"Solving a mystery, one shell casing at a time"

Dead to Rights is Namco's answer to Hong Kong action movies and noir thrillers, dipped deep in character archtypes and white-knuckle action gaming. For the GameCube, this is one of the few great action games available. Ported from the Xbox with revised controls and game mechanics, as well as a rebalanced difficulty, Dead to Rights is a more delectable experience.

Dead to Rights makes an attempt at a noir crime story, but it's not very gripping. You play as Jack Slate, a K-9 cop who has had someone close to him murdered. One the trail of the killers, he is betrayed and framed for murder. There are a few interesting plot twists, and the game does a decent job at keeping you guessing who the main bad guy is. However, some plot points (such as killer clown commandos and fighting homicidal construction workers to name a few) are really dumb. The story at least gets credit for wrapping up every single loose end by the time the credits roll.

Dead to Rights' graphics are certainly dated. Indoor environments are quite detailed, although a few places - such as the prison or some of the warehouses - are noticeably very lacking in decoration. There are a variety of levels, ranging from nondescript warehouses and prisons to brothels, hotels, and even a jumbo jet. Character models look pretty good for their time, but the animations are stiff and inhuman. Guns are held by outstretched arms, and Jack performs gun dives with his arms stretched awkwardly.

The voice acting is decent, but the sound effects are pretty good. Gunfire sounds appropriate, with every gun having a very distinct sound. The music is lame, however. The dialogue won't be winning any awards and the lack of subtitles is a nuisance, but at least the lines are performed with gusto.

Dead to Rights' lengthy 10+ hour campaign consists of lots of shooting and lots of hand-to-hand combat, punctuated with some minigames.

The shooting is, by and large, the game's greatest strength. There is a huge arsenal to choose from, and no single gun feels useless. You have a variety of pistols (almost all of which you can dual wield), a myriad of automatics (Uzis, M4s, AK47s, etc), shotguns and explosive weapons (grenade launchers and flamethrowers). The shooting controls are pretty simple: you lock onto a target with the R trigger, then fire with A. You can swap targets and move around with the two sticks. In keeping with the action movie theme, Jack NEVER reloads... he merely discards the empty guns and pulls out fresh ones. It's a very cool game mechanic, and a good alternative to needing to reload your guns. It's probably a good thing that you don't have to, since you'll be facing huge crowds of gun-wielding foes. If you're really in a pinch, you can use your slow motion dive. Its usage is strictly tied to an adrenaline meter, but when the slow mo kicks in, you can take down 6+ foes without a scratch. You can also grab human shields - very useful - or take cover behind walls. By hugging a wall, you can target enemies around the corner, pop out and fire a few shots, and then back away. When you have to snipe, though, the shooting is rather annoying since the manual aim control is very loose and awkward.

The hand-to-hand is not nearly as much fun. I cannot state how much I hate the brawling, but it makes up a fairly large portion of the game. There are a variety of moves you can perform. You can grapple with foes and block their attacks as well, but it's easiest to just mash A and B 'til you win. Thankfully, the hand-to-hand is very much toned down from the Xbox version. A more interesting aspect of hand-to-hand is having weapon disarms - you can unlock about 12 different disarm moves (very reminiscent to wrestling moves) which lets you instantly kill an enemy and steal their weapon.

Jack Slate has a dog, Shadow, who plays a part in the action. He's mainly there to kill a bad guy when you call him. After mauling said baddie, he will retrieve his gun for you. Shadow is also used in a bomb-sniffing minigame, but he's mainly there as a regenerating homing missile. Shadow isn't available in most levels, however.

Speaking of minigames, Dead to Rights breaks up the hardcore action with short 5-10 minute distractions. These include lockpicking, stripper dancing, boxing, weightlifting, bomb defusal, etc. They're not very fun and require a lot of button mashing skill. You can replay them after you beat them by accessing them from the main menu, but I don't see why you would want to.

Dead to Rights is basically a 10+ kill fest, as you murder corrupt cops, Mafia thugs, killer clown commandos, construction workers, prisoners, foundry workers, etc. There are several boss fights peppered throughout the game, and a few of them have some interesting twists. I honestly had much more fun playing the console versions, as opposed to the PC version of the game. This is one case where the game is much more fun with a controller in hand.

+ Arcade style shooting and brawling
+ Disarm moves, human shields, dogs mauling bad guys
+ Minigames are a decent distraction
+ Infinitely better controls with (any) controller
- Hokey story that even I can't stand
- Dated presentation

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 08/21/08

Game Release: Dead to Rights (US, 11/25/02)

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