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Dead to Rights Review

publisher: Bandai Namco
developer: Bandai Namco
genre: Shooters

ESRB rating: M

release date: Aug 19, 02
» All About Dead to Rights on ActionTrip

When talking about Namco's Dead to Rights, there will be people screaming "Max Payne clone, MAX PAYNE CLONE!!!" But then there will also be people that say that Dead to Rights is nothing like Max Payne. Naturally, both of these groups are wrong because 'The truth is out there!' No, the truth is, as usual, painted in all shades of gray. The bottom line is, Dead to Rights is a hella fun action shooter, and no matter what you might say about its originality or the lack of thereof, I would recommend this title to every self-respecting X-box gamer out there.

With that out of the way, let me get straight to the point, although, I should warn you that I might throw in a Max Payne analogy every so often in this text.

Dead to Rights is your classic cop movie spin-off. But, unlike Max Payne (I warned ya), which featured the cheesiest Finnish-flavored New York slang I've ever had the misfortune of hearing, Dead to Rights is 'enriched' with a little less cheesy New York style lingo which is actually at times bearable, even for someone who has lived, or is still living in the "finer parts" of the NYC. Granted, both Max Payne and Dead to Rights are chips of the ole block in a sense that they're the gaming equivalents of a cop B-movie, or something starring Sly Stallone as 'Cobra.' (Ed. - Note: 2Lions has just ruined my childhood.) Just like in Max Payne, Dead to Rights features the "bullet-time" mode, but then again -- Max Payne took a hint from The Matrix, and now Dead to Rights takes a hint from Max Payne. Hey, that's just the way it goes.

Both Max Payne and Jack Slate are grizzled and witty in the face of danger, and both of them lost someone they loved, and are out for revenge. However, these crucial scenes are A LOT more dramatically depicted in Max Payne, and are therefore more interesting, whereas in Dead to Rights, Jack either hides his emotions well, or he simply doesn't give a flying FAQ that the mob killed his dad. He's like "OH NO! ARRRGG... OK, no matter; let's just waste every motherFAQer in the house now!" This would make Max Payne definitely more cinematic then Dead to Rights and just a tad bit deeper (relatively speaking of course, because both of these titles are about as deep as a hole a 2-month-old kitten would make in its litter box). Hell, both of these hard-ass cops kill enough bad guys in their respective games to fill up the Yankee stadium! Both Max and Jack are full of Rage! They're very much alike...

However, Jack Slate has a dog named Shadow.

No seriously, this is where I end all Max Payne comparisons, I promise! I won't mention you-know-who any more. In stead, let's just concentrate on Jack and his trusted Shadow - the real stars of this review. Dead to Rights is in its essence an arcadish 3rd person action shooter. It's not mission-based; rather, the story is continuous and it unfolds through chapters. Besides being able to shoot from every weapon in the book, Jack can also kick and punch like a muthafucka', he can go into 'wall-mode' (think MGS). He can effectively use cover and even grab a baddie to serve as a human shield! He can disarm his opponents with 'Judo-chop' (think Austin Powers), and he can call on his dog to perform various kinds of actions for him. As you'd imagine, Dead to Rights is not heavy on puzzles (well, except for a few boss encounters); the game is conceived so that the player never gets a minute's rest. This is an action title, true and true. The bad guys will keep coming at ya, and you'll have to keep coming up with inventive ways of returning them back to their maker(s). Incidentally, this is by far the best aspect of this game. Short of a few nagging drawbacks, which I'm going to mention a bit later, the action in Dead to Rights is phenomenal! No really, this is how action games are supposed to be played on the X-box! Dead to Rights makes the gamepad look good. The controls are so balanced and well-conceived that the action will just continue to flow, and you'll want to play on and on, until your hands start to shake from the force feedback. Once you get into the grove there's just no stopping the virtual death and gore - and most importantly, all this looks and feels great! (Ed.- As death and gore should look!) Dead to Rights uses an auto-targeting system. By clicking on the right trigger of your gamepad, you select a target and depending on the color of the target cross, the enemy will either be 'begging for a headshot' - red, partially covered - yellow, or in full cover - green. The target selection is automatic (AI controlled), which might be a bit unfortunate, as sometimes the AI will decide to target an enemy who is under heavy cover and far away, rather than the dude aiming a Magnum at your head, and standing like 5 feet away from you. Still, this technical shortcoming doesn't hinder the gameplay much, as you can easily solve it by target-cycling a lot, and moving while you shoot. Also, don't forget the bullet-mode, as it might come in handy when the screen is littered with bad guys. One other thing that takes a bit of getting used to, although it doesn't hamper the gameplay in any way is the camera that doesn't automatically pan according to where Jack is facing. It's in some sort of semi-free mode and you have to keep adjusting it in order to get a good look at your opponents. You should remember however, that the game utilizes an auto-targeting system, which makes this seemingly tedious task a lot less tedious. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that this free-mode camera doesn't in any way spoil the gameplay experience. Shooting bad guys in Dead to Rights is simply fun as hell, and it's possibly the game's main trump.

On the other hand, punching and kicking in DtR is a different story. This is probably the only real downside to the otherwise superb in-game action. Fighting scenes get really boring, really fast. And to add insult to injury, there are a whole mess of them! Jack is lacking more easily accessible fighting moves. In addition, the kicking and punching action looks a bit stiff. The animation leaves plenty to be desired, and most of the time you'll just want to race through the brawling in order to get to the good stuff.

But even with all this in mind, the fact remains that Dead to Rights boasts some of the best action gameplay we've seen on the Xbox, and it's most definitely worth your attention. The bad guys are sufficiently smart to challenge your reflexes, and there's just the right amount of power-ups lying around the levels to make the action intense, but not frustrating. Jack will get to use all kinds of nasty weapons: .50 Automatic Pistols, flamethrower, the L96A1 Sniper Rifle, AK-47 assault rifle, M11 Silenced Sub-machine Gun, pump-action shotties and so on... (Ed. - When it absolutely has to be totally destroyed, accept no substitutes.) The auto-targeting system works very well, and the abundance of special moves like taking bad guys hostage and using them as human shields, and disarming your opponents, (there's over three dozen different ways to disarm your opponent in DtR) will only add to the overall experience. Some of the boss encounters are very special, and they present quite a challenge. In essence, this keeps the gameplay addictive, and goes to prove that Namco programmers spent quite some time balancing out the gameplay. Kudos for that, fellas!

Graphically, Dead to Rights is a mixed bag of blessings. The animation definitely could've been a bit smoother, as this is after all an action game played from the 3rd person perspective. Don't get me wrong though, some of the moves are quite good, it's just that Namco didn't seem to keep the same level of quality for all of them. Characters and the environments lack a bit more polys, but the quality of art design manages to compensate for this fact - but only barely, and if you're not too picky about your Xbox visuals. The particle effects, water reflections, and weapons-firing are all excellently done, and when you think about it, for a game like Dead to Rights this is pretty-much the most important and the most obvious visual aspect the programmers had to take care of - well besides the animated moves.

The sound effects are very excellently done, and the soundtrack following the action is brilliant. I can't tell you how important music is for an arcade shooter like Dead to Rights. You have to have just the right tunes in order to heighten the blast-fest and the intense atmosphere. Once again, good job by the Namco team.

Finally, I should just add that this game features sexy looking strippers in tight thongs! And you get to play one! I mean, what more can you ask for really? (Ed. - Apparently, 2Lions has always wanted to be a stripper.) Nice to see that Namco didn't really feel like making a politically correct game. So, besides getting to shoot one million bad guys in less than two in-game minutes, you get to check out "curvy" strippers wrapping their tight bodies around that pole! Need I say more? Buy this game; you'll like it, even despite some of its irritating shortcomings.


8.1   Very Good

The fighting action is as smooth. Excellent gameplay balance (I like 'em challenging) (Ed. - 2Lions likes em Long AND Hard); the soundtrack is excellently synched with the onscreen mayhem;

The fighting scenes are definitely not as good, or interesting as the fire fights. What's worst, there are plenty of them to boot! Blocky characters and environments. TOO much like Max Payne.



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