Review by Gizamaluke7377

Reviewed: 05/02/04

Even makes Wild Wild West look good.

Dead Man's Hand

“Kid, my gang plays to win, and you can’t keep straight cards in a loaded deck. You’ve just drawn the Dead man’s hand.” - Tennessee Vic

Dead Man’s Hand is a game inspired by cowboys from the old wild west. After this game received a few low scores, Humanhead (the developer) delayed the game to improve it. Now after it’s delay, did this game redeem itself? Find out in my review of Atari’s Dead Man’s Hand.

You play the role of El Tejón, a gunfighter who has been betrayed by his own gang called “The Nine”, led by their ruthless boss Tennessee Vic, and left for dead. However, in the Old West, a dead man still has a hand to play. It’s your duty to hunt down your failed assassins to even the score. It’s time to bring justice to the wild, wild west.

You begin the game in jail. The General Juan Jacinto is the one to blame for your predicament. It turns out that the people of San Coahuila rise up against the General’s iron fist. It’s your perfect chance to escape. Your cell mate, an old man named Iago, is the leader of the revolution. The jail is then attacked, and the offenders unlock your cell. Iago escapes with you, and supplies you with a gun. As you flee the prision, Iago says that you are as good as you claim. The old man decides to help you exact revenge on your ex-compadres.

As you play through the game, you’ll probably like you’ve played a game just like it before. As it turns out, Dead Man’s Hand is a very generic First-Person Shooter. To add some variety, Human Head included some rail missions where you ride your horse, shooting enemies along the way. The game does include some arcade characteristics, like the score feature. As you turn through the levels, shooting the destructible objects, gunning the enemies, and blasting the conveniently placed explosive barrels, you get points. At the end of the level, your score is tallied up. Here are the other things you get scores for:

• Hat Shots: When you shoot the hats off of your opponent’s head, you get points.

• Projectile Shot: Shooting a thrown projectile, like a knife or dynamite, results in points.

• Explosive Kills: Kills made with dynamite or an exploded powder keg end with some “explosive” points.

• Crush Kill: Kills made by causing a heavy object to fall, and crush your enemy will come up with “crushing” results.

• Fire Kill: Kills made by burning an enemy with a whiskey bomb will reward you with points.

• Multi-Kill: Kills of multiple enemies killed within an extremely short amount of time.

• Knife Kill: Kills made by stabbing your foes to death give you points.

There is one glaring flaw seen in the enemies. They are stupid. Several of the times when you are standing right in front of them, they don’t shoot you with very fast reflexes for cowboys from the west. They seem to like taking their sweet time. Apperently, cowboys from that era found it intelligent to stand on explosive barrels. Also, the game relies heavily on scripted events. I wish there weren’t so many flaws in the gameplay. If they just took some more time with the game they could have made it a great shooter. Dead Man’s Hand does have one innovative feature. The poker matches before levels. Before the start of each mission, you play a poker match. For each pair of numbers you get, you win supplies. At least this game did something original. This game does feature online multiplayer, and downloadable content. However, it’s nothing you haven’t seen done better in other games.

Now on to the weapons. Like other First-Person Shooters, Dead Man’s Hand has different categories of guns you carry, however there are only three types of each gun. There are pistols, like the Peacemaker, the Huntley Thunder, and the Kansas Pepperbox. After that you got the rifles, including the Westerner Carbine, the Lewis Revolving Rifle, and the Hawkins Buffalo Rifle. Of course, what First-Person Shooter would be complete without shotguns? You got the Martin Pump Action, the Stephens SBS Double Barrel, and the Overload Express Coachgun. Finally, you have the special weapons that don’t fit the other three categories. The special weapons include a bowling knife, some dynamite, and whiskey bombs.

The graphics...where to start? Since it is running on an outdated Unreal engine, the graphics are not on par with other Xbox games. For one, the textures look like muddled textures from the Nintendo 64 era. Next, the characters. They look around as good as Blood Omen 2's character models, which means they aren’t good at all. I’d think by now developers would actually put time into making their games look good.

Music and Sound
The sound and music are one of the few good points of the game. Dead Man’s Hand’s soundtrack consists of old western tunes, which help set the mood, and they are catchy. The sound effects are not half bad. The gun shots sound good enough for my standards, and the enemies even mock you on the battlefield.

Final Thoughts
In the end, Dead Man’s Hand was a disappointing, generic experience for me. If only Atari made Human Head spend more time on it, it may have turned out good. However, for lame, generic gameplay, cruddy graphics, and a hardly original story, I can’t afford Dead Man’s Hand anything more then a mediocre score. This game deserved its $30 price, because buying it for $50 would be a waste of money.

Final Score: 5/10

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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