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Dead to Rights: Retribution Review3
by Jeff Gerstmann on
Dead To Rights: Retribution has its moments, but its generic, last-generation feel makes it a tough purchase to justify at full price.
Dead To Rights: Retribution hits the same basic beats as past games in the series, but this isn't a direct sequel to the previous games in the line. As before, this game is all about the combat skills of Jack Slate of the Grant City Police Department and his dog, Shadow. The combination of melee attacks, third-person gunplay, and the occasional dog attack stand out a bit in today's world of pure, cover-based third-person shooters. But DTR is so rough around its edges that any sort of PS2-era nostalgia you might feel while playing it is nullified by awkward animation and very repetitive action.
As a reset of the Dead To Rights fiction, Jack Slate starts out without his dog at his side. At the outset, Shadow belongs to Frank Slate, Jack's father. But when the city's gangs start getting organized and start massing firepower that is way beyond their means, the already-burned-out Grant City turns into a huge war zone. Before long, that dog is under your control. The particulars of the story and its twists and turns aren't especially unique, but they stay out of the way enough to let you focus on the action. The game utilizes plenty of voice acting to keep things moving, both in and out of cutscenes. For the most part, the presentation is decent.
The bulk of the action in DTR is a cross between Gears-like cover mechanics and up-close punches and kicks. The shooting is mostly fine, with a pretty good variety of weapons that gives you new things to mess around with every couple of hours. But ammunition is frequently limited, leaving you to pick up guns off of your enemies (usually with a disarm move that lets you take someone's gun and shoot them with it) or rely on your fists to get the job done. The melee combat has a basic combo system, including grabs and a guard-crushing attack to get past defensive foes. The melee has its place, but since shots to the head end up being the fastest way to dispose of any obstacles you encounter, staying armed is a better move. Later on, you'll end up getting attacked by a few enemies at a time, making the melee attacks even riskier, though setting someone up for a takedown attack triggers a lengthy (and often lame-looking) kill sequence that gives you a bit of breathing room. Taking down enemies also fills a focus meter, which can be used as a bullet time effect. Unlike some other implementations of this system, you don't need a full meter to activate it, and you can turn it off at any time. Careful metering of your focus ability gives you the ability to effectively clear a room at will, provided you're a decent shot.
For those times when Slate's back is really up against the wall, you can call your dog into action with basic attack and defend commands. Shadow can topple and kill most foes, but occasionally he'll only be able to distract them, which still gives you plenty of room to finish the job yourself. There are also a few levels where you take direct control of Shadow. These are usually stealth sequences where the dog needs to get past a collection of patrolling enemies or kill them, hopefully without alerting the other guards. You can drag bodies out of the way to help maintain secrecy, but the animation for this looks awful. Shadow "drags" the ragdolled dead body around, but there's no actual connection between Shadow's mouth and the body. It's nice to have the stealth sequences around to break up the monotony of the game's regular combat, but the dog portions aren't especially exciting or difficult.
Perhaps the greatest issue with Dead To Rights: Retribution is that it feels like last generation's ideas and standards reanimated for a new set of consoles. Playing through this single-player-only game once is a decent time, but you'll probably find yourself bored before the game's conclusion, and there's no sort of cooperative mode or anything like that to help players find alternate ways to play. It looks and feels like a cleaned-up PlayStation 2 game. While that certainly gives it a weird sort of throwback charm, it's difficult to justify paying $59.99 for something so archaic.