Wednesday 12 May 2010

Game Review: Dead to Rights Retribution (Xbox 360 & PS3)

This recent spate of bad weather is really starting to depress me. After a few days of sunshine, we're subjected to another round of chilly winds, horrible rain and even volcanic ash! Well screw it, I'm headed indoors to get some gaming on. And what better way to combat the grey and rainy weather than with a grey and rainy game? You know what they say, misery loves company!

Dead to Rights: Retribution is Namco's latest attempt to revive the dog-eared franchise, this time emphasizing the hybrid combat system, wherein the player moves seamlessly from cover-based gunplay to hand-to-hand combat. Can Namco find the winning formula for this flagging franchise or is it a case of a sheep in wolf's clothing?

Dead to Rights: Retribution is a re-imagining of the story of Jake Slate, a tough, gruff and buff vice cop working in the fictional and gritty Grant City. Joining Jake is his dog (or miniature polar bear) Shadow, an animal of equal tough, gruff and buffness. The design on these two is pretty ridiculous, with Jake looking like he works out at the same gym as Chris Redfield, and Shadow appearing more like a werewolf than a police dog. This sort of outlandish design works against itself in a game which tries to be gritty, realistic and supposedly noir. For every well-delivered monologue and atmospherically lit environment that sets the mood, a cartoon-like enemy or clumsily choreographed takedown animation shatters the effect.

Rather than deciding to focus on the game's unique factor (i.e. your canine partner), Dead to Rights instead calls on the player to defeat enemies with a blend of shooting and fighting. If the player can weave a series of successful attacks together, they are rewarded with an often brutal and always over-the-top takedown move (accompanied by the liberal use of slow motion) . The player is rarely given the opportunity to stay in cover and pick off enemies since ammo is scarce and your cover can be destroyed, forcing you to run from place to place, making well-placed headshots before rushing in and serving the surviving enemies a round of knuckle sandwiches. Combine this with the ability to send in Shadow to retrieve ammo, worry attackers and finish off stragglers, and you have yourself a fairly unique experience.

Shadow's involvement is not only confined to a supporting role; the player can also take control of him at certain sections of the game. These missions are given different objectives, but the gameplay remains the same: sneak up on enemies and stealth-kill them. There's nothing much to write home about here, anyone hoping for an Okami experience will be sorely disappointed.

Dead to Rights: Retribution ticks all the boxes and has it's moments, but in the end is not refined enough to be a big hit. In its efforts to create a bad-ass character with brutal takedown moves, Namco ended up creating a cartoony muscle-bound cliché. The game is satisfyingly enjoyable, but is definitely a case of style over substance, or perhaps more fittingly, all bark and no bite.


CeX Rathbone Place, London

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