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Dead to Rights
Publisher: Namco Hometek, Inc.
Developer: Namco Hometek, Inc.
Style(s): Third-Person 3D Shooter
Synopsis: 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. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
Package Contents: Registration Card
One of the more attractive manuals for an Xbox game, the documentation is filled with colorful screen shots and clearly explains the different moves Slate can use on enemies. There are no character bios or chapter synopses, however. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
Some of the characters come across as blocky, and the texture work could be better on the Xbox. The animation is generally excellent, however, and many of the environments are memorable. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
Dead to Rights is by far the most challenging game yet released on the Xbox, a system steadily building a lineup of thumb-blistering titles sure to earn two calloused thumbs up from hardcore gamers looking to test their mettle. Dead to Rights is also one of the few tough-as-nails games with the power to keep drawing you back to it, long after you've screamed enough words at the television screen to make a sailor blush. The secret to its success can be summed up in one word: variety. A wonderful variety of moves, missions, locales, and weapons makes you want to succeed, like the game's protagonist Slate, against the overwhelming odds. Dead to Rights can best be described as a more action-packed Max Payne with some Syphon Filter thrown in for good measure. While there is the slow motion "bullet-time" effect popularized by The Matrix, it's specifically mapped to the dive button and is only one of several techniques available to players to help them get out of a pinch. And in this game, players are constantly in a pinch. Groups of enemies ruthlessly pour in from prison cells, hotels, rain-soaked streets, and more as players constantly make split-second decisions that could either spell disaster or give them a little more breathing room before confronting the next obstacle. Since the enemies are numerous and all have apparently graduated with honors from a marksman's academy, players will soon realize that running and gunning isn't the way to approach the majority of levels. Yet there isn't any stealth required in this game, either, so it's all about trying to minimize the amount of bullets peppering your hide. This can be accomplished is many enjoyable ways. Players can crouch while walking forward to increase the likelihood bullets will whiz by without hitting them, lean their backs against walls while periodically pressing a button to quickly pivot from behind cover, or dive in slow motion to mow down a group of thugs or to just escape a dangerous spot. Body armor increases the number of hits Slate can absorb, but players can cheat in this area by performing one of the coolest maneuvers thus far in a third-person shooter: grabbing an enemy in a chokehold and using his body as a temporary shield -- all while firing a gun with the free hand at anyone who dares come forward. You can also execute your hostage by placing the barrel of your gun to his or her temple and squeezing the trigger, but that's generally for show or a quick thrill. Ammo is too precious and can dwindle rapidly when facing 30-plus enemies at any given time, but there are also disarm moves Slate can learn to quickly put a weapon in his hand in one fluid, cinematic motion. If that weren't enough, Slate can call upon his faithful dog on certain levels to perform an attack -- simply target an enemy in range and press a button. Shadow will then leap at the enemy's throat in a cut-scene and then carry the weapon back to Slate. Man's best friend, indeed. Another useful feature, given the amount of enemies on the screen, is finding a fire extinguisher or similar incendiary device to toss. A quick shot at the device will cause it to explode, taking out multiple targets in one hit. Even with all these moves at Slate's disposal, the game is still extremely difficult, which means players will have to vary their techniques constantly in order to stay alive. If it weren't for the automatic targeting feature, Dead to Rights would be DOA with its sloppy camera work. The most complex requirement for an action title is to keep things in focus at all times, especially when there are groups of enemies firing from all sides. The auto targeting system helps, since Slate must always be on the move, whether it's ducking behind cars on his way to crossing a dimly lit street or leaping to a nearby weapon. So the camera is less of an issue than it could have been, since there's always a target to focus on even when players can't see the enemy face to face. Yet the targeting system itself could have benefited from further tweaking, as players have to manually squeeze the right trigger (or use the awkward right thumbstick) to switch to the next target. This system not only provides wear and tear on the fingers, but it doesn't always highlight the most dangerous of foes -- the ones right behind you armed with AK-47s. As a result, you'll kill an enemy perched atop a building in the distance but miss the one breathing down your back. A priority system would have been a perfect solution and could have minimized much of the frustration associated with cheap deaths from unseen enemies. While these negatives would normally be enough to shelve a game, Dead to Rights has an uncanny ability to prolong its stay of execution by giving players incentives to keep going. Yes, the stages are extremely difficult and the action somewhat frustrating, but the developers wisely broke up each chapter into several short sequences, each spanning approximately two to five minutes apiece in game time. These won't <I>seem</I> like five minutes apiece -- some areas are so challenging it could be hours before you figure out how best to defeat a particular group of enemies, but once you become adept at the moves and basic strategy involved in completing a stage, you'll be surprised at how quickly it plays. There is also just the right number of health packs placed in the levels to keep Slate living long enough to complete them. Dead to Rights also features an interesting mix of mini-games to help break up some of the action. Some are absolute duds (the initial game of make-the-stripper-dance-to-distract-the-enemies is laughably bad), but some show ingenuity. Instead of solely being tests of reflexes, most of the sequences involve a sense of rhythm. The games in the prison stage, for example, offer more logical controls than many of the events featured in standalone Olympic titles, and include weight lifting, punching the speed bag, and arm wrestling. Others involve picking combination locks or defusing bombs, games which are usually placed at the end of tough sequence -- fail to defuse the bomb or pick the lock on your first attempt and get ready to play the sequence again with a permanent scowl on your face. Again, these issues can be irritating, especially since the game only saves after each completed area, but the variety of levels keeps you glued to the screen if only to see what happens to Slate next. Some stages are pure gunfights, others careful sniper attacks, while some, like the prison level, involve hand-to-hand combat. Combat is smooth and responsive, with players having the ability to dodge attacks and throw their opponents, but it generally involves rapidly tapping on one of two buttons. Spread this out to over 50 enemies in a given area and the action can become rather tedious. The throw also works too well, which makes boss encounters relatively easy -- simply tap on the B button and Slate will either break a potential hold by an enemy or instantly grab and throw him down. This technique can be repeated until the boss is dead. Dead to Rights is certainly not everyone's cup of tea. As in Enclave and Hunter: The Reckoning before it, players should expect to revisit levels ten or more times before completing them, and there's almost no sense of relief from that point forward. By the time you complete Chapter Four, you will be so drained mentally and physically that you won't think it's possible there's much more to the game. Yet there is -- 11 more chapters worth -- and the action only gets more intense. At it best, the game makes you feel like the star of a gritty, action-packed movie with a mature storyline. At its worst, it is a frustrating experience with a high degree of difficulty, suspect camera, and a less than optimal targeting scheme. Few titles, however, make you earn your stripes as a gamer like this one. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
Each level can be approached in a number of different ways, thanks to the variety of moves Slate has, but there's no two-player mode. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The weapons are spot-on, the music is suitably moody, and the voice actor for Slate is near perfect. Yet many of the bosses sound goofy, especially one who tries to impersonate actor Christopher Walken. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
While targeting and the camera could use improvement, and Slate is in desperate need of a roll move and perhaps a jump, those tired of slinking around levels and taking out a few enemies can now unleash hell on countless thugs and mobsters. It's cathartic and frustrating at the same time. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
the game requires Joystick/Gamepad.