Dead to Rights Review
Anticipated for quite some time now, Namco's Dead to Rights has certainly come a long way in the development channel. After screen shots, videos, hype, and tons of coverage, Dead to Rights finally sees the day of light, and the result may not live up to that hype, but it does still do a lot of things right.
As the story unfolds, you learn of your character's past and present through an interesting story, interestingly unfolding as you pursue his role. You'll learn early on that your father was unfortunately murdered by a devious group of criminals. Enraged by the infamy-oozing incident, you demand that you get the case, hoping to bring down those who were responsible. Unfortunately, your cop career soon thereafter goes straight down the drain as you're framed for a homicide and are put on death row to be executed within only months.
This isn't nearly the bulk of the story, but it's what you have to go on from the very early part of the game. As you progress through the story, you'll encounter a number of different cut-scenes to further unfold this tantalizing tale, all narrated by your character, Jack Slate. The story is also coupled with good dialogue, bold emotion, and good background music, helping you get into the story that much more.
The beginning level is more of a tutorial than anything else. Since there are so many different aspects gameplay-wise, it's only natural that players be introduced in this type of manner. Besides learning all the basics and complexities of the game, the level also helps introduce the main theme behind the story.
The game actually plays quite well, and it's broken up into many different levels. The level structure (but not the theme) is very reminiscent to Castlevania for the Nintendo 64. The way you traverse and the different elements and switch hitting is very similar. But that's about it as far as similarities between those two games go.
Disposing of enemies is fairly simple, and it's stylistic at the same time. With a deluge of weapons at his disposal, including .45 Automatic, M92, SPAS-12 Shotgun, Mark 3-A2, M629, .44 Revolver, AKM Assault Rifle, Double Barrel Shotgun, MP5-A5 Sub-machinegun, and many more, Slate can easily drop hordes of enemies at a time. Fighting enemies is heavily facilitated with use of the aiming system, which lets players lock-on to enemies, shoot them down, and then scroll right to the next foe with the flick of the right analog stick. There are different colors on the lock-on circle, too, indicating the accuracy your shots will hold.
When scrolling through your weapons, you'll also pass through your trusty companion, Shadow, whose ferocious mentality helps you take out the opposition. He comes with a stamina gauge, however, limiting your usage of him. In addition, he possesses cat-like skills that help you advance in certain parts of a level. In one level, for instance, your pathway is obstructed, for a human anyway. Since there are pipes, Shadow easily walks through those to a level higher up to drop down a ramp-like structure to you.
Weapons or not, though, Jack Slate will duke it out. In some instances, you won't have any other choice but to carry out the battle hand-to-hand, which is where Jack's Jet Lee-esque moves are utilized. Kicking, punching, dodging, throwing and all sorts of combinations of those lead to a pretty interesting street fight, just like the old SNES days, when games like Ninja Turtles Through Time and Double Dragon were the thing. Jack Slate can also block, and disarming enemies is simple as it is said.
In fact, Jack Slate has quite a few moves and actions that help him proceed throughout the game. Whenever the enemy fire is just to strong to take on by one's self, you can simply lean up against the wall, peak around the corner, shoot a few rounds, and retreat back to your safety point. You can also dive and shoot in a Matrix-like manner, letting you take out three or four thugs with just one drawn-out dive.
Aside from the fighting, you'll also have to complete other tasks. One level has you hot-wiring a construction truck, which tests players timing skills; and another part of the game has you playing a Parappa the Rapper-type game with a stripper, making sure she hits all her moves perfectly to distract the bouncers. Doing so results in a safe entry into another area of the club. Extras like these show the diversity in the gameplay and are nice additions, helping break up the constant fighting and shooting.
Visually is where Dead to Rights isn't quite as strong. The in-game visuals aren't any better than GTA3. The levels are fairly creative, though, boasting all sorts of nicks and crannies, secret corridors, ledges, upper levels, and more. There's a deluge of different scenery you'll explore too, including the insides of a high-security prison, New York streets, clubs, the underground prison pipe system, and so on. The levels are big and creative, but the quality isn't less than what we've come to expect from a PS2 game. The CG cut-scenes, however, is a totally different subject. Sporting vibrant colors, an immense polygon count, and impressively designed particle effects, they both help to pull off the action as well as just making the scenes that much more enjoyable.
Dead to Right's audio delivery was pretty on-spot, with a chilling story backed by a narrator to tell it properly. In addition, the game's usage of musical appearances fit nicely along with the story telling and help to add more emotion. During fighting, many enemies will talk trash and whatnot when approaching you, as well.
When it's all over, Dead to Rights is certainly a good concept pulled off nicely enough to enjoy it thoroughly. While it does contain its flaws and isn't as solid as one could've hoped, it still boasts a gripping story, good gameplay, and just an addicting nature. Dead to Rights is definitely a series we hope doesn't stop here.
1/5/2003 Joseph Comunale