Game Over Online ~ Dead to Rights

GameOver Game Reviews - Dead to Rights (c) Namco, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Dead to Rights (c) Namco
System Requirements Xbox
Overall Rating 80%
Date Published Wednesday, October 9th, 2002 at 05:53 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Dead to Rights sets itself up as a cop-turned-bad story and via extension, also sets itself up to comparisons with one of the most riveting (and under-appreciated) titles last year: Max Payne. Rights tracks the story of Jack Slate who experiences a familial loss, that of his father, to a random act of crime. Slate is then caught up in a whirlwind story which will take him towards the route of vigilante justice. It's got involving action and plenty of style. Slate not only does slow-motion 'shootdodges' but is a competent martial arts man, able to spring action fighter moves on his foes when disarmed. Cinematic like Shenmue, Rights includes a host of mini-games to introduce variety, including some pretty innovative ones and a K9 sidekick. Unfortunately, Rights stumbles by giving us too much of what we don't want and too little of what does work.

There's no denying that Rights has good technical qualities. All of the graphics and sound feel on par with the best of the Xbox crop. The first few missions have you going through a prison. Actually, you're escaping it and naturally, the designers decided to disarm you so you can try out your new martial arts moves. They're satisfying all the same but some elements of Rights go on for too long. The never-ending prison cells are testament to that complaint. Yes, it's very satisfying to break the necks of your foes and even have your dog go at it too, but there's a limit to how much fighting one person will want to handle.

The run and gun sequences for Rights are truly its best quality. It's unfortunate that the developers didn't think so, despite working in a competent targeting system. Ammunition and weapons are scarce, unless you take them off your foes. Most of the 'boss' characters you face do hand to hand (yes, whatever happened to Harrison Ford's approach vis--vis Raiders of the Lost Ark?) but the game tends to favor throwing goons who will come to the party packing and packing heavy. This challenges you to use innovative tactics, like grabbing an opponent as a human shield to fend off the enormous numbers you face. Rights is also filled with a running gag of disarm techniques. Gag might not be a good word because a lot of the disarming techniques are visceral. Basically, when you're up close and weaponless against an opponent, you can do one of several movie style actions where you reverse the situation with fancy reflexes, take their gun and shoot them. You keep the gun afterwards too to add to your ammo pool. It's an interesting gimmick to force you to do stupid things (like get real close to someone instead of shooting them far away) and it works similar to collecting special moves in fighter games or spells in RPGs. This and the slow-motion sequences prove Rights has ample cinematic flare, inspired or directly pilfered from Asian action movies.

Keeping with the movie feel, Slate is able to dish out witty and sardonic one-liners and some of Rights' action gimmicks are worked into the game in an ever-sly manner. When Slate needs a diversion, you play a little Dance Dance Revolution to get a stripper to do all the right moves. That's an instance where the mini-game gamble paid off. It was a short temporary pause from the action and the premise of the game worked in seamlessly with the content. There are other portions of Rights where this isn't so and then the mini-games turn into something like Shenmue--just a game within a game.

By now, I'm sure you've detected how Rights can at once be brilliant but at the same time falter on the next step. It's inconsistent and my guess is, someone wanted to push this game into the 15-20 hour range rather than settle for a short but engrossing 8-10 hours. This means a lot of filler action pieces are put in to make Slate's life difficult. But it proves to be doubly difficult because Rights is one of those games where every battle is a pre-set conflict. It plays out scripted so that in between two closely put together save points (thankfully there are enough), you're in for a bout of intense action in which you have to perform choreographed stunts and manoeuvres or risk suffering too much damage to carry on to the next part. Some argue this type of difficult is not 'real' difficulty, just hordes of enemies and fancy reflexes a la Dragon's Lair. The difficulty, however, will escalate exponentially as you get into the latter parts of the game. Be prepared to spend hours trying to pass whole segments.

In the end, Rights has a lot more going for it. You've got fist fighting, you've got control of a K9 sidekick, the usual assortment of guns and the mini-games thrown in to give it a one-up, feature for feature, over that other bad cop's revenge title. By virtue of all these additions, I'm thinking the developers thought this would make their piece of work more accessible to a larger audience; people who would normally not touch a gun-blazing game. However, the escalated difficulty of mixing all these together (now instead of one or two game types, you have half a dozen) and inconsistency in pacing the sequences ironically makes the holistic package less accessible. Ultimately, Rights earns the 'right' to call itself a good game but whether it can catapult itself to the pantheon of greatness is more of a debate.


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