Review by dwight

"A very unique and satisfying game for only 29 bones..."

Dead Man's hand is a FPS game set in the Old West. It is priced as a budget title for the mere price of $29.99.

The Story

(Brief description - No spoilers) The single player missions have you play as the main character in search of the bloodthirsty gang called the ''Nine''. In the game you must seek out and try to eliminate each and everyone of them. This journey will take you throughout various territories of the Western United States.

The Graphics

The graphics in Dead Man's Hand, while certainly nothing amazing, get the job done nicely. Don't expect the quality and beauty of the environments in Halo. Some of the environments and levels are detailed and full of things to look at and interact with while other levels or parts in the game can feel more on the empty side. The gun animations of your character is nicely done. There are a lot of thing you can usually interact with in the game which are destructible and can really look impressive at times.

Explosions, breaking glass, walls and parts of buildings being destroyed are all animated in good form. The ''rag doll'' physics of the enemy CPU characters is also worth noting. It is all graphically done with nice touches that will bring some surprises and an occasional ''awe'' through out the game.

For the graphics, I would rate them a 7.5

The Audio

The audio is one of the game's strong points. The shots and firing of the different Old West weapons, the sound of your footsteps, the sound of explosions, glass breaking and even the lightning and thunder (in some levels) are all what you would expect. The dialogue of the CPU enemies are very humorous at times. (Think of a Spaghetti Western.) The music is also very well done and doesn't seem to get stale.

Other than some repetitive dialogue, the same sounding sound as when you kill someone, and the fact that sometimes the CPU players don't always make sense in what they're saying, I give the Audio an 8.75. If it wasn't for the three reasons mentioned above it would have deserved perhaps a 10.

For Audio I give it an 8.75

The Gameplay - Single Player

The gameplay and experience can be a mixed bag. This can make or break a game for some. There are some glitches and there are some things implemented in DMH that are so different than other FPS games. Please read below and I will try and detail the strong and weak points of DMS' gameplay. I will detail the glitches and weak points near the end of this section.

Before starting a main mission in DMH you are invited to a game of Territorial Poker. Simply put you bring no stakes to the table. This is Five Card Draw Poker. You are dealt 5 cards. You choose what cards to keep and what to discard. You are then dealt new cards for what you discarded. You are paid out with upgrades and more ammunition for winning a hand. To win a hand, simply get a pair or better. The higher the hand you get the higher the pay-off. If you win, you get the choice to play again. If you accept to play it again and lose, you will forfeit all of your previous winnings. The odds of pay-outs and odds of getting a good hand depend on the game's mission difficulty you have selected.

Once in the actual world of DMH you will progress through the games western style environments. Some which include a prison, canyons, mountains, mines, towns, etc.. The levels will have you running a foot indoors as well as outdoors. A variety of weather is also on tap from high noon to the dark of night. Some levels it will be raining.

Walking isn't always what will get you from one spot to the next. Not only do you get to ride on a horse in different levels but there are other modes of transportation that you will need to use. I will not discuss these for Spoiler reasons. These parts when being transported allow the player to shoot enemies and objects at will but the player has no control over the path or destination of the mode of transportation. This works out good so you can concentrate and be ready for any of the dangers lurking ahead, behind or off to the side.

DMH is an arcade type of game, if you will. It uses a scoring system for enemies taken down. (Think Serious Sam). You are awarded more points for shooting with style and for shooting ''chains combos'' in the time limit of your chain meter. For instance, shooting a TNT barrel and taking out an opponent will score differently than just taking him out with a bullet. Shooting hats off cowpokes will also yield extra points. The game keeps track of every high score you get on any level and an overall high score of the total game. It really works, for me anyway. I can see myself competing with Friends and family on different levels for the ultimate high score. This feature adds some replay value to say the least.

The 9 projectile weapons all have a secondary feature. This feature can be used if you have some of what's called your Powerbar filled up. It can make the projectile weapons much more deadly to the receiver at the other end of that barrel. For example with the default Pistol, the secondary fire will have your character ''fan'' out the bullets very quickly. Delivering six shots in less than two seconds is quite devastating. You will also find other weapons in DMH single player that are the explosive type that you can carry with you. In some levels there are even gatteling guns and even cannons that you can man. Just about everything you can think of from TV shows like Bonanza and Big Valley will be here for your enjoyment. Keep in mind that the enemy can and will try to use these against you too!

There are three difficulty setting for DMH. Easy is, well very easy. Medium is challenging and Hard should not be attempted unless you have become very skilled in the game.

DMH may turn off some people due to it's collision detection. The game does not require you to be real accurate with your shooting most of the time. Basically if the enemy is not even in your rectile but just close to it, you probably will score a hit. It's like a FPS game that is set with Auto Aim ON only this time it is usually even more forgiving. Is this a good or bad thing? Well, personally I would have liked it much better without Auto Aim or at least not to the extent that it is at. Also it is worthy to note that in rare circumstances it seems that enemies that are perfectly lined up in your rectile do not seem to be effected when you fire that trigger. This probably is a glitch that you most likely may encounter in the game from time to time.

Note: There is no multiplayer split screen in Dead Man's Hand.

I would rate the single player experience a 6.75

The Gameplay - Xbox Live and System Link

DMH allows up to 8 players in multiplayer through Live and LAN gameplay. The modes are much different than in Single Player. The modes in multiplayer are Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Bounty and Posse. The first two are self explanatory.

The current multiplayer levels for the game types, except Posse, consist of 3 outdoor levels and 3 indoor levels. for the matches. If the developers had allowed more than 8 people in a match it would probably be too chaotic. Too me they are just right and even a 4 player or 6 player Live or LAN game is fun in DMH.

Posse is where you and other players take on CPU opponents. There are 4 different levels. Staying alive and surviving while taking down bad guys is the name of the game. Each person has a score and gains points for shots.

Bounty is where one person is it and everyone else tries to gun him/her down. Who ever succeeds, then becomes the Bounty. Each second you survive as the Bounty will be added to your total time for the round. Whoever meets the designated goal in accumulated time first, wins the match. It's as simple as that. It's a lot of fun online with the right people.

The host can change options online like including bots in place of other players, the bots AI difficulty, weapon restriction game like Pistols only and even setting games with everyone having a Full Powerbar. I think the full Powerbar takes away some of the strategy but it's an option for the host to set.

The environments in multiplayer look good but nothing that really stands out. Nothing can be broken, smashed or blown up like in Single Player which is a real shame given how impressive it is executed in single player. Why they left this out is beyond me. The framerate is good on Xbox Live in a room with good connections. In those rooms the game will run lag free and smooth. Finding a good room is fairly easy with the connection speed bars next to each host. This is something Unreal 2 definitely should've included.

All and all, I do enjoy the Xbox Live matches DMH offers. I haven't touched Posse much. I really enjoy gun fights against other human opponents.

If Live had the destructible environments like in single player it would have easily deserved an 8.

I would rate the Live gameplay a solid 7.

Final Thoughts

Overall this game was worth the budget price of $29 a piece for DMH. I bought two of them so far for system Link and Live. My family and I are satisfied with the game offline and on. The game could've been much better, True Crime: Street's of LA come's to mind, but despite it's flaws there's still fun to be had.

If you're thinking about buying this and don't know whether you will enjoy it or not, give it a rent at least. You may actually like it like I did.

Overall, while keeping the released budget price in mind, I would rate Dead Man's Hand a 7.25.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 03/10/04

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