It was back in 2002, Max Payne was all the rage and shooting up bad guys in slow motion as cool as it got. Dead to Rights was a shameless copy of Remedy's masterpiece, but not without it's moments and merits. The main character Jack Slate controlled a dog, which added a bit of variation to the gameplay and it had over-the-top executions that resulted in delays and a censored European version.
Eight years later, Namco Bandai have decided to bring back the series with Dead to Rights: Retribution. The original game has actually had to sequels, one direct sequel and Dead to Rights: Reckoning on PSP. With each new game Namco switched developers and this tradition continues as Volatile Game are in charge of Retribution.
In terms of gameplay a lot has happened since the first (and only good) game in the series. Bullet time isn't all the rage any more, and it has been replaced with a cover system (ß la Gears of War and Uncharted). I also notice traces of Batman: Arkham Asylum, especially when it comes to the hand to hand combat.
We return to Grant City once again. It's a fictive city reminiscent of New York at its most violent and then some, simply put it's hell of Earth. The biggest problem is a bunch of terrorist, who call themselves Union. Their spectacular acts of terror have paralysed the law enforcement and as Jack Slate it is your job to make sure the city survives. He takes matters into his own hands, as any self respecting hard-boiled cop would, no matter what his superiors might say.
The previous games in the series were rather colourful despite the very violent nature of the game. Retribution on the other hand is dark and grey. And the rain keeps falling from the sky. But even with Volatile Games making their best effort to portray Jack as the hardest cop to grace this planet, and Grant City as the most horrible place on you can image, it fails to immerse in any way. The script is paper thin, and the dialogue is so bad it will make you laugh.
The plot holes are mile wide and it's filled with silly things like the ability Jack's dog has that allows him to see enemies behind cover, sort of like Sam Fisher's heat sensing goggles from Splinter Cell: Conviction. To top it off the gameplay mechanics are far from optimised and I continuously encountered enemies from all directions even when I knew I had emptied a particular area of bad guys. It's hard to Dead to Rights: Retribution seriously. I find it lacking both in terms of technology and design. The character models look blocky, the lighting is primitive and the animations are poor.
Bitch, bitch, bitch. But with that out of the way I have to stick up for a game that isn't poor. It is actually rather enjoyable. Too many games these days aim for some kind of realism, and that can't be said of Volatile Games' effort. It's an action game that reminds me of the one man armies of the 80's. Jack kills enemies by the dozen, shoots perfect headshots from a hundred yards with a handgun, and fights off hordes of well armed terrorists with his bare hands and performs stunts that would make Spider-Man think twice.
In addition, Jack is always ready to deliver a harsh oneline to his downed adversaries and the pace is always breakneck. It's one of those games where you can completely shut off your brain and just enjoy the action that unfolds on screens. There is never a shortage of guns, the difficulty is comfortably balanced, and that little kid in me still kind of idolises a character like Jack Slate.
The controls aren't polished enough for this to receive a higher scores and the levels in which you control the dog Shadow are just horrible filler material. There are a lot of games with more finesse, but Dead to Rights: Retribution delivers on the promise of straight forward and fairly brain dead action. It plays like a movie starring Chuck Norris, and all things considered that's not too bad.