Review by Sweet Soul Brother

Reviewed: 12/07/05

It's really time for the Grant City PD to look into adopting a steroid policy

You remember Jack Slate, don’t you? In the first Dead to Rights game, he was a renegade cop investigating his father’s murder, which amounted to kicking ass and taking names (but mostly kicking ass). Along the way, he had run-ins with corrupt cops, escaped cons, mayoral candidates, twin assassins, and his stripper girlfriend. The game featured intense action sequences punctuated by mini-games like picking locks and diffusing bombs. It received mixed reviews, many claiming the game was simply too hard, that its camera and controls needed work, that the story was trite and poorly written, or that the overall production values resembled something that belonged on the Dreamcast. However, it was popular and ambitious enough to have a second game developed.

Dead to Rights II takes place sometime before the events of the first game, which basically means that since Jack Slate killed everyone that there was to kill in the last game, the game’s developers decided it best to go back in time in order to get a fresh body count. When a judge and family friend gets kidnapped, Jack springs into action, killing everyone in his path.

This Jack Slate is not the guy I remember. He has now become an evil-looking, foul-mouthed steroid abuser with an overbite and a neck the size of my thigh (compare that with the old character model). The man has the dimensions and depth of a cardboard cutout. Basically, Jack’s character consists of nothing more than moving from point A to point B, killing or sadistically torturing every action movie villain stereotype you’ve ever seen. When the game finally attempts to flesh his character out (almost at the end of the game), it’s hackneyed and poorly executed.

The basic story works like this: Jack confronts [insert villain type] who tells him that the group behind the kidnapping was really [insert criminal outfit], which, after killing most of them, will have one of their thugs tell Jack it was yet another criminal organization. These cutscenes are short and unimpressive, only giving the necessary exposition and maybe some line that only Jack finds funny (even when he’s stealing lines from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dave Chappelle, among others). I honestly can’t believe that not one, but three guys wrote this rubbish.

Graphics/Presentation

While it no longer looks like a Dreamcast title, it still doesn’t look like an Xbox title. Jack’s character model, aside from my earlier comments, has more detail (or at least looks better when compared to the other character models), but the overall game looks blurry and bland. The environments are boring and repetitive (even if you’re only playing the game through once). Explosions aren't exactly awe-inspiring either. Finally, disarms are no longer the slow-motion extravaganza they once were, and that’s a bad thing.

Music/Sound

Guess we have ourselves an M rated game, don’t we? By the time you’re finished with the game (if you so choose to unlock everything), you will have heard more cursing in this game than in a Tarantino movie…watched several times. It seems like every thug has something profane to say before he tries to kill you. Even Jack can’t help himself to an f-bomb or two while you’re playing. The problem with this is that A) it gets annoying quickly, especially since it’s the same lines over and over, and B) it’s a transparent attempt to make the game edgy or cool. What’s strange is that these audio clips, Jack’s quips in particular, are of especially low quality and barely audible over the music.

Speaking of music, Dead to Rights II has two types of music: the annoying kind and the indifferent kind. Luckily, the over the top sound effects for the guns and explosions significantly offset and divert your ears away from the lackluster score. However, in those few gunshot-less moments, the rock and techno music will drive you further from the game.

Gameplay/Control

Let me start by saying that I’m not one of the people who found the first game insanely difficult. To the contrary, once I figured out the hand-to-hand fighting (arguably the most frustrating part), I found the game to be easy to plough through (even the prison level). That said, I was disappointed with the changes in Dead to Rights II which made the game, for me at least, more frustrating.

The human shield dynamic has been marginalized. It now saps adrenaline and you’re not able to hold your hostage for an infinite amount of time (assuming of course he’s not killed). Weapons (especially pistols) aren’t as accurate and enemies are able to take a ridiculous amount of hits before dying.

Shadow, your K-9 companion, was supposed to have more abilities in this game, but actually has less. You no longer control him to open passages or find bombs. He too is tied to the adrenaline meter – so while you can use him to attack and disarm enemies more than you could before, he may not be as effective depending on how much you have left in the adrenaline tank.

Basically, the game places emphasis on shoot-dodging (since while time is slowed, you can do a lot more damage), whether you want to or not, making it even more like Max Payne than it was before. Thankfully, unlike the first game, you’re able to target enemies from all directions while in the air, especially when falling off a ledge. These are the moments when Dead to Rights II controls and plays best. However, just one of these grand shooting symphonies will sap your adrenaline dry, and the best way to get it back brings those famous disarms into the picture.

Disarms replenish your adrenaline completely, but as I mentioned earlier, they aren’t show-stopping and aren't at all that satisfying to perform. Now, they're just another part of the game, and because you’re forced to use them at every turn, I found them tedious and – I can’t believe I’m saying this – boring.

So the gameplay boils down to this: dive, kill, and disarm. It becomes repetitive quickly and without the mini-games to offset the main game, I found completing the game to be a suffocating chore (even though it only takes about three hours to finish).

Replay/Lasting Value

Beating the main game and the “Instant Action Mode” (survival mode) on different difficulties will net you art galleries, new weapons to start each stage with as well as health, ammunition, and adrenaline upgrades. However, you’re only able to select one gun, one character upgrade (from the three I listed), and one explosive device before beginning a new game. Moreover, beating the game on normal, for example, won’t give you the unlockables for beating the game on easy, forcing you to play through the game once more than you should.

Score: 3

Even if you weren’t being fleeced and this was a budget game (like it should be), it’s very difficult to recommend. It’s mindless, cheap, and thinks it’s cool; we’re talking Rockstar’s State of Emergency territory here. Granted, the original Dead to Rights had its problems, but it was never quite the lost cause this game turned out to be. Almost everything about Dead to Rights II feels unpolished and ill-conceived, while managing to make the core game worse.

Rating: 3

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