bleak, sleazy settings), Dead to Rights tells the tale of Jack Slate, a police officer working the streets of Grant City. His father, a private investigator, is brutally murdered, and Jack--conveniently--is the officer called to the scene. Riding the precarious wave shifting between civic duty and the instinctive personal quest for vengeance, Jack decides to circumvent the red tape and take matters into his own hands. Sadly, Jack plays the puppet to a mysterious figure's devious plot and is framed for murder. Subsequently, he is tried and found guilty, with a sentence of death by electric chair. Not a good way to start a video game, is it? Fear not for our hero! In no time flat, Jack escapes from Grant City's Iron Point Penitentiary and sets off to find his father's killers. And that's where the fun begins.
Unlike Grand Theft Auto's car-heavy focus or Max Payne's one-note gameplay, Dead to Rights puts the emphasis on heavy arms and hand-to-hand combat. The arsenal comes in the form of whatever firearms Jack can liberate from the thugs in the game. Pistols (single- or John Woo double-fisted), rifles, machine guns, shotguns and more can be yours at virtually no cost. The resulting chaos is a (cliche approaching...) bullet ballet that plays out in environments as diverse as graveyards, office buildings and Chinatown locales. The hand-to-hand combat appears in certain areas and plays like Tekken Force mode from Namco's own Tekken 3 (punch, kick, throw many, many guys).
Owing more to gangster films than any other video game before it, Dead to Rights takes its influences from a broad selection of classic-crime cinema. "Hong Kong action films have the sort of fast-paced upbeat action that we've been aiming for," says Mike Lescault, DTR's senior producer. "Movies like Hard Boiled, Payback, A Better Tomorrow and The Replacement Killers are good examples of films that capture the brilliant gunplay and flawless hand-to-hand combat that we present in Dead to Rights."
Bold words for sure, but ones that are backed by substantial gameplay. Yes, Jack can fire any weapon he picks up, but he also has other ways of disarming the goons he meets, like breaking necks, snapping spines, kicking a guy into the air, then filling him with lead. It sounds intimidating, but these disarm moves can be done with the simple press of a button. How long you hold it down for and from what direction you attack your target dictates which animation you'll experience.
So for Xbox owners upset that the Grand Theft Auto series will remain PlayStation 2-exclusive, Namco hopes that Dead to Rights (Xbox-exclusive for three months) makes that an easier pill to swallow. After all, it's not every game that lets you deal out deadly dirt naps with such impunity.
If John Woo had made a video game, Dead to Rights could very well have been it.
For those of you who played the game Max Payne, Dead to Rights is going to feel very familiar in some ways. Both games involve a lone wolf cop who has members of his family murdered, coupled with a situation that goes from bad to worse, and guns' many, many guns. However, Dead to Rights introduces a style of gameplay more familiar to those who have played Shenmue.
Dead to Rights is an action shooter game that plays in the 3rd person perspective. As Jack Slate (super cop) you will adventure through 15 different scenarios that will have you dodging bullets (ala the Matrix), using your enemies as a human shield and playing one of the many mini-games that the game requires you to complete. Dead to Rights features one of the most fun control schemes I have ever had the pleasure to enjoy. Imagine those cool Jackie Chan movies where Jackie does some sort of insane feat of agility to disarm an opponent. You get to do that in this game. If you find yourself in a situation where you are outnumbered four to one, no problem, merely grab one of your foes and use him as a human shield while blasting away at the other three. If he lives through the melee, put your pistol to his head and give him a cranial wind tunnel.
In all honesty, I thought that I would be disappointed with this game, especially when I saw that Jack had a canine sidekick named Shadow. It was the kind of kitschy thing that I was almost certain would turn me off. Fortunately Shadow is actually pretty handy for disarming bad guys and his scenarios don't occur often enough for them to be overly distracting.
On the other hand, the mini-games that occur throughout the game can bog down the gameplay as the best parts of the game involve the shooting and action. I didn't mind the mini-game at the beginning that involved the stripper (this one is not for the kiddies) but others just had no point being in the game.
Graphically, the game could be a little sharper. Here is a perfect example of a game being ported over from the PS2. But the game comes at you at a breakneck pace and the varying situations that Jack finds himself in more then make up for it. Additionally, the audio seems more Max Payne-ish and as a matter of fact, one would think Jack and Max are brothers they sound so much alike. Other than the decent voice work, the game's audio is just middle of the road.
A better than average action title, Dead to Rights is a game designed for the mature gamer. If you like your action down and dirty then this one could be the stocking stuffer you've been hoping for. But if ultra violence and two-fisted gunplay hold no interest for you, then take a pass.
Dead to Rights stars a framed cop hunted by both cops and crooks, living in a city known for its criminal element, trying to exact revenge for the murder of a family member. No, it's not Max Payne, but it's damn close and it's very good.
You play, Jack Slate, model police officer, whose life is altered by the murder of your father. Tracking down the murderer puts you on the trail of a conspiracy that threatens Grant City itself. Dead to Rights may begin with a storyline akin to Max Payne, but it really distinguishes itself by adding a variety of game play that keeps this game fun from beginning to end. One minute you are mowing down thugs ala Max Payne, the next you are grinding it out on stage as a stripper, followed by a host of other mini-games that go a long way toward breaking up the game play. While some of the mini-games seem a bit forced (like weight lifting or hitting a punching bag), others fit seamlessly into the game, like sniffing out bombs as Jack's dog, Shadow, or the diffusing bombs mini-game. I laughed openly when during the water torture, you survive by pounding the 'X' & 'O' buttons. All mini-games are directly playable apart from the main game.
The graphics are top notch with well-crafted cut sequences that take you smoothly from one level to the next. The only complaints are that some of the melee animation in the fight sequences seems a bit choppy. At times I struggled with the camera control and occasionally Jack would get stuck on objects. And even though the game has good length to it, many of the levels are re-used several times in the game.
Dead to Rights has added a variety of combat moves that makes fighting in this game extremely cool. You have your pick of the latest firearms to dish out justice ranging from your standard .45 caliber pistol to assault & sniper rifles, flamethrowers, machine guns, rocket launchers and more. If you run out ammo for a specific gun, the game equips the next weapon in your possession, so you can continue firing. Melee combat plays out like a standard fighting game with leg swipes, kicks, punches, pistol-whips, disarm moves and combination moves. Especially fun is using your opponents as a human shield, which is required for survival in some of the larger fights. You can even have Shadow take them out dog style and retrieve their firearm! What gritty police game would be complete without the slow motion Matrix-ish dive and shoot? Don't worry'Dead to Rights has it. Sound violent and bloody? It is. This game earns its mature rating.
The bottom line is that the plot is engaging and well crafted as it unravels the storyline slowly over the course of the game with several good twists. The voice acting is equally well done and just adds to an already good game. While Dead to Rights isn't perfect, it does have superior game play with a ton of variety to it and is extremely enjoyable. If you own a PS2 and aren't frightened by the Mature rating, this game rocks and is worth checking out.