Review by Gruel
Namco goes for a change of pace and delivers a game that doesn’t belong to the fighting or racing genre. Dead to Rights is an action/platform game that plays out like a Hollywood action flick.
You are Jack Slate, a K-9 cop who is out to avenge his father’s death! When a sudden twist of fate arises and you wind up in jail, you’ll find yourself being a fugitive on the run. The story is extremely similar to last year’s Max Payne. Even though this isn’t the most innovative story out there, it gets the job done, and the awesome FMV’s in Dead to Rights do a great job at describing it.
Everything in the visuals department is a mixed bag. While the character models for Jack Slate and most of the main villains are well done, most of your average thugs lack much detail and look nearly the same. The stages Dead to Rights are set in look fairly good for the most part. The streets of Chinatown are lit up, and nightclubs will be complete with laser & foam lights flashing abroad.
Dead to Rights does have some slick animations. The various hand combat moves that Slate does such as leg sweeps, and roundhouse kicks are well done. Another nice graphical effect is that when Slate jumps, the camera slows down he can take target and take down multiple enemies at once. This is similar to the “bullet time” effect in Max Payne. While that animation is a bit unrealistic, it’s a fine touch that works to your advantage. There’s plenty of blood and gore in Dead to Rights, as a matter of fact, it’s over exaggerated. You’ll see gallons of blood literally pouring out of corpses as you load rounds into them. While younger gamers’ parents may be horrified by that experience, the older ones will most likely get a kick out of it.
The main gripe with the graphics is the camera. It centers on you for the most part in wide open areas, and can be focused using the right thumb stick. However, when navigating through halls and corridors, the camera will choose the worst of all angles to focus on. Other objects get in your way and you can’t tell what you are doing. Another nasty thing that happens because of this is that various foes will appear at the edge of the screen out of nowhere, and will catch you off guard. The camera is a pain overall, but after a few gruesome hours; you’ll be adapted to it.
You’ll hear a lot of gunfire in Dead to Rights, and nearly all the weapons all have their own distinctive sound effect to them. The rest of the footsteps, explosions, and punches sound like they do in any other game. The background music has that dark, moody feeling to it, and always keeps you on your feet waiting for the next battle. The voice acting is all right. Some of it is done to perfection, such as the voice for Jack Slate. He actually sounds like a cop you’d expect from shows like NYPD Blue. Other characters voices are on the shoddy side, and the tones of their voice comes nowhere to fitting their persona.
There are two main ways to duel in Dead to Rights, and they are with guns, or your own fist. When in the middle of a gun war, Jack can duck under objects, or lean to the side of walls to avoid gunfire. The auto targeting feature comes in handy a lot where you hold the R trigger to lock on to foes and easily gun them down. Slate has an adrenaline meter that allows you to do that slow motion jump I told you about above. You can’t do it again until your meter is recharged.
There are two features during gun battles that make Dead to Rights truly unique. Since you’re a K-9 cop, your trusty hound, Shadow, is at your side most of the time. You can use him to your advantage during battles. All you have to do is select Shadow as you would do a weapon, and then lock on to an opponent. Shadow will come out of nowhere and chew the hell out of him! Blood is going in just about every direction imaginable, and to top things off, Shadow will bring take the weapon away from his prey and give it to you. Hilarity ensues. Shadow has a meter also that must fully recharge before you can use him in battles. It’s a bit of a silly feature, I admit, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t help me out when the odds are against me!
The other feature that classifies Dead to Rights as its own game is the disarming feature. You see, Jack Slate is a martial arts master, and as quick as light, he can grab the weapon away from a foe just like that! Not only does he do that, but he proceeds to hold the victim as hostage in front of him and use him as a shield with one hand, and guns off everyone else with his other. This feature is a great innovation, and you’ll benefit from it whenever you do. There are a lot of situations where Jack Slate won’t have a weapon, and he’ll have to rely on hand-to-hand combat. He has a limited array of moves he can perform. There are a few nice throw moves and combos you can perform. Unfortunately, all your opponents can do the same moves as you. Thankfully, there’s plenty of health packs scattered throughout the levels to help you out. The computer AI in this situation is a bit iffy because when fighting huge groups of baddies, it’ll mostly be one-on-one, while everyone else watches in awe.
Besides all the combat features, there are plenty of other tasks you’ll find yourself doing, such as boxing, weightlifting, and picking locks in order to complete the objectives for the stages. With all the great techniques you can do, I bet you thought this would be the perfect game. However, there’s one thing that’s horrid about the game play, and that is Dead to Rights is extremely difficult! I understand the term “stacking the odds,” but Namco might’ve gone overboard here. It’s mostly the hand-to-hand fighting where it gets frustrating. For example, there are a couple of times where you’ll literally be taking on about twenty opponents at once, with barely any health pick ups nearby. Don’t be surprised to find yourself resorting to cheap running away tactics in order to complete these tough duels.
While some gamers who are well-tuned pros in this genre will appreciate the challenge, most will become growingly frustrated! You’d think Namco would include some difficulty settings to help us through, but no such luck. However, you can save at anytime, and you’d be taken back to one of several checkpoints in each level.
Dead to Rights seemed like the perfect kind of action game for a co-op mode. I saw how they did the split screen co-op mode for their gun game, Time Crisis 2 on PS2, and I think that system would’ve worked perfectly here. Unfortunately, there aren’t any co-op modes, but the main game is a good enough challenge as it is. There aren't too many hidden areas or secrets to look for, so once you beat the game, there isn't much of anything else to complete it again for. I wish there could’ve been some extras thrown in here like a movie gallery, or shootout mini games, but that’s another thing Dead to Rights disappointed me on. You'd think with the long development cycle Namco had, that they could've squeezed in a few extras.
+: Having hostages act as a shield and letting your hound assist you in gun battles are some of the coolest features I’ve seen in a while, The FMV’s that tell the story are done great
-: Dead to Rights gets insanely difficult often, The camera is horrible, No 2-player mode or other extras
The Final Ratings Rundown
Game play: 8.0
Replay Value: 5.5
Rounded to fit GameFAQs Score: 7
Dead to Rights contains some major high and low points. On the good side, Dead to Rights boasts some revolutionary features you can do during gun battles that are fun as hell to perform. On the opposite end, you’ll most likely find Dead to Rights in the dictionary as a definition for “frustrating.” That and the camera is a pain to work with. I recommend you give Dead to Right a rental. If you can’t beat the game in that five day period you have it, rent it one more time, or better yet, get it under that Gamer’s Freedom Pass that Blockbuster Video offers.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 10/21/02, Updated 10/21/02
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