Review by Soliduous

"Fun, but riddled with problems"

Dead to Rights is dissapointing, not because there was a lot of hype for it, but because I can feel its wasted potential each time I play it. With but a few obvious tweaking, this could have been an 8 game. Better boss design, or maybe a level editor or co-op play, and we're talking 9-10 game.

That said, I had alot of fun with it, and the Gamecube version is easily the best of the 3.

To play this game, you have to understand that it is an (and the best) attempt to turn a John Woo movie (usually starring Chow Yun Fat) into a videogame. Max Payne captured bullettime shootdodging to a t, but Mr. Woo has other conventions, and this game uses most of them. There are tons of references in the game: 2 of the disarms are named after Woo movies.

And for the record, go to a video store and see Hard Boiled. It's like Die Hard, only 20,000 times better in terms of action sequences, gun fu, dialogue, plot, charisma, everything.

On with the details:

PRESENTATION- 7

GRAPHICS -5
They're pretty basic, especially for a gamecube game. You can tell this game was designed to run on a PS2, since it's entirely multiplatform. It looks a bit cartoony, albeit with the stages having a good amount of detail. Character modeling is average, stages are average, pretty much everything is average (although well-anti-aliased (since this ISN'T running on a PS2)) except for:

a) the lighted paths of bullets whizzing everywhere, the plaster pouring from the struck walls, and the way the game keeps a ton of the bullet holes recorded into the memory. After you clear out a room, it looks like Vash the Stampede personally redecorated it. Nice.

b) The 3D fire/smoke effects. Pretty good.

Still, we've got problems. Like, every single last character is visually generic. I mean, everyone looks like the million other archetypes used in action movies, be it villian, hero, or girl. Slate's stripper girlfriend even has the cliche'd butterfly tattoo on the small of her back (what is up with those, anyway? Every single last porn ''actress''/stripper has one. Is that code for, ''take me, I'm easy!'' ?).

Also, animation is occasionally stiff. On the other hand, when blocking in hand-to-hand combat, the characters will dodge differently based on the attack thrown (they'll duck that high punch, weave left, jump over a kick, etc.). It's a nice touch.

And the disarms all look GREAT. They're basically Chinese grappling applied to guns. Slate will grab the gun hand, roll over the guy (thus breaking his arm and taking the gun) so they're back to back, and, not even looking or acknowledging his foe, aim blindly behind himself and put the bullet through the disarmed idiot's head. And other disarms, 5 to a weapon class, 3 classes.

Other than minor clipping problems, there's nothing intrusive to gameplay, but also nothing surprising. And I'm offended that the makers made the corpses dissapear. Leaving them in there after the carnage would have doubled the satisfaction, and DON'T tell me the Gamecube processor couldn't handle it. Also, it would have been nice to see your dog shadow run with you. Just so you don't feel quite so alone.

AUDIO - 7
All the bullets sound great. I love the CHOOM sounds of the shotguns and whatnot.

Voice acting, though, is stale. Especially Jack Slate. I know he's a Max Payne knockoff, but even the purposefully-stale melodrama sounds stale. Sorry, try again, Namco.

The background music starts off nice and pumping, but 1/3 of the way through the game, it just...gives up. It goes into standard forgettable low-key b. g. music. Sad.

STORY - 9
The story is terrible. An overused lamebrain plot wrapping up every American action movie convention from the Rogue Cop protagonist to his Dead Father motivation to the Greedy Woman to Political Corruption. Plus, all the characters are overused archetypes.

That said, I like Slate's attitude. For a cop, he has ZERO respect for human life. Plus, he has no fear. Put on Death Row, he doesn't bawl to a therapist/psychologist; that's the American Way. No, he goes around asking who he has to beat up to get an escape plan. Once I tried to exit a room before the game would let me, and Slate said, ''I haven't killed everyone yet.'' Yeah!

You might say, so what? Action movies always have lame plots and this is just parody/homage. No, it's NOT parody/homage. And Hard Boiled/The Killer/Any other John Woo movie had GREAT plots and well-developed characters. So why did this game get a 9 for story?

Cutscenes. Specifically, 2 CG cutscenes in the game single-handedly raised the score 7 points. The intro cutscene is 2 minutes of BRILLIANCE on par with any scene from Hard Boiled/The Killer. Slate shows off every Woo-trick in fast sequence he'll use in the game, plus the one they left out: grabbing something small with wheels and shooting as you roll out. Woo's used hospital stretchers and warehouse doilies for this, Slate hands vertically from a library's moving ladder. Would it have been so hard to add this element to the game? sigh. It's worth renting the game just to see the intro. The other is a smaller bit where he uses the concussive blast of a motorcycle he blows up to launch himself into a moving airplane.

CONTROLS

BUTTON ASSIGNMENT - 7
For once, the Gamecube controller does not feel worse than a PS2 Dualshock would. Max Payne was all about 3PS-style aiming. With the lock-on, Dead to Rights is all about the fast, furious Gun Fu Trix.

Armed:

Right Shoulder button engages a lock-on. This works great. The color indicates your chances of hitting the opponent and the damage you'll do (Red = high, Yellow = low, Green = poor, Blue = he's dead, let go and target the next guy).

The left analog stick moves in the direction you press (as opposed to from Slate's POV). I really wish there were some button I could use to just strafe and move without turning, because I lose alot of health sometimes exposing my back to enemy fire.

The Right analog stick controls the camera, which is pretty much useless.

The Left Shoulder button crouches, which can protect you if you're standing next to a crouching-sized protective cover-type object. There are lots of these in the game, so you can let go of Crouch and pop-out to get in a quick hit.

A shoots

B sends your dog Shadow to maul (instant kill) a non-boss, then bring back his weapon. This can only be done at close range, and it takes awhile for Shadow's stamina to recharge.

Z manual targets (which is USELESS except in 2 required situations, and sometimes with a sniper rifle. With a sniper scope, Y zooms in (very quickly, nice) and X zooms out).

Y shootdodges, which can slow down time (you can speed it up again to conserve your Stamina), but does not reduce your chance of being hit. Unfortunately, you pretty much have to be locked-on to a target for this to be useful, as it's very difficult to get Slate to shootdodge the way you want him to otherwise. Also, you can't turn mid-shootdodge as in Max Payne, so you can only hit enemies close to the targeted one. And often, Slate's head will turn backwards like in the Exorcist, trying to target someone. Really. That said, a propper shootdodge can take out 3 enemies at once.

X, near a wall, will let you Metal Gear Solid-2-style flatten against a wall. Pressing the Right Shoulder button after you're at a corner will let you pop out quickly to auto-target and blast away, then let go to pop back. To note, if you move while ''popped out,'' you exit wall-hugging mode.

X at point blank range near an enemy will grab that enemy (making him drop his weapon) for use as a human shield. Fire directed at your front will be absorbed by your hapless shield until he's dead. Pressing X again or running out of ammo executes your hostage, mob style.

The d-pad switches weapons (instantly, no animations necessary). You can also put away your weapon, if you want to do a disarm, though this is NOT RECOMMENDED. Also, you can select Shadow as a weapon so that you can target an enemy and get a gun that way.

''But what reloads?'' RELOADS?! Jack Slate doesn't RE-LOAD! He throws away the guns he's done with and pulls out the next one. Cool.

Unarmed:
A Punches

B Kicks
the two are used together for combos, not that they matter.

X throws, and cancels the opponent's throw
However, if you press X on an opponent with a weapon, you'll do an instant slo-mo (you can speed it up) disarm animation that kills him and takes his weapon. These are great.

R blocks.

CAMERA - 5
Certainly workable. It follows you from behind. Nothing special, nothing obtrusive. It does seem to fail ironically in those few parts that ave a preset camera angle.

FEEL -8

Jack Slate moves fast and furious. When you're in the zone, you're not thinking about button configurations, you're thinking about reacting to the next enemy onscreen: X if he's close enough, R-target and blastaway if he's far enough, ducking for cover, diving, etc. To a viewer, the game looks like as chaotic, frenzied action sequence as was ever filmed. But, despite the strategy involved, control is both simple and fun.

GAMEPLAY - 5

LEVEL DESIGN -6
In those levels that sing, enemies are good at making you strategize. You can get blown to bits by pretty much anybody if you play stupid; that is, if you rush three guys unarmed hoping to disarm one just for fun. That's the thing: even though all the gun fu tricks I mentioned under Control seem overpowering, the hordes of enemies are good at balancing things.

If you duck, pop-up-and-shoot, or wall-pop-out-and-shoot, enemies will close in on you from all sides.

Human hostage? It won't take TOO many bullets (especially from heavier weapons) to kill him, and besides, you're being hit from behind as well.

Shootdodging? Well, with the problems I mentioned earlier, and the fact that you're just as likely to get hit mid-dodge as standing, makes you have to use this only in certain situations. And you've got a stamina gauge limiting this.

Shadow is a great tool, but limited by his stamina gauge.

Manual targeting is necessary in some situations, but suicide in most.

So? This means BALANCE. Even though the bullets fly furiously, and you may be playing on subconscious instinct, there's still strategy here. Most levels play to this with corridors full of obstacles and staircases and other in-game objects for you to use your tricks on. It's great, fun, fun, silly-willy. Were the entire game like this, this would be a must-rent.

But too much of this game is wasted on a pathetic hand-to-hand combat system. Look at the unarmed controls I discribed above. Blocking is useless; it won't increase your chances of winning no matter how you block. The opposite, it lets the opponent throw you. Throwing/countering is just a button mash; you can't even throw one guy into another. Punch/kick combos are all identical: they all do the same damage, at the same range, with the same probability of hitting. And though you're usually surrounded, combat is one-at-a-time. So basically, I feel cheap when I win, and cheated when I lose, because this combat system is overly simplistic.
Also, you CAN kick and punch enemies with guns. But given that the Disarms look much cooler and result in instant kills, why would you?

A buncha minigames break up the action, too, and these are nice, simple diversions. The X-box version made these a living nightmare, but the PS2 and Gamecube versions have them in at just the right amount.
And the make-the-stripper-dance minigame is just pressing the buttons on the screen, having NOTHING to do with the stripper's preprogrammed dance routine, win or lose. Of course, it's easy enough to do with one hand...

ENEMIES - 4
As mentioned above, they do a good job of creating balance. But the bosses are usually just annoying. They each have one strategy you MUST use to beat them. This strategy is hard to figure out, but once you do, it's easy (though overly long) to accomplish. Bad, bad. I really preferred those few bosses who were just regular enemies with more HP.

VALUE - 3
It's a bit on the short side. And it's single-player. And there's no co-op even a survival mode. Granted, 4 difficulty levels help a little.

I read that even Supercop difficulty is still easier than the only difficulty level to come with the X-box version. That makes me laugh. Ha! Take that, Microsoft! All that big power and you still only have Halo and DoA3!! ''Malice and Splinter Cell...'' ..are coming to EVERY console! AHAHAHAHA. Sorry.

I had a lot of fun with this game. Had I purchased it, I wouldn't have felt cheated. But, the shootdodging and Melee combat system is just flawed. I really pine for a sequel that will address these problems.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 01/16/03, Updated 01/16/03


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