Review by mark1bdi

Reviewed: 11/09/04

Could Dead to Rights 2 have no fighting please?

Have you ever been so annoyed with a game that you just have to stop playing? A game that you should like and did like until it just pushed you too far. You can't finish a game that does that. Why waste time on rubbish when wonderment waits on the shelf? But there is something you can do with the time you invested into a now useless piece of plastic. You can share your thoughts, and with Dead to Rights in particular, highlight the reason why the game is now destined to do nothing more than fetch a couple of pounds on Ebay.

Namco's Dead to Rights is a traditional third person shooter with an added splash of fighting and a sprinkle of mini-games. In the game you play Jack Slate, a Grant City cop. Upon answering a routine nine-one-one call, Jack discovers the murdered body of his father and subsequently begins a quest to identify and bring the murderer to justice. Of course justice in an action game equates to the senseless murder of hundreds of "bad guys", including the police, in what seems to be a savagely brutal remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Commando.

The game's structure is hopelessly linear, relying upon breaks in shooting to hide the incessantly drab scenery like the corridors of the prison section, themselves an homage to Prisoner Cell Block H. Linearity, however, isn't necessarily a bad thing. Time Crisis and House of the Dead are linear as is the wonderful Panzer Dragoon Orta on this very console. Linear games tend to pile on the action and be better for it and Dead to Rights is better for it. Utterly relentless in its delivery of shooting fodder, the game is a joy to x-button through. RSI inducing it may be, but while our hero has a gun in his hand the game is very good and sometimes even excellent.

It is in solving the non-existent problem of linearity, however, that Namco ruined Dead to Rights. When they converted one of the best John Woo shooters in recent memory into a game that gets seemingly more annoying as each stage passes. It is far more of a crime to force the player into a particular course of action when that course of action is badly implemented than it is to be accused of being slightly repetitive.

The game's fighting elements are particularly poor. Turn-based would probably be the most accurate description. Rid Jack of his weapons and the control's lose all of their finesse. There is no use of Jack's trusty dog Shadow, no satisfying disarm manoeuvres and even the camera seems to develop a mind of its own. There is a hint in the manual at a rudimentary combo system but if present it defies any kind of logic. The total value of the moves on offer constitute a punch or kick combo and a throw. Direction has no effect, speed has no effect and once finished the enemy is given a free turn to punch you however hard he likes.

But all is not bad. During the awful fighting sections, there is always the promise that the game will give you back a weapon. And when it finally does, normality arrives and things are good again. And as the shooting experience begins and your first weapon is emptied, you frantically search for an enemy from whom to disarm a weapon or if already dead, rob the corpse he left behind. As bullets fly at you thick and fast, you grab a human shield and watch carefully as his health diminishes under the flurry of gunfire. As he drops dead, you quickly tap the Y button and dive Max-Payne style for cover. Unlike Max Payne however, this bullet time is fairly useless and was probably added during the game's last design review.

It is not just bullet time that Namco have borrowed, they have employed several other "in" touches to try and add some allure to the title. Back cover space was devoted to a detailed explanation of the use of pressurised cannisters. Pick one up and Jack has the option to throw it towards enemies and shoot it in mid-air. Creating a deadly shower of flame for any nearby enemies. Unfortunately, without an enemy present, Jack cannot remove the cannister from his possession. Inevitably this leads to short sections of the game being played carrying a fire extinguisher as a weapon.

So after turning Dead to Rights upside down and shaking it violently hoping to see what (if anything) would fall from it's pockets we are left with a game that Namco didn't trust to be successful. So unsure were they that gamers would buy into the core action of the game that they bolted on all manner of sparkly extra bits some of which were interesting (disarming and human shields) and some which were quite frankly poor (all fighting sections).

It is comical then that in trying so hard to prevent player frustration Namco have only succeeded in creating exactly that. Despite its poor cut-scenes. Despite whole-heartedly ripping off Max Payne. Despite using graphics that would be at home on a PlayStation. Despite all of these things, Dead to Rights should be a game that scores a mark of seven. Unfortunately, for this gamer, having to suffer one too many hair-pulling fights with nameless identical enemies pushes the game down a few pegs. Sorry Namco.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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