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24 home / october 2002 / reviews Turn Page BackwardBack to HomeTurn Page Forward

Dead To Rights
Namco's take on Max Payne-styled shooters is far more than a simple copycat. This addictive and challenging title will sate your appetite for action for quite some time.
Overall Rating:

Animefringe Reviews:
Dead To Rights
By Patrick King

I never rent games, preferring to simply purchase them whenever I can. It might sound odd, but I really don't have enough money to rent everything before I buy it. Luckily, my friends don't follow my mentality, and suggested we head to the nearest scary rental chain store and pick up the Bruce Lee game for the X-Box. Even more luckily, I saw that Dead to Rights was also in stock, and we decided to get that too. (Incidentally, my friends rented the games - I just had to pay $300 for the X-Box...) Five minutes into Bruce Lee (a must buy if you're into everything concerning "The Dragon," a must-avoid for any other person) we gave it up and popped in Dead to Rights. After the seven-day rental period was up, poor Bruce never got another play on the X-Box. Dead to Rights, however, had been played to completion, and I'm still planning on getting it when I gather the required cash to do so.

From the very beginning, Dead to Rights oozes the feel of a Hollywood action blockbuster. The intro scene is the best tribute to The Matrix I've seen, setting the mood while demonstrating all the cool things you can do in the game. The story is fairly tight despite seeming like one big cliché, and the first stage establishes your part in the world rather fast. You are Jack Slate, a K-9 officer in Grant City. Responding to a call, Jack and Shadow (his handy sidekick/dog) investigate a scene that allows the player to get introduced to the various moves and controls in the game. Soon enough, you discover that Jack's father has been murdered, and he's determined to find the person responsible, regardless of how reckless he needs to be to do so. This is a priceless tutorial, because mastery of the controls is pivotal to getting far in the game.

The game uses an auto targeting system (activated via the R trigger) that allows Jack to lock onto any visible foe and dispose of him or her using any equipped weapon. The range of an enemy as well as the weapon Jack is armed with determines Jack's accuracy. The game also employs a bullet-time mode (similar to Max Payne) whereby a click of the Y button sends everything into slow motion, allowing you to take down a host of enemies before they have time to draw their guns. Hand to hand combat is also featured in certain parts of the game or when Jack has been disarmed. When weaponless, Jack can approach any enemy and disarm him. This is a very intuitive and convenient feature and circumvents the need to place guns and ammo in unrealistic hiding places throughout the game. Need a .44? Tackle the guy who's firing at you. Jack can also take human shields, another move that extends the officer's life in times of need. There is also a manual targeting mode (especially useful when sniping) and a corner-shooting mode (for taking cover and shooting around a corner). Jack can duck and dive, as well.

Amazingly enough, there's even more to this game than Jack's standard moves. There are times when Shadow must be used (he can always be used as an attack; the fuzzy critter tears the jugular out of the targeted foe AND retrieves the bad guy's weapon for you) to get through places Jack can't fit. He's also talented at finding bombs hidden by terrorists. And then there's a host of mini-games (such as weightlifting, a Gunblade NY-type helicopter shooting mode, bomb-disarming, and more). I was almost overwhelmed by the variety offered by Dead to Rights. Really, the parts with Jack's standard moves were enough to keep me satisfied, but the inclusion of so many alternate modes of play makes this game soar above average.

This is a beautiful game with incredibly detailed levels with realistic designs, impressive lighting effects, and it runs consistently at 60 frames per second. The in-game graphics are excellent, but Namco went the extra mile for end-of-level cutscenes and produced pre-rendered CG movies to advance the story. It's no Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within but it's certainly visually on par with any game in the ultra-popular series. Enemy characters are not all unique, but they vary between locales. There are so many foes, it'd be impossible to design the thousands required for this game, so this is an acceptable cheat. However, NPC's all look notably different and have a personality from looks alone.

The voice acting in this game is better than most of the dubbed anime I've watched. The writing is the only thing hampering the performance of some talented individuals. Unlike most video games, the voiceovers actually add to the mood rather than detract from it. The sound effects (presented in 5.1 surround sound) are superb. If you have a good receiver and a subwoofer, your neighbors will think you're having a multiperson shootout right in the comfort of your own home! Every shell leftover from Jack's shooting has an audible tinkley sound as it bounces off the ground, and when using Jack's adrenaline (that is, in bullet-time) all the sound effects have an impressive muffled echo sound and enter into slow-motion, as well. With the surround sound, you can tell when someone's approaching from behind - useful information to have, usually. The music consists mostly of techno (paying more homage to The Matrix) and does a good job of further enhancing the mood. It changes in real-time to fit the action of the player's current circumstances. For instance, it is steady and somewhat pensive while Jack explores, but kicks into high gear for fight scenes.

This is an excellent game for action fans - a standard-setting title for the genre. Dead to Rights is far more than a replica of Max Payne, improving on practically every aspect of the older game. The auto-targeting, in particular, makes the game immensely playable. This is only a single player game, and the inclusion of a multiplayer option would've been nice. However, there is more than enough game here for the money. My only other gripe would deal with the spawning of the enemies. It's possible to walk into a room, clear out the foes, and then walk out only to have bad guys pour from the formerly cleared room. I found it to be slightly annoying, but I suppose it's only a plus for those who can't get enough action out of this title. This game is a must-buy if you're a fan of the films of John Woo or the Wachowski brothers. It has enough story to hook you and plenty of variety to keep you coming back for more. Once the gameplay is mastered, it's satisfyingly beatable. Trust me, when you get into Dead to Rights, you'll stay until you've finished it. And then you'll come back for more...

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