Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death
|a game by||Rebellion Developments|
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Uprooting a much-loved character from the pages of a comic to the screen of a PC is a route that is fraught with danger. It's a similar quandary to that faced by moviemakers when directing the film of a book. People generally scoff, saying they preferred the book, primarily as the vision it paints in their minds is vastly different from that of the hapless film director. The transition from comics is slightly smoother, thanks to the visual pointers offered by the paper medium (in the form of great big pictures of the characters and settings). However, if the fat owner of the comic shop in The Simpsons is anything to go by, comic fans are likely to be even more precious, crying like babies at any perceived slight on their favourite read.
Either way, Judge Dredd developer Rebellion has taken no chances with authenticity. In fact, it liked 2000AD so much that it bought the company. 2000AD is, of course, the (ahem) futuristic comic that has been delivering galactic thrills since its inception in 1977, arguably completing the cultural trilogy offered by that momentous year which also yielded both Star Wars and the Sex Pistols.
Launched into a marketplace that's largely catered for by stiff-upper-lip war stories or juvenile capers, 2000AD was literally out of this world, successfully warping the minds of a generation reared on Whizzer& Chips and Warlord. As much good science fiction is, it was, in essence, a dark satire on modern woes, although for pre-pubescent boys, the appeal was far more rooted in the guns, gadgets and extreme violence.
Central to this approach was Judge Dredd, which first appeared in issue two and has been there ever since, dispensing his inimitable brand of justice to the 400 million inhabitants of Mega-City One, the sprawling metropolis that spans the entire eastern seaboard of the United States. Not one for the subtle approach, Dredd tends to shoot first and ask questions later. As such, he's an almost perfect character for a game, something that Rebellion was aware of when it acquired 2000AD, moving the comic into the building adjacent to its Oxford development studio and rapidly beginning work on the game.
Two years of hard labour has now come to a head and, if you haven't worked it out yet. we are in the vicinity of a first-person shooter, the most obvious use of the licence (although we did have high hopes for a tile-based strategy game).
You are Dredd and you are the law. helmet firmly affixed, and Lawgiver (Dredd's gun) in hand. As the name suggests, Dredd's old adversary. Judge Death, is up to his old tricks, made all the more difficult by the fact that he can't be killed because he is already dead. Before you catch up with him, though, there are more mundane matters to deal with, such as protesters and graffiti artists (aka scrawlers).
The first mission gives you a chance to get to grips with arresting perps (perpetrators), something that is important due to Dredd's Lawmeter; in effect, an inhibitor that stops you becoming too trigger happy. Make a few arrests and your Lawmeter goes up; kill some innocent people and it plummets rapidly. Should it drop too far. you'll fail the mission and special judges will be sent in to take you out. It's a reasonable idea and one that forces you to use a little restraint.
If you do feel the urge to pistol-whip a vagrant, you still can, but it's best not to get too carried away. As well as keeping a check on the violence, the Lawmeter has a secondary purpose in that it contributes to your rating for each mission. On completion of each level, you are awarded the rank of either Cadet. Rookie. Street Judge, Senior Judge or Judge Dredd himself, with success rewarded by the unlocking of multiplayer elements as well as arcade levels.
Each mission consists of primary and secondary objectives, with the former required for completion and the latter contributing toward your ranking. There is generally a button or lever to press, and its location is indicated via a rudimentary waypoint system, offering the general direction and number of metres to the target.
Something of a simplistic approach, it does at least forgo a lot of aimless wandering, although we can't help thinking it was introduced more for the benefit of console owners, with the game receiving a crossplatform release. In fact, the console origins are writ large all over the game. For example, bereft of the joys of an analogue pad, Dredd has only one pace, namely running. Fortunately, the lack of stealth elements don't make this much of a problem, plus it is useful for getting around some of the larger levels.
Quick-save-happy PC gamers may balk at the lack of the feature, replaced instead by a series of checkpoints, although somewhat perversely there is also a slow-save option.
Probably the largest console crime is the city itself which, despite being home to some 400 million people, is often more reminiscent of a wet weekend in Slough. Traffic is virtually non-existent, and the people who are onscreen are generally directly related to the mission.
The whole concept of a living, breathing city is not one that applies to Judge Dredd, with the missions taking place in well-defined, self-contained areas. Many of those areas will be familiar to fans of the comic, such as The Halls Of Justice, Penitentiary and Undercity, eerily packed with crumbling 20th-century artefacts in a Beneath The Planet Of The Apes style. The Smokatorium also makes up one of the levels, demonstrating just how spot-on some of the ideas in 2000AD are, with the city's smokers confined to an airtight dome, an eerily prescient prediction of the fate of the nicotine addict. See also the Fatties, grotesquely obese citizens who carry their girth around with the aid of a stomach-bearing wheel. All of this is captured in fine detail by the bespoke Asura engine, which provides some colourful locations and impressive effects.
Ragdoll physics is a term that is bandied around, and Judge Dredd utilises it to the maximum. Even corpses that have been burned to a skeleton can still be gleefully shot around the floor, the limbs bending i a macabre fashion. The game certainly doesn't hold back on the violence, and blood is liberally sprayed around with aplomb.
Much of the death and destruction is meted out by Dredd's Lawgiver, which comes with six types of ammunition, each allegedly more useful in certain situations. Standard ammo enables you to despatch enemies with short controlled bursts, and is good enough to take out the average street punk.
Armour-piercing is self explanatory, although a couple of rounds will take down one of the vampires that crop up regularly. Ricochet is a clever lift from the comics, enabling you to bounce bullets round a corner - useful for clearing a room, although it's a bit of a hit-and-miss affair.
Incendiary is great for anyone who enjoys watching people burn to death, although it's far from instant as enemies will still flail at you for a few seconds while on fire, something that if it ever happened in real life would leave you permanently traumatised. Hi-ex ammo is a good all-purpose option, generally taking out enemies with one shot, although it's best used at long range, as at close quarters you can often end up killing innocents, or even yourself.
Finally, Heatseeker can be handy in both single and multiplayer, although the bullets don't pack much of a punch. In addition to the Lawgiver -which Dredd always carries - the Justice Department issues the Arbitrator shotgun and LawRod assault rifle. These and enemies' weapons can be swapped in a Halo style, with Dredd able to hold the Lawgiver plus one other, although he's also packing a few smoke grenades, which generally force enemies to surrender.
Various approaches can be made when tackling perps. For instance, if you shoot the leader's head off, the rest of the gang will be more inclined to surrender. Arrests can also be upped by shooting the weapon out of a perp's hand, or by crippling him with a leg shot, with the Al reacting accordingly. There are, in essence, three main types of enemy: vampires, who come at you in a set pattern; zombies, who shuffle inexorably in your general direction; and death cult leaders, who stand and shoot, plus some general cannon fodder.
The Al is far from perfect, though, and many perps have little sense of self preservation, making it something of a duck-shoot. They also manage to become somewhat confused and can often be found wrestling invisible demons like a Stella-fuelled tramp.
Likewise, the other judges aren't a great deal of help, and there is no real sense of teamwork. That said, you can pair up with a buddy and play the game co-operatively. You won't really need to, though, as any vaguely expenenced FPS player should be able to tear through the 11 levels in the space of a weekend.
Fortunately, there is more to the game than just the story mode, as success in the missions opens up a series of arcade levels, many of which are as good as - if not better than -their narrative-led counterparts. Freed from the constraints of the plot - and indeed the Lawmeter - many of these are unrestrained bloodbaths, allowing you to really let rip with the available hardware.
That's pretty much your Dredd vs Death then, an old-school first-person shooter steeped in the history of 2000AD. Releasing such a straightforward shooter so close to Half-Life 2 could be considered commercial madness, and Rebellion will be relying on the good faith of 2000AD fans if it is to make an impression. Fans should be duly satisfied, though, as there is enough detail to appease even those who seal their old issues (sorry, progs) in plastic sleeves.
Flicking through the comics now, though, the world of Dredd is a particularly dark place, something that the game doesn't always capture accurately. While the voice of Dredd himself is suitably authoritative, some of the Dark Judges can come across as a bit camp, adding something of an element of pantomime to the proceedings. In fact, it could be argued that the universe of Dredd has been reduced to a mere computer game.
That would be overlooking the good, old-fashioned, gratuitous violence though, and the mindless fun to be had in shooting off heads, burning people alive or simply smacking them upside the face with the butt of your rifle. If you've ever wanted to be Judge Dredd for a couple of days, this is your chance. Clearly the best Dredd game ever, it definitely surpasses Gremlin's side-scrolling platformer by some distance.
It may not be a revolutionary, game by any means, but it's certainly good fun. Look at the pictures, play the demo and make your mind up.
Download Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
We've All had to dispatch zombies at one time or another and usually it's just a case of filling them with lead, but the undead immortal enemy of Judge Dredd is a completely different kettle of fish. While he's vulnerable to a well-deserved hail of bullets. Judge Death is able to vacate his host body and move into a new one, whereupon the unwilling new host will rapidly decay into the familiar toothy-grinned arch nemesis of our grim-faced hero. Finding him may not be much of a problem, even in a city of billions; wiping him out certainly will be. And we haven't even mentioned Death's three chums either: Fear, Mortis and Fire.
Thankfully, as veteran 2000AD readers will know, the four Dark Judges will meet their end, probably in some faraway alternate dimension, but before we get there, we have the prospect of exploring Mega City One. one of the most expansive and outlandish locales ever transferred to a computer game. It's been tried before, many times, but this time the boys at Rebellion are fanboy-keen to get it right. And since the UK's premier FPS developer actually owns 2000AD, there's every chance that they will.
Unfortunately Rebellion is keeping tight-lipped on what will be in the game and it's hard to pin down exactly which characters, weapons and locales we can expect. We know for certain that we ll meet Dredd's faithful droid Walter, his psychic partner Judge Anderson and an anny of Death-loving cultists. From the Justice Dept arsenal too. Dredd won't just have to rely on his Lawgiver sideami; even if his six different varieties of ammo are usually enough to fend off any perp that crosses his path.
We've yet to see Judge Death in true digital form, but Rebellion assures us that it plans to take fear to the next level. With Aliens Vs Predator already under their belts, we've got a spare pair of kecks on just in case Dredd Vs Death lives up to expectations.
What Amazes Me about 2000AD is how few of its stars are in games. Where's the Halo Jones point-and-click, Bad Company squad shooter, or the Zenith RPG? But at least we've got two decent 2000AD shooters: Rogue Trooper and this.
Dredd vs Death is a great FPS. Your main weapon, the Lawgiver pistol, has a wide variety of ammo types - from heatseekers to rubber ricochets that bounce around rooms - giving you an armoury other FPSs can only wish for from the go. The story's cool, the graphics remain fairly good, there's enough action to stop you ever getting bored, and it's packed with black-as-sin humour.
Gameplay-wise it's also innovative: Dredd is a cop, but unlike cops in every other FPS he's expected to arrest people. Don't and your 'law meter' - a measure of how good a cop you are - drops to nothing, and the Special Judicial Squad (bastard-hard Judges) come to kill you. To keep the meter up you need to arrest perps, generally by shooting their buddies until their morale breaks and they surrender. Despite all this Dredd has downers.
It remains buggy. Nothing serious, but the occasional AI screw-up will have you FWTFing. And although Dredd is Mega City une's top Judge, here he's an errand boy.
The two main flaws are that the vampires (of which they are legion) are unbelievably fast, soak up bullets, and travel in packs. In short, they're too lethal to be fun to fight. Worst of all, the game's final stages lose originality, turning Dredd vs Death into just another FPS. But you won't find another FPS of this quality for $3 these days. Prettier and flashier ones maybe, but none as entertaining as this.
You're The law in this hit-and-miss shooter based on 2000 AD hero Judge Dredd. Armed with a multi-purpose gun called The Lawgiver, you spend the first part of the game cuffing punks round the ear for committing heinous crimes such as doodling on walls, after which things start to warm up as the evil Death begins causing mischief.
The naughty little scamp. The game's sprawling city is bold and colourful, but is let down by a lack of life that makes it less of a bustling metropolis and more of a British seaside resort in .wfHfer. Otherwise, the licence is p. well used, managing to capture the sanitised yet brutal and discriminatory world over which the Judges preside.
As a shooter, though, Dredd Vs Death feels as though it'd be more at home on a console, a fact that's compounded by some moronic AI that often resorts to charging right at you. Not essential, but Dredd vs Death is still the best Judge Dredd game ever made. Then again, that's not saying much.