In the tradition of Max Payne and Syphon Filter comes Dead to Rights, a story-driven third-person shooter divided into chapters rather than levels. Playing the role of Jack Slate, a man wrongly accused of murder, players will advance through a variety of gritty urban locales on a bloody path to discover those who framed him. A number of hostile people will try to prevent this from happening, so Slate will need to dole out punishment using a combination of fisticuffs and cold, hard steel.
Dead to Rights borrows a number of concepts popularized by Hong Kong cinema. Players can fire two guns at once, independently of one another, as well as perform slow-motion dives to avoid bullets and attack at the same time (similar to the ShootDodge feature in Max Payne). In addition, players can overtake enemies and use their bodies as shields, back up against walls, pivot, and return fire, as well as snap the necks of unsuspecting foes to steal their weapons.
While the action is played from a third-person perspective, Slate can switch to a first-person viewpoint at any time to target specific areas, such as headshots or other vulnerable body parts. Enemies react differently depending on where they are hit, so a shot in the leg may not be enough to stop them from attacking. As players progress through the game, they will engage in a number of boss fights to test their skills using Slate's assortment of moves and weapons.
It was only a matter of time before Jack Slate of Dead To Rights brought his violent brand of justice to a computer monitor near you. The original Xbox title was a polished homage to the melodramatic, blood-drenched action films of Hong Kong, complete with overwhelming odds, brutal finishing moves, and .45s wielded akimbo. And that's exactly what you get here, with much the same quality graphics as seen on the Xbox.
Dead to Rights is all about violence as poetry and brutality as choreography. The somewhat hackneyed storyline of a renegade cop avenging the death of his father is nevertheless proficiently delivered with great voice acting and an eye for the common themes of Hong Kong action cinema. The motion capture bears to be mentioned too, as it's very smooth and lifelike. From a stripper's dance to a slow-motion dive, the characters move and react very realistically.
Of course, it wouldn't be a good homage without gun battles, which abound in Dead To Rights. The game is presented in a third-person perspective with mechanics common to many console action titles. One mouse button locks your guns onto an opponent and the other lets you blast away. The space bar allows you to dive in the direction you're moving, and keeping it depressed puts everything into slow motion, allowing you some time to take a good look at the chaos that's exploding around you. The controls are fully mappable, so first-person shooter fans should be able to get Slate moving the way they want to with little difficulty.
While Slate has a full complement of pistols, rifles, machine guns, and grenade launchers usually scavenged from defeated enemies, some of his most deadly moves are available when you have no weapons. Pressing the action button while unarmed against an armed foe allows Jack to disarm his opponent. There are many to choose from, depending on the combination of buttons you press for the move, and each shows Jack doing bone-cracking martial arts moves to disarm his enemy and blow their brains and/or guts out with their own weapon. Last but not least, Slate has a K-9 companion that can instantly take out an opponent at regular intervals.
True to its cinematic inspirations, the levels in Dead To Rights are varied and well-constructed. Dance clubs, prisons, Chinatown streets, and many other settings have been built with a realism that plays counterpoint to the ridiculously over-the-top combat. Each has a distinct flavor, and tactics can change depending on the setting. There's little cover to be had in the middle of a dance floor, but in the streets, Jack can crouch down behind cars and walls to escape the barrage of bullets from his enemies. Every setting is unique and entertaining, with no numbing, repetitious architecture seen in some other titles.
In addition to a multitude of firefights, Dead To Rights regularly changes the pace of the story with mini-games, almost all of which deal with hand-eye coordination. When you pick a lock, the camera will change perspective to inside the lock, where rotating tumblers must be triggered when they enter a certain "sweet spot." In another part of the game, you'll take control of a strip dancer to distract guards. More mini-games will have you lifting weights, punching a punching bag, and arm wrestling to progress in the game.
Dead To Rights is a fun action game, but at its heart, it still feels like a year-old console title. There's no multiplayer, and the action is frequently interrupted by multiple load times. However, if you've finished Max Payne 2 and need a few more rounds of exciting third-person action, chances are you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
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Dead Man's Hand, D.I.R.T.: Origin of the Species, Freedom Fighters, Deadly Dozen: Pacific Theater, Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza, Evil Dead: Regeneration, Call of Juarez, Deadly Dozen
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