Review by Halron2

"My Shadow! My Shadow! Change is coming. Now it's my time. (tribute to Tool)"

Man, I’m getting nostalgic thoughts for playing this game... ‘back in the day’ (such a negative expression, isn’t it?), when 16-bit systems ruled the gaming world, one of the most popular genres was the beat ‘em up. Since the rise of the 3D generation, however, it has faded, and the few games we’ve had of that kind were pretty much forgettable, never even nearing the perfection of such classics as Streets of Rage, Final Fight, most of the Ninja Turtles titles and other more underground, but no less exciting, titles. While Dead to Rights never attains the level of excellence of these games as much as it isn’t a ‘pure’ beat ‘em up, it did convinced me that it’s still possible to relieve myself of my urban life frustration by killing thousands and thousands of bad guys.

In Dead to Rights, you are Jack Slate, police officer of Grant City, which is a rip-off of any ultra-violent fictional city. Ok, it’s Gotham City minus gothic architecture and super-beings around every corner. The story is pretty much basic ‘corrupt authorities’ business, with a twist of murder in the family. You see, Jack’s father is murdered right in the beginning of the story and our hero must track down his murderer. Obviously, he will be framed for something he didn’t do etc. etc. etc. Anyway, the story isn’t really that bad, it’s just too damn predictable.

One of the great things about the game is the setting. While anyone can see from the synopsis above that it never reaches any level of uniqueness, its design and implementation are pretty good. Most of the characters are hateful human beings that will get killed before the end of the game and there’s corruption and filth everywhere in this game. Besides, the setting owes a lot to a combination of ‘film noir’, comic books and hard-boiled novels, which makes the game a pool of references. At the same time, this makes the game pretty much corny, but, in a way, part of its fun is precisely there.

In terms of gameplay, well, I have to say that Dead to Rights is a beat ‘em up. Basically what you do throughout the whole game is visit places infested with people that want to kill you. So, how do you solve this problem? Yes, kill them instead, in a vast myriad of ways. Basically, Slate prefers to use guns or any other kind of firearms available to get rid of his enemies. As the ammo is limited for each and every weapon, and because in some stages he won’t have access to his weapons, sometimes he must get his hands dirty and fight some good ol’ hand to hand combat. And while the gameplay is really much more exciting when you have weapons, the hand to hand combat is really what brings back memories of old beat ‘em up games.

As far as the shooting goes, the game is pretty exciting. I mean, after you kill one enemy, you can’t stop and you just have to go on killing, which is the basic attribute of any good beat ‘em up. Sweet, isn’t it? Reminds me of, say, Pringles: impossible to eat only one. To make it better, there’s a vast array of weapons available for use, each with different uses (even if any of them can be used effectively against the common enemies). Slate can also count on some stylish abilities, which are rip-offs of ‘The Matrix’ aesthetics (which, in turn, is a rip-off from comics, basically).

One of them is the dive, when our hero jumps and time slows down, but not for his firing abilities, which means you can fire an incredible amount of shots while your enemies can’t. A pretty cool and useful move, the dive is limited by a meter which is consumed while the ability is being used. Another cool addition to the gameplay is the ability to steal the enemies’ weapons with instant-killing moves that seem to taken straight from a John Woo movie. Another great addition to the gameplay is Slate’s dog, Shadow. While there is no logic in him appearing all of sudden and killing your foes, the dog is mega-useful and pretty cool too. Other ‘interesting’ and life-saving addition is the possibility to use enemies as human shields (and subsequently executing them).

The hand-to-hand combat isn’t nearly as exciting. After you smack ten guys down, you’ll be looking forward to the next stage where you can have your guns back. Some of the bosses are fought in hand-to-hand too and, while some of them include interesting ideas (like fighting in a gas chamber, for example), most of these battles are pretty uninteresting. Since in the hand-to-hand stages the amount of enemies is astounding (well, in any stage, really), they tend to get annoying. Some people also complain about the mini-games included in Dead to Rights and, if they aren’t all bad, they are a mixed bag. None of them is really irritating, but most don’t add anything good to the game. The lock-picking, for example, is pretty dumb, specially for the fact that you have to do it so many times. Anyway, none of the mini-games are really complicated (even if trying to disarm bombs will probably frustrate some players), so there’s no real reason to complain and they don’t take away from the game.

In terms of graphics, Dead to Rights isn’t the best example of how amazing games may look nowadays. Not that the graphics are bad: the design is pretty well-done (even if sometimes they are also pretty basic) and most of the important characters have good overall design, being instantly recognizable. One interesting thing to notice is that Slate’s visuals change according to the stage, including a wound he takes that remains with him to the end of the game. The enemies also change designs according to the stage you’re in (like the clowns in the graveyard stage and so on) and all elements seem to be in place. However, the quality of the graphics themselves really fail to impress, sometimes giving you the impression you could be playing, say, a really well done Playstation game. Anyway, the graphics never get in the way of the fun, but it’s obvious this aspect of the game could have been much better.

In terms of sounds, the game also doesn’t impress much. Most of the game’s music will pass by unnoticed and, while it doesn’t get in the way, it doesn’t really add anything to the game, either. The sound effects are really what creates the game’s atmosphere and it does the job pretty well. I mean, there’s nothing revolutionary here in terms of sounds (well, in any terms really), mostly you get to hear gun shots and people shouting at you (which means they want to kill you), but the sounds themselves are really OK. Also, we have the voice acting. Considering what we’ve heard in games in this department, Dead to Rights is surprisingly good. In a sense, the voices are pretty corny and sometimes downright ridiculous, but it all fist within the concept of the game, contributing to the creation of the comic book feel of the game. Sometimes Slate’s voice may irritate, but in general it’s a good characterization based on what the game is asking for. Unlike, say, the original Resident Evil, the isn’t trying to be serious or dramatic, so it doesn’t lose as much because of the voices.

In a sense, Dead to Rights is just as passable as any average action movie, detective book and so on, but it’s still a lot of fun to play. If you get this game with high expectations, you might be disappointed, otherwise you’ll probably just play a fun game that won’t have any kind of lasting effect on you. While the gameplay is diverse and, for that, irregular, the average score is still pretty much positive and you’ll definitely have a good deal of fun for playing the whole game through. Not to mention the fact that, if you miss the non-stop killing spree of beat ‘em ups of old, you’ll be delighted to see you still can experience that nowadays.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 09/14/03

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