From what we can tell, this portable DTR borrows the best aspects from the two existing PS2 games (lots of weapons, disarms, and violent slo-mo, but not too overboard with pointless combat). We played through one of the three levels available in the E3 demo--a large concrete and wooden fence area called the "beer barn" in reference to the beer distributorship buildings in the middle.
The hero, as always, is Jack Slate, a police officer in Victory City that's known for his unorthodox tactics. Also tagging along is his dog Shadow, who once again plays the role of "smart bomb" in this game. Basically, when the going gets tough, you can sic him on enemies and he'll kill them and retrieve their weapons.
Judging from the demo level, this portable Dead To Rights has been fine-tuned for stylish, fast combat. Using the circle button, you can walk up to enemies and perform a variety of martial arts style disarms--real Jet Li stuff mixed with Reservoir Dogs. The Hollywood influence is palpable. By pressing the triangle button, you can make Jack dive in slo-motion, which also gives you more time to aim and shoot at enemies. The developers have given Jack twice as much slo-mo in this game, and they've added an automatic target-switch that makes 2X and 3X kill combos a satisfying afterthough. That means more time spent admiring your vicious kills and less time mashing the buttons or running away waiting for the slo-mo to recharge. Melee combat is possible too when Jack is unarmed, but that didn't seem nearly as fun, even though Jack does have twice as many attacks and combos in this game that he did in the original Dead To Rights.
Shadow, the helpful police dog, has been improved a little too. He's still mainly used as an infrequent "smart bomb" style attack against a single enemy, but his recharge time has been shortened a little bit to make him more useful. Also, there are moments when you can control him and have him retrieve items or unlock switches.
What we noticed most from the level we played is that the PSP game isn't as unfocused as the recent PS2 sequel was. You can still wander around in the levels, but there are always arrows or indicators present to point you on your way, not to mention tasks to complete that keep you moving in a particular direction. Enemies pop out in twos and threes from places that make sense--such as from doorways and from behind gates--as opposed to constantly streaming out of distant spawn points. We're also happy to report that enemies don't just scream obscenities mindlessly in this version. There's still some profanity; after all, this is an M-rated game; but it's said in moderation and at appropriate times.
Jack's motivation in this new game is to retrieve an informant that has been kidnapped. At the heart of it all is a crime boss named "Whisper," along with a dozen or so crooked cops and assorted thugs. No word yet on how many single-player levels the final game will have (the E3 demo had slots for 10, but that's nothing to go on)--but we do know that the game will include a multiplayer ad hoc deathmatch mode so that friends can get together and go John Woo on each other.
Dead To Rights: Reckoning for the Sony PSP ships this summer.
5/19/2005 Frank Provo