Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Review #447: Dead to Rights - Retribution

 Police brutality at its finest.
 And so came the advent of the PS3 and the X360, and with them a whole slew of HD revivals and reboots, so Namco took their mismanaged franchise Dead to Rights and rebooted it into the world of HD. This era had no room for arcade shooters, so it turned into a slower, cover-based over-the-shoulder shooter while retaining some of the things that made Dead to Rights Dead to Rights. And that sentence sounds amazing.

 Being a reboot of the first game, it also follows the same framing narrative: Jack's, Frank dad gets killed and there'll be hell to pay as cop Jack Slate and his faithful canine companion, Shadow, scourge the city to find the culprit. The game touches upon many of the first games plot devices, but it's made up of 80% new story. And it's a better story, we finally have a female who is more than eye candy, and they added depth to Shadow and Jack's relationship, making it very endearing. Jack is still a prick though, but it's not as bad as he was in Dead to Rights II. But as entertaining as I found the story, it's still a very cheesy, predictable action-cop tropefest, but a fun one.
 The town is filled with crime and evildoers, so it's a pretty good thing that Jack's a pretty good shot. Everything you'd expect out of a post-Resident Evil 4 third person shooter is here, an over the shoulder camera and precision shooting. The health system has been removed, in favor of the era's standard regenerating health. Pressing X will make Jack sprint or stick to the closest surface he can find... which is a bit wonky, since X is usually a context-sensitive button, so dashing straight out of cover will result in Jack sticking right back to the surface, or trying to spring after letting go off a NPC will result in Jack picking him or her right back up. After playing for a while you'll learn to make do, and as far as gameplay goes, it was my only concern.

 Now then, it has the name 'Dead to Rights', so a ton of staples of the franchise you'd expect to be in made it into the game. Jack can disarm enemies, but instead of being an autokill, you'll have to time your shot right, else they counterattack or run away... and enemies can disarm you too, so be careful! You can also grab enemies as meatshields, and while the slo-mo dives are gone, you can now use L1 to use Focus in order to slow down time and maximize your damage output. Focus is increased by many different actions, mostly having to do with how you take down enemies.
 Shadow is more than a tool this time around. Dead to Rights II was pretty bad about it since Shadow would just disappear after you called him in, but now he'll stay by Jack's side at all times. Shadow can be called upon an enemy, to kill him or distract him while Jack deals damage, as a matter of fact, some enemies must be defeated by joint efforts between both. And just as before, Shadow can be sent to retrieve weapons from fallen enemies. But do be careful, as Shadow can be wounded and eventually knocked out, in which case you must get close to him and hold X to revive him. You'll also get to control him directly during various, fun, stealth sections. Most enemies will go down in a single bite, and you'll have to drag bodies in order to make your way through. These sections were surprisingly well made and served for amusing breaks from all the shooting.

 But as faithful as Shadow is, retrieving weapons for Jack, our hero can only carry up to two different guns and you'll eventually run out of ammo... but that's fine, because Jack is one tough mo-fo. Square and Triangle perform weak and strong attacks respectively, while Square is used for blocking or dodging, you can even grapple with enemies. The melee system is well integrated into the game, and it's a reliable way to take down enemies, since Jack's a beefcake that can take a lot of punishment before you need to go back behind cover and regenerate your health. Landing punches feels crunchy and hurtful, which makes engaging in fisticuffs rather fun. Dealing a lot of damage in quick succession will allow Jack to perform a brutal takedown, but there's about 8 of them, so they get repetitive rather quickly.
 I did some researching, since I didn't understand how this game failed to revive the franchise. The word 'generic' was the one that surfaced the most. And how? What other third-person shooter has a competent melee system? No, seriously, as a fighting game enthusiast I love taking things up close and personal, and few third person shooters offer melee options, and those that do, are often throwaway punches or gun-whips, not a full-blown combat system with different combos, grappling, dodging and guard breakers. This is most definitely not your average third person shooter. Plus, what other third person shooter, outside the franchise, has a loyal dog at your side, chewing on throats and retrieving ammo for the hero?

 Before wrapping up, there was a silly little hiccup, that also affected other players(At least on the PS3) when it came to the game's performance. Y'see, every now and then, the game will have micro-freezes. I don't know what caused them, since the game didn't appear to be loading or saving anything, and they last less than a second, but they are quite noticeable. But don't worry, your PS3 isn't about to explode.
 Dead to Rising - Retribution has a reputation that it doesn't deserve. The game is good. Like really, REALLY good. The fighting is fun, the shooting is fun, even the unnecessary dog stealth missions are fun. And I won't hesitate to call it the best in the franchise.
 8.5 out of 10

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