Review: Dead to Rights: Retribution
Dead to Rights: Retribution, from Volatile Games, is a reimagining of the third person action game Dead to Rights, released back in 2002, which once again features Grant City police officer Jack Slate and his canine companion Shadow as the main duo.
- Worth The Time?No, it doesn't do much to entertain.
- Things LovedIt can be cool to kill people with the dog, the brutal combat system can be satisfying.
- Things HatedIt's extremely repetitive, everything you see in the first hour is basically the entire game, the graphics are below par, the cover system is clunky and unresponsive, there are various technical bugs, camera angles can often be frustrating, this game doesn't do a whole lot to justify playing it.
- RecommendationIf you really want to play it because you're a fan of the original or like dogs or something, rather rent it. Otherwise, just avoid it.
- Name: Dead to Rights: Retribution
- Genre: Third Person Shooter
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Volatile Games
- Publisher: Namco Bandai
- Price: R546-599
- Reviewed On: PS3
The Dead to Rights franchise has never really been a top one in the gaming industry and, as such, this sequel wasn’t really anticipated by gamers. So it comes as no surprise that the series’ first jump to next-gen consoles didn’t manage to revolutionise or lift up the Dead to Rights name. It’s just a little puzzling to me as to why this sequel was made. I mean, like I said, the series has never really received good ratings. Perhaps this was just a shot at making good with the series on consoles of today? Anyway, regardless of the reasoning behind it, it’s time to get on with the in-depth analysis of the game.
Dead to Rights: Retribution once again takes place in Grant City, a boom town facing destruction by the hands of crime, greed and corruption. In the game, players take on the role of vice cop Jack Slate and his Husky companion, Shadow, as they struggle to fight against the scum of the city. From the outset the story looks to be pretty interesting, but as you get into it, you’ll discover just how it is generic, ridden with cliches and seemingly holding up a sign which shouts out its stupidity to the world. Essentially, the plot of this game serves as an excuse to allow Jack to brutally murder everyone and everything in sight, and not to drive the game forward, as a story is supposed to.
I could go on about how Jack has seriously questionable methods for a police officer who wants to be good, about how he shouts “You’re under arrest!” and “You have the right to remain silent!” just before putting a bullet into someone’s head, about how predictable the entire game is or about how it overuses the whole “badass, one man army” theme to the point of nausea, but all of it can pretty much be summed up in fewer words. All in all, the concept is interesting, but the plot is generic and fails to deliver the experience it tries to.
Gameplay wise, Dead to Rights: Retribution is a third person shooter, one that primarily focuses on hand-to-hand combat and weapon management. I say weapon management, because ammunition isn’t always in endless supply, and as soon as your weapon runs out of ammo Jack tosses it to the ground, so weapons are often picked up, used up quickly and then thrown away. On the contrary, you could maintain your ammo if you repeatedly steal your opponents’ weapons and play the game like a cover shooter, going for headshots. Taking enemy weapons is done either by picking it up off their dead bodies or by disarming them by pressing the correct button while locked in melee combat. As for headshots, they, among other types of kills, build up your focus meter, which is basically bullet time, allowing you to enter slow-mo and take out multiple enemies, reducing the damage you take.
Unfortunately, all aspects of Dead to Rights: Retribution’s gameplay are either dated, empty or flawed. The hand-to-hand combat system, while entertaining and sadistically satisfying, is just basic and lacks variety. You get heavy punch, light punch, block, dash and guard breaker. Chain enough attacks on an enemy and you’ll be allowed to use a messed up brutal finisher, which can range from savagely twisting someone’s neck around multiple times to whacking them into the air with your rifle and pumping the airborne enemy with lead. Initially, it’s a blast to indulge in the melee combat system and mutilate your enemies, but soon the glaring flaws become evident. After an hour or so you’ll have seen all of the kill animations and the combat will speedily become repetitive, eventually becoming a chore, and fights can easily be taken care of by simply button bashing.
While doing a brutal finisher, all other enemy and character models will disappear, which detracts from the experience, and some of the finishers just take so damn long that you’re able to go make yourself a coffee, phone a friend and rethink your entire life and you’ll still make it in time to see the end of it. Perhaps the worst issue, though, is that of the broken camera angles, which can really be horrible during these finishers. Often the camera angle will be fixed in a position where you can’t see what’s happening on screen during the finisher or your enemy will end up off-screen so you can’t see him – it’s just really annoying. Admittedly, though, the action can be very enjoyable, and some of the finishers are bound to bring a smile to your face, like the nutcracker for instance, where Jack delivers a savage kick to the nuts of an unfortunate enemy. It’s hilarious.
As for the shooting part, it’s just dated. The cover system is clunky and unresponsive, and this is especially evident when you attempt to dash to another cover spot, as it just often doesn’t work, so you’ll end up detaching yourself from cover as a result. You can only take cover against walls the game allows you to, so it can become an extra irritation to differentiate between what you can and can’t take cover behind when under fire. You can blind fire or aim manually, but both are easy ways to eliminate enemies since they seem to love getting shot so much. The AI is pretty stupid, and most of the time they’ll make easy targets. They’re also easier to take out if you use Shadow, who is controlled with the D-pad, since he can make quick work of the weaker enemies and can also fetch weapons.
The only gameplay feature left to mention are the sections where you take control of Jack’s Husky, Shadow. They occur at set points in the game either when you need to protect an injured Jack, fetch an item, or deactivate a security system, and only Shadow can get inside. They also alter the dynamic of the game, changing it to stealth action. Shadow is able to sneak quietly, and while sneaking he is able to sense enemies around him, even through walls. If they’re highlighted in blue, they’re unaware of Shadow’s presence, yellow means suspicious and red means alerted. Shadow can perform both silent stealth take downs as well as brutal kills. He is also able to bark to get your enemies’ attention and lure them out. These sections are good fun and nice distractions from the rest of the game, but the problem is that they’re short-lived, don’t occur all that often and are always the same.
The biggest problem with Dead to Rights: Retribution, if the above isn’t enough, is that it’s repetitive as hell and after the first hour you have quite literally seen everything the game has to offer you. This is even worse when taking into account that the game stretches on for about 10 hours, and there is absolutely nothing to come back to once you’re done with it, which hardly justifies a full price purchase. Basically, the entire game consists of linear connected battles, where you just go into a room, clear out all the enemies, move on and repeat the process. That’s all you’re going to be doing, and after the second level you’ll practically be in autopilot.
The game is no visual masterpiece either. The graphics are really underpar and lack a lot of detail, making it difficult to accept this as a game of today. Character models look outdated and the shadows on their faces are horrible. A lot of the gory takedowns lose most of their effect and impact due to the lack of damage and visual detail and blood. There are also various technical hiccups, such as physics glitches, where dead bodies will bounce around repeatedly on the ground, for random reasons, until you move them and make them stop. In the game’s favour, though, it features awesome music, that is often thrilling or sad, which fits both the action orientated theme of the game and depressing state of its world. There’s nothing memorable, and the overall sound effects and voice acting are mostly decent, but the music is great when playing.
Ultimately, what we have is a generic third person action game that fails to bring anything new to the action genre or deliver a good action experience. Yet another lacking action game in a time of spectacular ones. Dead to Rights: Retribution can, at best, be recommended for a rental, because you can definitely get some enjoyment out of it. Unfortunately, the fun is short-lived, and there are far better games out there to spend your time and money on.