Dead to Rights Retribution was a strange development choice by Namco and Volatile Games. It’s being marketed as a “re-imagining” of the Dead to Rights series, based on the same events but with overhauled gameplay. After a four year hiatus cop Jack Slate and his faithful husky Shadow are back to takedown some bad guys. The first two games were heavily criticized for being too out-dated, too hard to play and generally too bad. Nevertheless, Jack’s back and ready to be a tough-as-nails cop current gen style.
You play as Grant City police officer Jack Slate and his faithful husky sidekick Shadow. As with the Dead to Rights games last generation, everything goes horribly wrong, nobody else seems to care and it’s up to Jack to get to the bottom of what turns out to be a massive corruption that everyone else seemed to miss. To it’s credit, the storytelling techniques compliment the action run & gun style of gameplay. We begin 30 hours into the story, and catch up with everything through a series of flash backs. The short time frame gives Dead to Rights Retribution a 24 feel to it, but that doesn’t mean Jack Slate is as badass as Jack Bauer or Sam Fisher. His muscles might be too big for his shirt and he’s always covered in blood, but he just doesn’t have the same character about him as the aforementioned stars of the action genre.
Jack Slate is a cop by profession, but doesn’t actually do any police work per se. He runs around town trying to avenge his late father, who did everything by the book, in an attempt to finish what he began. Fortunately his enemies aren’t too smart and leave evidence lying all over the place, because arrest is the last thing on Jack’s mind. First and foremost he just wants to kill everyone, and brutally at that. As you can only hold two weapons and two clips at anyone time, Jack is forever running out of ammo. That’s where hand-to-hand combat and Shadow come into play. It’s all about the muscle.
In short, Dead to Rights Retribution is a very generic over the shoulder third person shooter. It takes some influence from the likes of Gears of War, Splinter Cell: Conviction and Resident Evil 5, but doesn’t do anything impressive. While most of the mechanics work fine, none of them do anything amazing. We’re left with a fairly ordinary experience that isn’t particularity terrible but doesn’t do anything fantastic to capture our imagination, or even memory. I responded to a post in the MMGN forum while I was still playing the game and struggled to remember anything about it. It’d only been a few hours since I’d put the controller down after 10 or so hours of gameplay, and yet next to nothing had stuck with me.
Hand-to-hand combat has a very basic system for something so heavily relied upon; although, that isn’t always a bad thing. You have a light attack, heavy attack and block and button mash a mixture to pull off combos. Should you be successful you’ll pull of an even heavier attack. The problem is you have enemies running at you from every direction and struggle to hit anyone outside of Jack’s reach; unless he’s blocking, Jack forgets how to move while engaged in fisticuffs. If the game deems you’ve executed enough combos an onscreen prompt will commence a takedown. Here’s were Jack’s brutality comes in, as he’s forever finding new innovative ways to kill people with maximum blood splatter. Along with disarms, available if you run up to an enemy before they can shoot you, these are much better options than trying to eliminate a bunch of baddies with nothing but your fists of fury. Pressing action when promoted is hardly groundbreaking gameplay, but at least it works better than being shot in the teeth while you’re trying to punch someone three feet away.
Like the combat, the gunplay isn’t terrible by any stretch, but it’s not as good as similar games and is nothing that didn’t exist three years ago. Head shots fill up the focus bar, which can be cashed in for slow-mo and increased bullet damage; holding down the left trigger increases your accuracy but restricts your movements; you can only ever have two weapons at once and cover needs to be used tactically. Of all the generic mechanics, the cover system is the one crying out to be overhauled. Only conveniently placed objects can be used as cover. Too often I’d run to a wall assuming it’d offer me shelter only to find, for no reason whatsoever, I couldn’t do that resulting in certain death. Moving between cover is no better. You have to awkwardly run out, taking fire, and slowly move over to the new object. Sure, you can run, but if you do that Jack will assume you want to jump over it and dive into the stream of bullets ahead. Just no. Picking up new weapons is an equally difficult task. The right bumper is used to both reload your current weapon and exchange it for a new one. That means you have to hold it down for 2 seconds to do the latter, all the while taking multiple bullets to the head while you just stand there.
The game’s saving grace comes in the mini-missions where you get to play as Shadow. In normal play pressing up on the D-pad will order him to attack by either grabbing a thugs groin or ripping his throat out. In the short bursts where you get to control Shadow an element of stealth is introduced. When holding down the left trigger Shadow will sneak and use his canine sensors to see where enemies are through objects comparable to Splinter Cell: Conviction and Batman: Arkham Asylum. Unlike the rest of the game, it’s not a mindless run & gun experience. You actually have to consider enemy movements and lure them out one-by-one with soft growls. It’s a nice change of pace and about the only thing worth remembering.
With the exception of Jack, the visuals are atrocious. Shadow, a main character mind you, looks more like a machine than a living creature and seems to roller skate around the places by gliding along the surface. There are only a handful of different enemies, suggesting they have some type of bad-guy cloning factory; the also have exactly the same traits. The big, fat, shirtless, bald guy that rocks up several times in each of the first few levels takes a fair beating, while the skinny bogan decked out in a grey wife-beater has a good aim but will drop like a sack of pennies. Enemies that looked exactly the same was acceptable in 1999, not 2010.
The audio is equally rubbish. Jack says things like “you have the right to remain silent” before shooting a clone in the head. It’s meant to be a joke, it’s not an overly serious game, but it just isn’t charming. The Shadow moments are great, but enemies tend to scream when a dog goes to rip their head off, yet if a another enemy didn’t see it they don’t notice. If there was any music I don’t remember it, like the rest of the game, and I last played it about 2 hours ago.
Dead to Rights Retribution isn’t a terrible game, it’s just not good. It’s exactly the same as any other third person action game released a few years ago and with the speed at which the game industry moves forward, those types of games just aren’t worth playing. The story lasts about 11 hours, but it felt like it was finished after about 6 and perhaps it would have been a better game if it just ended there. Most of the gameplay mechanics work, but they feel terribly dated compared to more recent titles and the cover system will be responsible for your death on numerous occasions. Most disappointingly with the exception of the Shadow ‘mini-missions’ it’s about as generic and unoriginal as a game can be. Once you’ve completed the game there’s no reason to go back and just hours later you’ll struggle to remember anything about it. Having said all that, you could do a lot worse. At it’s core Dead to Rights Retribution is a rough around the edges generic third person shooter.