Review by NJAgent020

Reviewed: 10/06/05

More of the same

If you liked the original Dead to Rights, pick this title up and give it a try. If you didn't like te original: better graphics, elimination of the silly mini-games, and better balance, and a less confusing (but still generic) plot probably won't sway your opinion of this type of game.

D2R2 is a totally old school action game which combines amazing Max Payne shoot-outs with some Streets of Rage style beat-em-up stages. The visceral thrill of running into an alley and using a "bullet-time" slow-mo dive whilst locking on to your enemies and shooting them dead is something that thrills the hell out of me every time, which is why I find this game to be such a blast to play.

Your protagonist is Jack Slate, a tough-guy no-nonsense noirish anti-hero cop trying to avenge a kidnapping of a family friend and local judge. Actually the generic plot is just an excuse to get you to enter a room chock full of bad guys, and using any one of over a dozen guns to mow them down. You have choices of .45 or .50 caliber pistols, different types of shotguns, machine pistols (Uzi type) and Assault rifles as well as explosives like grenades. Health packs and tactical armor are sprinkled throughout the levels too.

To assist you in your run and gun levels is an adrenaline meter which recharges as you dispatch bad guys (or you can duck and hide to wait for it to regenerate). By pressing the triangle button, you perform a Max Payne style "shoot-dodge" move which puts you in a slow-motion dive where you can take aim and carefully even the odds. Or by hitting the L2 button you can sic your killer dog, Shadow, on any targeted enemy. Not only will he kill the enemy, but he will retrieve his weapon (handy should you run out of ammo). Also at your disposal is the human shield mechanic. By facing an enemy and tapping the square button, you can steal your opponent's weapon and use him as a human shield so any enemies in front of you will hit him while you stay safe. One of the really cool things in this game are the many brutal "disarm" moves at your disposal. By running to an enemy and tapping the "disarm" button Jack will perform one of twenty or so brutal wrestling style moves and steal an opponents weapon while savagely breaking his neck, arms, legs, etc. The satisfying "snap" of a disarm is one of the few sound effects done right in this game.

Individually these gameplay elements are excellent, but when you combine a slow-mo dive through a plate glass window, landing into a disarm move, taking a human shield and sic-ing your dog on a nearby enemy and shooting the rest from behind the safety of said shield, you have reached a plane of John Woo-style Nirvanna you can't get elsewhere.

Interspersed throughout these awesome gunfights are brief levels where you must resort to fisticuffs. There is no explanation given as to why one minute you are shooting your enemies into swiss cheese then all of a sudden lose your guns and have to slug it out Double Dragon style only to regain all of your weapons back on the next level, but there you have it. These hand-to-hand sequences are usually button mashing affairs of unleashing simple punch-punch-kick combos until one of your foes drops a weapon. Things like knives, baseball bats and glass bottles are used against you, but well-timed punches and kicks can get you through until you steal one of their weapons.

There are Boss fights on both types of levels, but they are really just beefed up enemies that require better timing, and have a much longer life span. These fights usually last a few minutes by themselves but aren't incredibly awe-inspiring..or difficult. Speaking of difficult there are three basic difficulty settings, easy normal and hard. There are multiple save points through-out each stage which keeps the frustration factor to a minimum regardless of which difficulty setting you choose (Thank you Namco).

Other than the story mode, there is an "Instant Action" mode which basically forgoes the generic plot, and puts you in a room of never-ending foes to see how long you can last and also serves as a great training tool to practice use of the different disarms, duck and cover techniques, when to use Shadow, etc. All in all the story mode can be beaten in about 8 hours or so. When you facor in the minimal entertainment from the "Instant Action" mode this games figures better as a rental...unless you are like me and shooting countless bad guys non-stop is something you can do over and over again. $50.00 is WAY TOO much for this game but if you can get it used on eBay or if it is in a bargain bin near you...pick it up because there is a lot of fun to be had here.

The graphics are markedly better than the original D2R game...which puts them squarely at average. The backgrounds are sometimes too dark so if your playing the game in a room with a lot of light, you can't make out the all details of the enviroments. In D2R2, the enviroments are more interactive with lots more background stuff to blow-up, take cover behind, hop over or jump through. Throughout my playing of the game I have not noticed any real "slow-down" to speak of. Despite having a dozen enemies on the screen, bombs bursting and bullets flying, the game runs consistenlty smooth throughout.

The sound is by far the weakest link in this game. The background music for each level consists of bad techno-dance beats that are really just short loops replayed over and over again. This is only noticeable however, in the brief periods between shootouts or fighting battles. Once the action starts, you don't notice or just can't hear the music. Whereas games like Medal of Honor or Resident Evil 4 use music to set the mood and increase tension, this game doesn't. The sound effects of the weapons are unfortunately equally bad. They are muted and muffled to the point where you can't tell the difference between firing a .45 or .50 caliber pistol, and you can't tell the difference between the different shotguns, or between the assault rifles and uzis. There is basically a generic bullet sound that is repeated. There is no sense of: "This is a .357 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world...." when you or your enemies open fire.
As for the voice acting, while Jack Slate is done well in terms of having the appropriate tones and he delivers his lines with feeling, the script it self is poor. And the enemies repeat the same vulgar phrases over and over through-out a given level. The sound is really budget title, bare bones type stuff.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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