Malik (4/20/04)

Dead to Rights (PS2)

From Namco

This review originally was presented on lazy.GEEKS (6/4/03)

When I first saw Dead to Rights quite a few months ago, I was intrigued and wanted it. Soon enough, more games came out that looked cool, and in my attention-span lacking mind and my wallet hungry world, I forgot completely about DtR. Fast-forward to a couple weeks ago; a friend sent me a bunch of PS2 games and in the stack was DtR. Well, after I first tried out The Sims (PS2), I decided it was time to try out DtR. I expected to see a formula-based action game, and I wasn't disappointed. DtR follows the standard formulas of Max Payne and GTA, but this is not always a bad thing...although it usually is.

I should first explain the story, since even the back of the game boasts about how the game is just like a Hong Kong style action movie in both the non-stop violence...err, action...and in the amazing plot (to quote the package, "A super-charged Action Noir thriller, Dead to Rights goes beyond Hollywood's best action movies: The gripping storyline, the larger-than-life action hero, and the adrenaline-charged experience deliver the performance of a lifetime"). Well, the plot is not that amazing since it follows the same formula as Max Payne, with a few twists. You play a good cop working in a K9 unit who can perform amazing feats of agility and strength to take down a whole gang by yourself. One night, you go to a construction yard where there was a report of bullets being fired. Well, this level serves as your introduction in game play and in story. As you progress through the construction yard, you come upon a corpse with gunshot wounds. You immediately call for an ambulance and backup. When backup arrives, you're told to relax, but then you give that dramatic Academy Award winning line, (not the exact quote, but close enough) "this isn't just another corpse...this is...MY FATHER! I want this case!". 

Well, you are told to stay off the case since you're way too worked up, so you take the law into your own hands. You track down your father's only known enemy, have a massively bloody brawl/shootout, and then when you corner your father's possible killer, you find him dead and a stranger next to the body. Then your knocked out. The stranger talks about ruining you and the enemy of your father in one blow, and then... 

You are arrested for the murder (you were framed?!?! No other games ever think of doing this!), put on death row in a speedy form of capitol punishment, and are on your last day before death. Well, you have to use all of the obvious plot cues that you say in one-liners to figure out where to go to break out and clear your good name/avenge your father. 

I won't go on anymore, since I don't want to ruin the plot (don't worry, all of this is covered in only 3 levels of the game, so it's not really spoiling the game). The story continues to be predictable through many, many more stages, but like most bad late night action movies on cable, you can't help but keep watching/playing (don't deny do this...everyone does it). So, overall the plot is hella weak, but it entertains you none-the-less, so I can't look down on DtR's does it's job. 

As for the graphics, they look really good in the cut-scenes and are simple enough (but still look good) in the normal game. The cut scenes do what the box promises, and makes you feel like you're watching a real bad Hong Kong style action movie. As for the graphics in the game, they look good, but they keep it all toned down enough that you can see what you're doing with no problems. Item pickups don't look massively fake, but still stand out enough that you can find them, the enemies are as obvious as they should be (they don't stand out with arrows pointing at them, but they don't blend into the background either), and you can tell where the area you can move through is. Mission accomplished. 

The sound is rather well done too. The game doesn't have some cheesey sound track that clashes with the game, in fact there is almost no music at all...which is just right since I'd rather listen for the sounds of people trying to kill me than feel like I should be dancing as I play. Also, the voice acting, while it sounds hokey, it does sound like how people act in bad action movies. Voices are ultra-deep and wooden sounding, but not in the wooden style of Keanu...more like the wooden voice of Steven Segal with a slight bit of Max Payne in the mix...just how it should be. Some people would complain about this, but since the game is trying to feel like a Hong Kong action movie, this only helps to accomplish the goal of the development staff. Once again, mission accomplished (might I add; accomplished with practiced bravado). 

OK...I've given a lot of praise to this game, so I will get on to the game play...most of you are probably expecting what I was expecting when I first popped this game in my PS2; poor game play. Well I was wrong and you are too. This game actually plays really well. 

My first fear of most modern 3D style games is seeing what the hell I am doing. The camera, once you learn to use the "center camera" button, is rather effective. Also, you can adjust the camera whenever you need to and even use a Solid Snake-style wall slide to peek around corners. This means you wont waste your time after barely surviving a gun fight to only turn a corner and walk into another unprepared. 

The rest of the game controls are also rather well done. But I have one warning; when you first start, you will learn a shitload of moves in the first three minutes and you will rarely need to use them until you've forgotten about them. So I advise you, if you choose to play DtR (which you really should at least rent), try to use all of the more obscure moves as often as humanly possible as soon as possible. This will get you in the habit of knowing what you're doing and not running into an gang unarmed and not remembering how to disarm someone and take a human shield (this can easily happen). However, even with a dozen or so moves, it is easy, if you take the initiative, to learn them all off of just the four primary action buttons (the buttons on the controllers case you're too dumb to figure that out). This is especially good since you will need to switch fighting styles often (from armed to unarmed). Also, this game features both manual aim and auto-lock-on with a single button press...and unlike one of the big common complaints about The Getaway, you lock on to your threats with almost not wont end up locking onto a civilian (no innocents in this game though) two miles away while someone is shooting you point blank...and if for some reason you lock onto someone far away from your target and the untargeted fool walks into the crossfire, they will be hit easily. So, to repeat myself, the controls are easy to learn and you can do a wide variety of actions with almost no effort if you just spend a few minutes practicing. 

Another innovative part of the game controls is your dog (I said you're playing a K9 more attention if you forgot). In normal fighting, you can use your pup (really big pup) to kill an opponent you lock onto, and after he does so (with a neat cut-scene, that you will enjoy for the first 50 times) he will return with the dead guys weapon. Not too shabby for a dog. Also, in an occasional section or two of every few levels, you will play the dog to crawl through tight spots and unlock sections of the level for our protagonist. Even though the idea of a dog sidekick is not the most original idea (Shadowdancer? Ever heard of it? Try playing some good old games...sigh...), it is really well done and only adds to this game.

Also, to further your experience, you are given the way overplayed "bullet-time". When you hit the dive button, you can either just dive or you can press it in a way that you enter bullet-time and can use slow motion to lay waste to an entire gang before you touch the's just a rip off of Max Payne in this respect, but it is still fun to use your Spaz shotgun in bullet-time and watch what happens. 

So, to sum it up, the game play is great. The camera works well, the controls are easy enough yet give a wide range of variety to your actions, the bullet-time (while just being a rip-off of many previous games, is still good fun), and the dog is pretty useful. 'Nuff said.

Overall, this game will keep you involved in that same way a bad action movie keeps your interest despite the stupidity of it all.  The graphics, controls, and audio are all well done, and the plot is cheesy and fun in that stupid way we all love as Americans.  The only downfall you'll find will be that the game is repetitious, and thus you will probably only find a good rental from it, but it will be one hell of a fun rental. I give this game a 7.5/10 (would get more like a 8.5 if it had replayability).