Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review #389: Dead to Rights

 Just your everyday afternoon cop TV soap opera.
 Exciting. Frantic. Kinetic. Chaotic. Those are but a few words I could use to describe Namco's 2002 third person shooter Dead to Rights, a game clearly inspired by Max Payne, but opting for police drama instead of detective noir. It's a game nobody talks about nowadays, but golly, has it aged well!

 You shouldn't be playing this game for its story, but, in case you are, the game follows Jack Slate and his dog, Shadow, as they try to avenge Jack's father. Along the way he'll get framed, he'll escape jail, face betrayal, discover corruption and follow the entire gamut of action-cop movie tropes you think off the top of your head. The story is silly and cliched, the game knows it and it never takes itself seriously: you'll face thong-wearing ninja twin babes, a mad shooter that heals himself by drinking liquor and a cartoonishly abusive jailer. It's dumb, it's fun.
 Dead to Rights is a very linear game, so you'll be traversing stages as you shoot and punch your way through sometimes endless hordes of mooks. This game was from an era before Resident Evil 4 and Gears of War, so manual aiming is more or less impossible(Although you can enter a useless first-person aiming mode by tapping R2), so you use R1 to lock-on to enemies, and the right analog stick to switch between enemies. The color of the targeting reticule indicate how likely your shots are to land. It works rather well, and dispatching enemies as you strafe around is pretty fun.

 Luckily, Jack has a ton of maneuvers at his disposal to make short work of his enemies. Tapping circle while unarmed will perform an instakill that disarms his enemy, and tapping circle while holding a gun will let you grab an enemy and use him as a meat shield. The triangle button can be use to dive, and if you've stamina, you can dive in slow motion and pump your enemies with lead. You an also use circle while next to a wall to stick to it and take cover. Lastly, there's a fourth gauge, below your health, stamina and armor: Shadow. When full, you can use shadow to instantly kill an enemy and have Shadow bring you his weapon. Everything works really well, and it's a blast to play because landing bullets feels good, and once you get a hang of every mechanic, it turns very stylish as well.
 There's also melee combat, and it works relatively well. Once again, landing blows feels very crunchy and satisfying. That said, it's not the most in-depth of combat systems, but as a complement to the shooting? It's great. Sadly, the developers might've bit a bit more than they could chew, since they also added minigames. Disarming bombs and lockpicking, while somewhat out of place, are relatively fun... but there's also a very weird exotic dance minigame, a weird lifting weights minigame and... punching a sand bag? Most of these are rather boring, and while I appreciate that they might've wanted to add some variety... it wasn't needed, and they work against the game. The game is relatively short(4:30 hours or so), so it ends before it gets boring.

 My biggest annoyance with the game was that sometimes enemies will respawn indefinitely. It's not unusual to be picking up weapons after a firefight only for an enemy to respawn behind you, heck, some of those times they respawn from areas you just completely cleared out of enemies! While I never died to a random respawn or during the endless waves on certain missions(Mission 15 being a big culprit, since until you realize that you're supposed to go through a certain door, you might be tempted to try killing everything) they certainly were annoying.
 I had a blast with Dead to Rights! Everything that matters works swimmingly, and it's only a few little kinks and issues that hold it down from its full potential, and a few extra levels could've helped, since I was left wanting more!
 8.0 out of 10.

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