Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Review #442: Dead to Rights II

 The disappointing return of Jack Slate.
 Earlier this year I played Dead to Rights II, and boy was it good. Dead to Rights II is a prequel to Dead to Rights, and not only did it go back in time, it also took a ton of step backs while fixing very little. It was hard to prevent my disappointment from seeping over how the game was, because it's not terrible... but it doesn't reach Dead to Rights 1's heels.

 The game abandons all premise for story, while Dead to Rights 1 was a cheesy action-cop movie trope-fest, this has about 6 different cut-scenes with a poor excuse of a story thread tying them all together. I can't complain, this game went straight to business: Shooting down waves after waves after waves of thugs. It's a bit more mindless too, Shadow, Jack's canine partner, is but a a tool, and enemy bosses lack any sort of personality, you're in it for the arcade shooter action, not to be distracted with anything else.
 The previous game mixed hand-to-hand combat with run-and-gun-and-sometimes-take-cover shooting action, but this game separates both. There's about 4, very short, melee combat segments in the entire game, and the latter half of the game since to have forgotten about it, since there's no more hand to hand combat by then. It's quite alright, as these segments are rather bland: just mindlessly mash punch and kick, grab the occasional weapon and keep punching and kicking. The animations are a bit smoother than before, but it lacks some of the gratifying feedback from landing blows, so it's a bit duller.

  As for the shooting, it's more restrictive this time around. You still rely on R1 to auto-target your enemies, you can still dive and dive in slow motion by using stamina, take cover behind objects, grab enemies as meat shields, instakill disarms and use Shadow to kill enemies, and now you can also duck too. But while everything returns... it's been nerfed. Shadow will either distract or kill enemies depending on how much Stamina you've got left, so no stamina = no Shadow. Instakill disarms now have a cooldown, although landing one fills your stamina completely, and using meatshields is tied to the very same stamina gauge as Shadow and slow-mo dives. And Shadow is almost useless unless you use him to cheese the game, he no longer inititates a cut-scene when he attacks, so why use him if he takes longer to get to an enemy and maul him than simply shooting at said enemy?
 Look, if this was the first game in the series, I probably wouldn't have minded the restrictive mechanics that make the game a bit more strategic with your stamina consumption. If. But the fact is: Dead to Rights 1 came out first, and the way that game worked was beautiful. This? This is restrictive, and the game gets quite hard too. You will run out of ammo frequently, and you can't switch to fists, so you're completely boned unless you've stamina to call Shadow. Enemy Placement is also particularly annoying, they come out of corners, guns ablazing, so they will probably get a few hits in before you can react, heck, even when you open a door they're already shooting at you before you can react. It's a challenging game, and not necessarily for the right reasons.

 Luckily the AI is relatively stupid, once they see you they will freeze in place waiting for you to come to them. They might sometimes throw grenades, but they'll shout at you, so it's easy to dodge. Point is, if you're low on health, which you will be frequently, you can just sit idly by behind a wall, waiting for your Stamina to recharge and send Shadow over and over again, turning this arcade shooter into a waiting game. And it's not like I wanted to, but the game is so cheap that it turned into a viable strategy when I was short on health, since I didn't want to replay the entire segment again or go through the exceedingly long loading screens again either.
 The game's got a few poor design choices too. Every single enemy boss has a few invincibility periods just to annoy the player. Level design can be rather spotty some times, Chapter 6 is particularly bad, making you go through the same segments over and over again, you don't even know why, since the game is so thin on story and explanations, so you mindlessly go through countless foes as you retread old ground. And the last chapter? The game expects you to figure out that you have to shoot at a machine, something that you've never had to do before and have no reason to suspect that you have to shoot at something to activate it, in order to... send electricity back to an elevator? The hell????

 At least no more infinite enemies or stupid mini-games, right? Right??? Sigh, Dead to Rights II is a disappointing follow up to a great game and a mediocre game on its own right. To be fair to the game, when it's at its best, it's a rather fun arcade shooter, but those moments are rare and far in-between. It's hard to understand what the developers where going for with this game, as most changes feel so misguided or poor... The best way to experience this game is, probably, by not playing the first game first, that way you'll be able to enjoy this game the most... probably.
 6.0 out of 10

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