Dead to Rights: Retribution Xbox 360 Review

June 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Publisher – Namco Bandai – Developer – Volatile Games – Genre – Action – Players – 1 – Age Rating – 18+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3

Dead to Rights wasn’t a particularly well regarded series, which makes it a weird choice for the reimagining treatment. The story and universe were both generic and there was little real interest for people to see another take on it, which didn’t stop Namco going ahead and rebooting the series with what is only the third entry in the series, Dead to Rights: Retribution.

Protagonist, Jack Slate himself has been reimagined, looking meatier and more intimidating than previously. He’s one angry man that swears a lot and spills lots of blood too, and with his fists, guns and dog, there are plenty of options for dealing out the pain. All this profanity and violence should appease teenagers, as well as anyone else that enjoys such juvenile antics.

The narrative may be new, but like the original game it’s filled to the brim with clichés. For instance, Jack’s Dad makes an appearance and it’s not hard to guess of what his fate is going to be, whilst it’s easy to spot enemies a mile off, even when you’re not supposed to know that they’re bad. In a dumb action film like way it’s a reasonable enough story, but it’s certainly not a real strength.

Blindfire is an option and, as is often the case, is overly accurate, though it does suit the dumb action film like nature of the game.

Jack’s violent journey for retribution will take you all over Grant City, which is to say everywhere from the streets to the sewers and places we gamers have visited thousands of times. What makes it even worse is that here they’re given little of their own identity and the average game engine does little to make the areas look nicer, though some of the lighting is quite impressive.

Much like the previous two iterations in the series, Dead to Rights: Retribution is an action game with a high body count. But this time around, rather than taking inspiration from Max Payne and John Woo, the game has more in common with Gears of War and, as a result, numerous other action titles lining the shelves of today.

The slow motion dive manoeuvre (made famous by John Woo) has been discarded and instead, Dead To Rights: Retribution has a focus on taking cover. The cover system is largely a reliable tactic, though occasionally you’ll come across a wall or other object that you’d think would make for capable protection, but that the stupid game won’t allow you to latch onto, making for some needlessly frustrating moments.

The all important shooting doesn’t feel as good as it should either. The guns lack any real impact and the enemy death animations aren’t stylish enough for a game that is offering the equivalent of a dumb action film.

The melee combat has its own problems. There’s a surprising amount of combos on offer for what is largely a shooter and, unless you’re looking for some variety, just bashing the buttons will see you through most of these melee encounters, with little need to use most of the combos on offer. You’re also able to counter, dodge enemy attacks and disarm enemies. Takedowns are also an option; these are brutal attacks, some of which bring a whole new meaning to overkill, though their impact is occasionally lessened because of dodgy animation.

Shadow is not man's best friend here.

The aspect that really sets Dead to Rights: Retribution apart from Gears of War and its ilk, though, is your canine partner, Shadow. He behaves pretty much like your average dog, rolling on his back, sniffing around, wagging his tail and not so much like your average dog, you’re able to use him as a weapon, of which if he’s successful, it will result in him viciously tearing people apart. Unfortunately Shadow’s AI is flawed, causing him to all too often run into a hail of gunfire, even when you don’t command him to, bad dog.

During the course of the game, there’s a fair number of sequences that you get to directly control Shadow to gain access to areas that are inaccessible to the burly Jack. In a contrast to Jack’s heavy reliance on loud guns, in a welcome change of pace from all that shooting mayhem, Shadow is instead focused on stealth. As Shadow you’re able to sneak around, make short pitched barks to distract enemies and even move bodies. For some unexplained reason, when he’s creeping about Shadow can also see through walls, allowing you to know of the presence of enemies and plan your route through the areas accordingly.

Dead to Rights: Retribution doesn’t really aspire to be anything but a run of the mill action game. Not a problem in itself and, just as long as it’s a competent game, gunning down hordes of enemies never fails to be enjoyable. The fact that nearly all facets have been executed to a better degree elsewhere, however, is hard to overlook, ultimately leaving it as an entertaining action romp that has rental written all over it.