Review by Evil Dave

Reviewed: 06/06/05

The mindless shooter, perfected.

Dead To Rights was a flashy shooter that came out for all three consoles in 2002. It delivered on some of its promises of ‘Super-Charged Hong Kong-style action’ and ‘Hours of brutal gun-blazing action,’ and ultimately it carved out enough of a niche following that it merited a sequel. Released in 2005, Dead To Rights 2: Hell To Pay’s story follows Jack Slate’s quest to kill lots of people, for mostly ambiguous reasons. Does this sequel do justice to the original? Read on:

Visuals:

Much like the first game, DTR2’s menus utilize a simple, to-the-point style. All your options are clearly presented, and everything has a clean, neat visual look. Pause menus are easy to navigate, and there is even a pause that allows you to review your goals for the given level, unnecessary as it may be. DTR2 keeps the original’s simple menu style, and ultimately this is a good thing.

There are several cutscenes in DTR2, and they are all pre-rendered; unfortunately, none of these look very impressive, save for the introductory video (which, incidentally, does not play any role in the story whatsoever). Chunky character models and bland textures are the norm, and after seeing the in-game visuals, you’ll come to understand why this is.

From a graphical standpoint, DTR2 could have well been an XBox launch title. Everything is low-polygon and low-resolution. Environments are repetitive and mundane, save for a small level of destructibility. Character models look blocky, and animate stiffly to boot. The enemies you will face are the same 20 or so models repeated ad nauseum, and since the whole point of the game is to mow through hundreds of them, you will grow tired of them in a hurry. Effects are done in a similarly unspectacular manner; everything looks good enough, but nowhere near great – although, in the game’s defense, it does Molotov Cocktail and grenade explosions well. In another visual leftover from the first game, the color palette is consistently darker than most games, although in DTR2 there are several outdoor environments. There are also plenty of graphical bugs, such as enemies clipping through corners and problems with pathing on AI-controlled characters. The frame rate, for the most part, does a good job of remaining constant.

While the original game’s average visuals could be construed as a sign of developmental focus elsewhere, it is clear in DTR2 that the visual aspects of the game were constructed to be purposefully middling.

Score: 4/10

Sound:

There are more than 20 weapons to play around with in DTR2, and they all sound how you would expect: overstated and cheesy. The sound effects are about as bland as the visuals, although there are no terribly egregious problems. Synching for the guns and explosions are solid.

The voice acting in DTR2 is significantly worse than that of its forerunner, which is very disappointing, due to the middling quality of the voiceovers in that game. Most of the speech you will hear comes in the form of profanity-saturated one-liners by Jack and the clone army he murders his way through, and none of it is any better than corny. Worse yet, you’ll hear every line from the enemies dozens of times, and Jack’s own lines hundreds of times! The little bits of voiceover work during the cutscenes are bland and, at times, ridiculous. Overall, the severe lack of quality voice work hurts the game’s credibility.

DTR2’s music is low-key and, luckily, merely average. It plays constantly in the background, never changing pitch or key along with the action. The tunes themselves are generic rock or techno, and are nothing if easily forgettable.

As with the visuals, DTR2’s audio features a significant drop off in quality from the previous game in the series. Where the previous game had been merely average, DTR2 is just plain bad.

Score: 4/10

Gameplay:

The original Dead To Rights was a fairly straightforward game to play. You were put in a level, given a weapon, and given a goal to accomplish, which was usually done by killing everyone that tried to stop you. This gameplay would occasionally be interrupted by a mini-game, which took the player out of Jack’s shoes. DTR2 abandons all of the diversionary mini-game from the original, instead focusing on the process of killing everything that moves. While this portion was the strength of the first game, it suffers without the breaks and sporadically interesting diversions that that game featured.

The controls, thankfully, are very good, and feel natural on the XBox controller. The left analog stick moves Jack through the game’s environments. You’ll enemies with the right trigger, and mash or hold down the A button to fire your weapon at your target. The right analog stick cycles through targets, and the D-pad allows you to cycle through your armaments. Pressing the X near an enemy causes Jack to grab that enemy, for use as a human shield. The Y button, pressed in conjunction with a direction on the left analog stick, has Jack do a dive in the chosen direction; if the button is held down for a second, rather than tapped, Jack’s dive will be in slow motion. Jack also has two special moves that he can use to murder bad guys with: pressing the white button will sic Jack’s dog, Shadow, on any targeted enemy, while the pressing the circle button near an enemy causes Jack to execute an excessively stylized slow-motion disarm. Both of these special moves will net Jack some ammo, as both the dog and the disarms give you the dead enemy’s weapon. The X and Y buttons also have Jack climb short obstacles, while the circle button interacts with switches and doors. For the curious hand-to-hand levels, A and X are your punch and kick, respectively, and Y blocks. The solid control scheme makes DTR2 an easy game to pick up and play.

DTR2’s guns are, really, the stars of the show. There’s plenty of variety in the weaponry you’ll use; pistols (wielded either one or two at a time), assault rifles, submachine guns, shotguns, and rocket launchers all make an appearance. Just like in the original, Jack does not keep any guns for which he has run out of bullets, so whenever he runs out of ammo, he will drop the empty weapon. Luckily, with the tons of enemies you’ll be dispatching, as well as the above mentioned special moves, ammo is not going to be scarce. The game governs the use of the special moves (the slow-mo dives, disarms, and somewhat oddly the use of Shadow) via an adrenaline meter, which recharges over time after it has been depleted.

As a whole, the gameplay is repetitive, but its over-the-top violence and straightforward design are appealing simply because of their echoes of previous generations of shooters – games where killing the bad guys was the only reason to play. Much like these older games, the pacing of the game is frantic, as you’ll constantly be charging ahead, blasting baddies at every turn. Without any mini-games, the only breaks in the action come in the frequent (and excruciatingly long) load times, as well as some hand-to-hand combat levels. These levels are poorly implemented, as Jack will go from a level of shooting straight into one where he can’t use any guns. The melee combat is terrible compared to the shooting, as even the addition of melee weapons to the game can’t make the button presses interesting. Thankfully, these levels are few and far between. The whole game is rather short, although on the default difficulty it can be challenging at times.

Enemy AI is run-of-the-mill. Most bad guys are content just standing in one spot, blasting away at Jack. If Jack stays in one spot, your foes will toss grenades and Molotovs your way, which is good at keeping you moving most of the time. Still, if you should so desire, you can hide behind a corner, taking potshots and using your dog to kill everyone, while the enemies simply stand there and allow themselves to die.

Boss fights in DTR2 are bland and unmemorable. Bosses are essentially regular enemies with lots more health, as well as the annoying ability to make themselves invincible for intermittent periods of time. Disappointing is a word that comes to mind when describing these, as the first game had several enjoyable and original fights.

For a shooter, DTR2 doesn’t do much in the way of extras to make it stand out from the pack, and that ultimately is what makes it stand out. This game is a throwback to a time when videogames were simple, mindless tests of reflexes, and that fact will definitely define its appeal to the game market.

Score: 6/10

Story:

DTR2’s story exists simply because there needs to be a story in videogames nowadays. There are several cutscenes that attempt to portray what happens during the course of the tale, but everything is so terribly unoriginal and poorly produced that you will be hard-pressed to remember any of it within five minutes of seeing it. Fortunately for this game, it doesn’t need an outstanding story to be worth playing, because it really isn’t about anything but raw gameplay.

To be quite honest, the story in DTR2 is terrible. It offers no incentive to continue the game. Luckily for Namco, though, there are probably only a handful of people around the world who will even give the story a second thought.

Score: 2/10

Features/Modes:

There are two unlockable difficulty settings in DTR2, which open up when the level of difficulty below them is completed. There is also an ‘instant action’ mode, which tasks you with killing everything that moves while keeping yourself alive – and no, this is not the same as the story mode, similar as it may sound. Completing both the story mode and the instant action mode on every difficulty will unlock an assortment of useable weapons, as well as several cheats, but that’s all there is to find.

While DTR2 lacks in extras, its simple, retro gameplay is likely all the incentive that anyone who is interested in the game will need to play it through multiple times. Everyone else, sadly, will be left out in the dark.

Score: 3/10

Total Score:

The first Dead To Rights was an unabashedly ambitious game. With its stylish presentation and visceral gameplay, it became a sleeper hit. DTR2, in essence, strips most of the trappings away from the original, supplying a short, extremely violent game that will either leave you satisfied with the experience or wishing you had that part of your life back.

DTR2 will make an enjoyable rental to anyone who is a fan of early arcade shooters, or anyone who just wants a quick, bloody, explode-y romp through a moral vacuum. Otherwise, there are plenty of better ways to spend your time.

Score: 5/10 (not an average)

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Rating: 5

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