"This PC port is half-baked"

Dead to Rights was a solid action game created by Namco and modelled after Hong Kong styled action movies, so the most obvious comparison would be to Max Payne. Aside from the slow motion gun dives, the "betrayed police officer" protagonist and the ability to fire two guns at once, the similarities end there. Dead to Rights was hailed as a good game on the consoles, but on the PC, where expectations are higher, it doesn't fare so well.

Story:
Dead to Rights' story was never it's strong point. Jack Slate is a K-9 cop who's been betrayed and framed for murder, and now he wants revenge on those responsible. It's hokey and full of cliches, and it's just not worth mentioning any more.
Score: 5/10

Graphics:
Dead to Rights looks decent enough. The character models and environments are all fairly detailed, but the animations look stiff and inhuman. Jack Slate moves like a tank, awkwardly stretching his limbs out as much as possible when he's doing a slow motion dive. The lack of mouths moving in the cutscenes is a disappointment, though. Overall, the graphics are just above average, and it looks like Namco didn't try to add anything extra.
Score: 6/10

Audio:
Like with the visuals, Namco didn't put in any effort. The voice acting is decent, and so are the sound effects, but the music is lame and the lack of subtitles kind of irks me. The dialogue isn't very well written, though, but at least they put effort into acting it out.
Score: 5/10

Gameplay:
The cores of Dead to Rights are shooting and brawling. Pretty much the whole game will focus either on you shooting 20 guys in the face or beating up scores of thugs with your bare fists, with only minigames and story exposition to break up the monotony.

Dead to Rights' PC port retains the auto-aim from the console versions, which is great because more often then not you'll be facing upwards to 20 enemies in a single area, and auto-aim greatly reduces the frustration involved. The auto-aim cursor will also tell you if your shot will hit or miss. Sadly, the auto-aim is pretty broken since it will often target a random enemy of its choice instead of the closest threat. I'd rather shoot the guy 2 feet in front of me shooting me in the face with an AK-47 instead of the enemy perched up on a cliff above me. The manual aim is so sluggish it feels like I'm playing a PlayStation 1 game when I use it, making sniper rifles nearly completely useless. There are a variety of different guns in this game, although there are so many and they are all so similar that it all starts to run together. Interestingly enough, in movie hero fashion, Jack will never reload his guns - when he runs out he just nonchalantly tosses them away and grabs the next set in his inventory. You do run out of ammo at an alarmingly fast rate, but you face so many enemies that you'll constantly be able to replenish ammunition. There's a cover system in Dead to Rights, but what you can actually use for cover seems limited to walls. You can use enemies as human shields, which is pretty cool too. The slow motion diving is here too, although you can't rotate and switch directions once you're in the process of diving, and it feels much more stiff than in the Max Payne games. You can dive with or without slow motion, and diving with allows you to retain full firing speed, so Namco decided to limit this move with a small meter. Overall the shooting is okay as a fun diversion for about 20 minutes before it gets really, really dull.

The same can't be said for the brawling. While in the console versions (specifically the Xbox version) brawling provided a challenge, here it's really boring and dumbed-down, but at least the lowered difficulty makes these sessions much shorter. You have basic punch and kick attacks, as well as grappling and blocking. You'll learn more as you go, but those are the basic moves. In hand to hand combat, you can also disarm enemies carrying guns in a variety of ways. Each specific weapon class has a handful of different disarms you can use, and all of them involve stealing your enemy's weapon and killing them with it. Pretty brutal, but also awesome.

Jack's dog, Shadow, also plays a part in the game. He never actually follows you around, but you can call him on command to lung at a bad guy, kill him and bring you his weapon before disappearing back to wherever he hangs out. As the most powerful weapon in the game, he can only be used when the dog meter on your HUD is full, and if you're patient enough you could probably go through the whole game using just your dog. You'll also use your dog to crawl through tight spaces or sniff out bombs, which brings me to the next subject: minigames.

Peppered throughout the game are a variety of minigames, including a titillating DDR-styled stripping game, a lockpicking game, an arm wrestling game, a punching bag game, a weight lifting game, and a tense bomb defusal minigame. Many of these are simple and help break up the action, but after you do them about 10 or 20 times they get really boring as well. You can replay any minigames you've unlocked from the main menu, but there's no reason to unless you've nothing better to do.

Throughout the game's lengthy 15-chapter storyline, you'll fight everybody from construction workers and prisoners to security guards and killer clowns. That's right - killer clowns with crazy makeup and machineguns. It's basically a 10 hour long kill fest as you more or less put down everybody you cross paths with. There are plenty of bossfights in this game as well, and the majority of them involve going one on one with a boss with only your fists. A few times you'll take on vehicles, and rarely will you have to fight a boss using a gun.

The controls for Dead to Rights are pretty basic. You'll use the WASD keys to move and the mouse buttons to perform a variety of actions. Jack can't jump, but he can dive using the spacebar. The only gripe I have with the controls is the camera. Instead of opting to lock the camera behind Jack, you control the camera separately with the mouse. This would be fine if the camera was not so slow in tracking Jack - often I'll find myself getting shot up because I can't properly align myself because of the sluggish camera. In this case, I'd suggest you use a gamepad instead of a keyboard and mouse, which would probably help the camera issues.

All of the design decisions and the overall style of the game make it feel like a giant 3D version of one of the older arcade shooters and beat-em-up games, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It's just not enough to hold my interest for long in this day and age.
Score: 7/10

Overall:
Pros:
+ Arcade style shooting and brawling
+ Disarm moves, human shields, dogs mauling bad guys
+ Minigames are a decent distraction
Cons:
- Hokey story that even I can't stand
- Graphics dated even for its time
- Sluggish camera control

Fundamentally, Dead to Rights is a good game - it's just the half-assed PC port that kind of sucks. You can pick this game up for under $10 now, so it's worth a look.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 10/31/07

Game Release: Dead to Rights (US, 11/10/03)


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