Review by Gordo665
"A decent spaghetti western game"
The most important thing to note about Dead Man's Hand is that it isn't perfect, nor does it try to be. It's a good game and truly feels like a playable version of a spaghetti western movie, but it has a number of failings in fairly important areas. The overall experience, though, is enjoyable.
Graphics: 6/10 This category is a bit perplexing. The graphics in DMH can sometimes be fairly good, and at other times look like a Nintendo 64 port. Most objects and characters, like the glass bottles and the enemies, have a nice finish to them. Providing you don't get right in their faces, the desperadoes hunting you down have a nice realism to them, and they all wear funny hats (this has a purpose in the game). The level textures, however, are often very bland and pixelated. Wood doesn't look like wood so much as a brown smear on various objects. The graphics do get the job done, though, especially the grainy black and white movies that come up throughout the levels.
Story: 7/10 The story is fairly straight-forward and not that deep. You play as a betrayed former gunslinger named El Tejon who was left for dead by his gang of nine members after he refused to follow along with their child murdering ways. You become a bounty hunter for the law and go on a quest for vengeance against your betrayers. There is an interesting little story behind each mission witch explains why El Tejon never meets anyone but enemies during his bounty hunts. These justifications are actually rather interesting and fun to contemplate. Overall, the story is good, just not that artful. The ending is also kind of "Blah".
Controlls: 5/10 Tis is the major contention point in DMH. It's not so much moving El Tejon that's the problem, it's the horrid auto-aiming system. I've died many times because from 2 feet away, I fired my gun into a bandito, and he stands there looking at me. When you throw dynamite, it's incredibly problematic to get it to land where you want it to, and Whisky bombs are worthless because they always land short of your target if not on top of you. The only other problem is that shotguns seem unable to hit enemies from any distance. You'll shoot an outlaw with a double-barrel scattergun and see the bullet impacts on the wall behind him, while he goes away unscathed. Grrr!
Sound: 8/10 This part of the game is fine. The guns all have different sounds, as does dynamite and powder kegs, ect. The music is good, but for some reason it's seems to come off of a techno-blend album rather than a western film soundtrack. It's not bad, it just doesn't fit the time period. The outlaws and El Tejon also have some genuinely funny and intentionally cheesy lines that they throw around during combat, I.E. "I will not be killed by an appetizer." El Tejon, though, sounds like he has throat cancer.
Gameplay: 7/10 It probably sounds like I've been pretty hard on Dead Man's Hand, and I have. But overall, it's a fun experience. There are little rewards for doing creative stuff during combat, funny scenes like shooting a powderkeg so it blows out an awning and crushes some criminals. You get "shot bonuses" for these kills that build up in a little meter, and this meter powers your alternate fire attacks. There are plenty of flaws like the fact that enemies will stand stationary for several seconds after shooting you, like they want to see if you die, or the fluctuating difficulty of some missions. The game is fun to play though, and that's what it's intention is. The physics are pretty cool and create interesting little traps for enemies (the traps are one of DMH's strongest points) and you get bonuses for shooting hat's of of people's heads. Almost any loose object reacts to being shot, and the settings of the various levels are genuinely interesting. You also get to play 5 card poker before each mission to earn extra health and power-meter points, and you can bet your stakes for even more prises. It's just that the few flaws are so critical to the game, like the lack of a mid-mission save point, that they severely detract from the gameplay. Overall, it's a solid experience.
I would definitely recommend renting Dead Man's Hand before buying it. It's a like or dislike game.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 01/31/05
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