Full Review: You have the right to remain dead. Anything you say will not be heard, because you're gone, moron!
The "to be PlayStation 2 exclusive" turned Xbox exclusive, turned limited time Xbox exclusive, turned improved multi-system port is now home where it was meant to be originally in a surprising line of events. Dead to Rights as you probably already know is Namco's Max Payne-esque release where you're that one guy that needs to kill everybody, everywhere, for whatever reason. Except, unlike Max Payne, Dead to Rights was meant for console play. Being a console oriented game; Dead to Rights is quite the unexpected surprise for the Holiday season.
Anti-heroes have become the new role model of our time. Jack Slate isn't much different from your typical good guy turned bad, really bad. It was a day like any other day, and Officer Slate was on the case out to bust another crime. The crime: Jack's father has been put to rest. The victim: Jack, after he ends up in a situation of being framed for a crime he never committed. Now on death row, it's not just the bad guys out to kill Jack anymore, the police want Jack dead as well. You must live the life of a man everyone wants dead in order to solve the mystery of who killed your father, and most of all, who wants to kill you.
Relating Dead to Rights to Max Payne is not only necessary because the games follow a similar shoot everybody and everything style, but also because the characters in each game are almost dead on, face-to-face, the same from what they're capable of. Max Payne introduced to gamers the first realization of how much fun it'd be to take The Matrix film's bullet time effect and use it (which is basically slowing down people and objects in motion further letting the player shoot the bad guys in midair). Max Payne was even a cop, who stumbled upon his family being murdered, and was forced to head into a downward spiral of relentless police chases and bad guy showdowns until the story came to a close. So in a way, Namco is saying, "Money see, money do."
But not everything about Jack Slate has "Max Payne" tattooed on it. Jack is about style over precedence. Namely, Jack's dog Shadow is one of the most unique aspects that really give Dead to Rights its original flavor. Used for a multiple amount of reasons, Shadow is trained in the arts of helping Jack take out the bad guys by locking onto them and letting him loose. While Shadow can save Jack the trouble of wasting bullets, the strategic part of this canine comes with his own personal gauge. Whenever the gauge is full, Shadow is able to rip any bad guy within targeting distance to shreds. If the gauge isn't full or you're out of range, then you'll have to rely on other tactics. That's not all Shadow knows, however. With the ability to sniff out bombs and crawling through small spaces to get into inaccessible areas, Shadow is more an integral part of the gameplay rather than not.
While Shadow is a great asset in certain cases, Jack's got plenty of his own moves and firepower to boot as to handle any nasty situation that calls his name. Heavy artillery becomes your new hobby when you see what Jack's got to offer. From handguns, shotguns, automatics, to sniper rifle, and even explosive propane canisters, Jack's got a number of goodies to hand out to the thugs, hit men, cops, and hundreds of crime syndicate out to erase him clear from the picture. Changing from sneaky to stuntman, Jack is also capable of almost any imaginable killing action. Able to back up to a wall and pop out back and forth from it while locking on and delivering death to the enemies, Jack can easily avoid gun fire while letting the enemies have some of his own. Human shields a plenty, any armed henchman can become body armor when the action heats up a bit. Often times Jack will also eventually run out of bullets of his own -- presenting the opportunity to disarm baddies with a slick combo system. As the game gets more intense, players can learn new moves to pull on a baddie in order to perform great looking punch, flip, and kick moves for practice on targets as to take their weapon when you don't have any for an awesome kind of one hit kill.
To survive in this deadly game of cat and mouse, you'll need all the firepower and status ailments you can get. By exploring the mean streets and indoor areas, Jack can pick up a few collectibles, from the ever-important health tablet, body armor (which refills Jack's armor gauge), and of course weapons that can be taken from fallen enemies abound. The health and armor gauges, along with an adrenaline gauge, act as the main source for the game's strategic sense. Where the health gauge tells the player how much life Jack has left to live, and the armor gauge defends Jack from any sort of gunplay until it's there no more, the adrenaline gauge allows dodge incoming attacks when Jack's forced into a hand to hand fist fight situation. If the meter is down to nothing, then Jack can't do either. And with the only way to build it back to proportion by throwing enemies around, this gives players the initiative to want to do something more than performing the same tactic every single step of the way.
And though Dead to Rights may seem like a straightforward and mindless endeavor of killing sorts, that's not all there is to it. Strewn from time to time within the storyline lie mini-games to play and complete. Varied among them are challenges of both risk and precise timing from disarming bombs, proving your worth to a bunch of prison fitness jocks in the sport of boxing or weight lifting, and even the highly annoying job of button mashing to save your own life from seeing how long you can hold your breath in a vat of water. Some of these mini-games can actually be entertaining, like one where you need to time button presses so that a stripper shakes her booty at all the right points allowing Jack to slip by unnoticed in the backdrop. But then a lot of them can and will be bothersome, with tedious button mashing in some and tricky pin guidance for bomb diffusion in others.
Getting to be Jack and then giving his gun blasting a whirl is what makes or breaks most of the game though. Being able to control Jack isn't too complicated either, which is a good thing. It's great that no matter what area the game has you trudging through, you can simply shoot at everything and win, dodge bullet fire and let Shadow take care of business, or run around jumping through hoops and showcasing learned talents in a scene of Hong Kong action movie flair. The four face buttons act as the central point of play with the circle button being used to take enemies hostage or to disarm them; the square button in combination with the R1 button activates Shadow's one hit kill attack; the triangle button is used to either jump or process the "bullet time" effect; and the X button in combination with the R1 trigger button again fires a weapon. Weapon selections are marked by either the left or right direction buttons; cycling through target locks, viewing enemies in first person, and ducking make way from the back buttons; and finally moving Jack around and turning the camera function with the two analog sticks. While there may be a lot to do, the overall feel of moving Jack around and performing all of his moves doesn't become too overbearing after about 15 minutes of practice.
One aspect that really separates the PlayStation 2 version of Dead to Rights from its Xbox brethren is the difficulty level. Where the Xbox one was locked at an insane difficulty rate, the PlayStation 2 version is equipped with a few different modes of how hard you want it. With Rookie, Normal, and the Super Cop levels now in place, the game can now be looked at as an improvement in terms of not dying every ten steps. That still doesn't justify the moronic computer A.I., however. Be it on any level of play, it's easy to rotate the game's camera to look ahead at where the lifeless enemies stand in place and ready to fire. Because of this and the fact the computer doesn't put up much of a fight, it's very easy to slaughter pound after pound of enemy and quickly speed through the game's 15-chapter entirety in but a few hours.
If seeing is for believing...then you'll believe a whole lot of action. Comparably, the visuals in Dead to Rights aren't entirely outstanding in any specific are, yet the game still packs a punch. Character models for starters are blocky and boring when it comes to seeing the same one for what seems like forever. Once you see one of them in any enemy littered area, you've seen them all. And from their appearance, of stale texturing to the repetitive animations, it's unfortunate that the game doesn't aim for bigger prospects. In character, Jack turns out a bit better on the whole, though not by much. He carries the same sort of stiffened clothing aspect with pale texturing. Still, Jack's animations take bigger flight from the realistic motions when pressed against a wall and looking around the corner, to jumping in slow motion and letting enemy blood fly, and even by how disarming a couple hundred enemies in a multitude of varying formation resolves to be quite a tremendous accomplishment the game continues to deliver.
On his adventure to kill the people who killed his father, Jack will come across shady areas like a prison, a strip joint, a fishing dock, and a few outside street locales. Each of these shooting grounds, while good looking, seems to say the same thing about one another. You could be in the prison for example, and the walls, floors, and everything else appears to be mostly rudimentary in the game's recurring patterns. In all honesty though, that's not such a bad thing when all of the elements work together, in how shooting another character lets blood splatter across the floors and walls, or from the cool looking light and shadow effects that act out their parts in the way bullet fire will follow through after letting it rip, or how the indoor or outdoor shadows cast themselves amongst anything and everything in perfect adherence to life's own influence.
In the shooting, running, diving, and propane-exploding world of Jack's dangerous lifestyle, everything lights up to the eardrum. Running along the ground lets out the sound of footsteps; firing a shotgun as opposed to an automatic will showcase the difference between the two; and even from getting knocked upside the head by a tough guy, you'll be sure to listen to the pound effect that follows. As spectacular as the sound is, the music on the other hand isn't. Actually, the music isn't really bad. Carried through in a fast paced rhythm of drum clanking and horns, to a lighter but still moody synthesized tone, the music itself is hashed once and again in each gameplay area. Since there's only so much of it, and so little at that, the sad part is that the echoing loop will remain again and again.
Even worse though is the reverted voiced lines in Dead to Rights. Always in a constant state, the context of dialogue never really reaches far outside of, "There he is!" or "It's Slate!" spoken from dozens upon dozens of the same pattern in bad guy you'll need to dispose of. Jack's character himself, within a small group of other significant story characters, emits a fairly good quality in voice acting. And as a very warm welcome, thrown in often throughout the gameplay, Jack's character will say something humorous to give any death dwelling scenario a lighter side up. For the most of it, Jack's quips are what will keep the story rolling and entertaining, and are about the best part of what there is to hear in character spoken areas outside a few smaller initiated roles.
It's too difficult not to compare Dead to Rights to the Max Payne that started it all. Max Payne released a year before Dead to Rights. And like its prior attempt, Max Payne turned out to be ugly. Dead to Rights is a lot like Max Payne, but better. Dead to Rights has action, it has suspense, it has mystery, it has drama, and it even has you controlling the moves of a stripper. Forget everything you knew about Max Payne -- Dead to Rights is a successor worth living through for at least the few short hours it'll last. Maybe not great for a purchase, but for an extensive rental, you'll want to give Dead to Rights a run for its money.