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Dead to Rights

Developer: Namco | Publisher: Namco
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 08/19/02 | Genre: Action

It's you against the entire crime world and no one else likes you either; just the way you like it.
Grab your sidearm and badge, gumshoes; Jack Slate is a man out for revenge in Namco’s Dead to Rights. He is outnumbered and out gunned, but by no means outmatched in this “take no prisonersâ€? brawl to the finish. Even though the game is tough and deep in story, the ultimate goal to finish the game is kept farther away by sluggish camera mechanics and mindless mini-games. Oh and it’s hard too, so easily frustrated people should leave this one alone entirely. But with a commendable AI and solid gameplay, Dead to Rights is a decent action title if it weren’t for these aggravating issues.

Starting out, you take a “shots firedâ€? call from dispatch that leads you to the victim: Slate’s father. Like most cop thrillers, your rebellious path leads you to take on the entire malicious crime underworld on your own and the police force as well. Except Slate is not entirely on his own; his K-9 partner Shadow is here to assist. The opening level allows you to become familiar with the controls and interact with the environment. Onscreen instructions carefully guide you through each step, from simple targeting to guiding Shadow to shooting tossed explosive canisters in the air. Hopefully you’re a quick learner because you’ll need every maneuver to be second nature from here on out.

Whether it’s with gun in hand or bare fisted, Jack Slate is a man of many talents. He is a skilled marksman with pistol, AK-47, and sniper rifle. To target an enemy or switch between them, simply pull the right trigger. Shooting thugs manually proves to be a difficult task and is often fatal because it takes so long to aim. They’ll have you close to death before you can finish them off. Finding yourself without a firearm- while not the most positive place to be- does not mean absolute death. Slate is a martial arts expert and can kick, punch, dodge, and duck opponents’ attacks. There are moments when Slate must battle his way out using hand-to-hand combat. Here the AI stumbles and allows you to whoop up on one baddy as his pals stand by and watch. But should they join in, you’d be finished for sure because you have no way of throwing an adversary into his cohorts. On the street, Slate can, as seen via Matrix-like camera motions, deal a death blow to an opponent and obtain his sidearm at the same time by simply getting close to them and pressing the B button.

Graphically, Dead to Rights is an offense to its profession. Cutscenes jerk and have noticeable pauses, and character animations are…very strange. Their heads move as they speak, and you can see it in their neck which is really gross. There are nice lighting and water effects, but enemies are bland blocks of goo. The bump-mapping even helps with this goo effect, frequently mashing characters together. Slate’s movements are smooth and well done considering all the action going on. Taking notes from Max Payne, by pressing and holding the Y button, Slate can dive in slow-motion, allowing you to target multiple targets quickly, which always looks cool.

This super-cool move can only be accomplished when Slate has enough adrenaline, which is indicated by a meter on the screen. Have no fear because, unless you use this move constantly, you’ll have enough adrenaline to go around. If you just can’t get enough of the slow-motion action, adrenaline can be replenished by disarming foes, using enemies as human shields, calling on Shadow, and throwing thugs while in hand-to-hand combat.

The camera should be read its rights and thrown in the slammer for committing acts of treason. At times the camera appears to want you to get killed: getting stuck behind objects and flipping into a first-person perspective. Targeting thugs gets to be a blind action, resulting in running around corners guns blazing. Backing up to a wall in wall mode helps steady the camera and at least gives you some better visuals of what’s going on. This mode also allows you to take pot shots at nearby thugs and spin quickly back to the cover. A shorter sentence will be granted to the guilty camera based on the fact that it automatically centers itself when a target is found, so simply pulling the right trigger will whip the camera forward. In certain sequences the camera is in a locked position, but this fails to correct the issue and only proves to further perplex the matter.

Dead to Rights sounds great. Music tracks sink you into the belly of the crime world (quiet as they are), and the echoes of gun shots, guys talking, and miscellaneous atmospheric sound effects keep you there. The only real surprise is how quietly enemies seem to die.

The streets, bars, strip clubs, prisons, and every other place imaginable are filled with people who want to be the person known for taking down Jack Slate. It is an all-out war against you- even the cops want to take you down- and you will not only have to shoot like a cop, but how to think like a cop as well. Charging in blindly, which does happen due to poor camera mechanics, should be avoided because it’ll only get you killed. Dieing in Dead to Rights can be quick and often. Luckily there is a save feature. However it only saves at checkpoints, so you will end up replaying a lot of areas (some are rather long ones too). Though there tends to be health packets and armor stashed throughout each chapter in plenty, while in the heat of dishing out justice, they seem few and far between if you’re not smart.

Finding cover is essential and so is the nice trick of using a thug as a shield. Not exactly a humanitarian maneuver, putting a body between you and the opposition is a survival necessity. The shield’s life meter is shown just below Slate’s adrenaline bar. Another weapon aside from guns is Slate’s K-9 partner, Shadow. When a targeted enemy is close enough and his stamina is full, send in Shadow to quickly take down and disarm the thug. The dog nicely brings you a new firearm as well- awww, isn’t that cute. As you move through the chapters and past the piles of dead bodies (thanks to you), you will enter mini-games, which have stooped to a new mind-numbing low. These shouldn’t be called “mini-gamesâ€?, but rather “pointless, long drawn-out, distractions from the killingâ€? games. Getting a dancer to distract bouncers, lifting weights, and locking in tumblers are just a few of these tedious tasks blocking your way.

To replay the game would be only to satisfy that heroic, back-against-the-wall, defy-the-odds desire some gamers have in them. There aren’t any secrets, no unlockable features, and no 2-player action- which is unfortunate because the crime world would know no hiding place from a dynamic duo.

Overall, Dead to Rights will be extremely unappealing to some, forcing them to abandon the game all together due to frustration and difficulty. But for the real troopers out there, this game slaps down a hefty challenge that only the few survive. Working with the camera or just overlooking past its flaws all together reveals a solid action title in Dead to Rights. Perhaps knowing that the story gets better will encourage the weak of heart to take up the controller once again and push onward.

By Peter Humpton - 08/30/02
ESRB Details: Blood, Mature Sexual Themes, Violence
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Screenshots for Dead to Rights

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