Cue the murky, dark and moody Grant City, a place overrun by gangs, corruption and the criminal underbelly. Cue one good vice cop, Jack Slate and his sidekick canine friend ‘Shadow’ the cross breed dog/wolf/husky… killer. Things don’t start out too good as it seems terrorists have taken over a prestigious building in the city and are holding innocents hostage. Once the bodies begin to drop 50 stories, only one man and his dog have the balls to get the party started and tread where no other cop will dare. Grant City no longer belongs to the authorities, and so it’s time for Jack to take it back, but in doing so, he discovers a plot that turns his life upside down and fills him with bloody vengeance – a means to answers, and a means to kill or be killed. This is Dead to Rights: Retribution.
Without spoiling the game’s plot for you, Dead to Rights: Retribution (DTRR) offers a third person action game, but unlike its contempories not only provides neat gun-play but also some visceral hand to hand combat. Looking at the gun-play and you’ve got the usual fare on offer, duck behind destructible cover, pop out and shoot and fine aim by zooming in. It’s stuff that’s paramount to success in pretty much every shooter for the last few years. However, DTRR throws some extras into the mix by incorporating the hand to hand moves. What’s neat is being able to throw a few punches at an opponent and then with a tap of the A button, disarm him and then immediately open fire. What’s also pretty cool is during the disarm animation, Jack auto targets the opponent’s head, so time it correctly and you’ve got a gratifying headshot on your hands. The fun and games don’t end there either, because not all enemies are easy pickings, and on occasion you might want to reserve the gun you just grabbed for more volatile adversaries. There are a wide selection of weapons ranging from powerful sniper rifles, to assault rifles, pistols, rocket launchers and shotguns. There’s enough variety to keep things interesting, and when you toss in a few grenade types, you then have an arsenal worthy of the game’s title. The gun-play on its own is very smooth, and when you perform things like headshots consistently, you’ll build up a focus meter which can then be used (by tapping LB) to slow down time and unleash even more punishment. It’s hardly an original concept, but when things get on top does offer a get out of trouble option.
Now onto the hand to hand, because this is a different kettle of fish, it’s not always going to be easy to shoot opponents, especially if rushed by a group, so a seamless blending into hand to hand combat is necessary, and DTRR handles this with ease. You’ve got a strong and fast attack and then combos to dish out, but on top of this there’s a handy grab manoeuvre which allows you to throw enemies or better yet use them as a human shield. What’s clever about this is the way Jack and hostage move. Rather than a slow paced fumble, Jack can move pretty swiftly, and what’s more his height offers perfect scope for performing rather cool looking headshots. Enemies will tend to regroup when you grab a hostage, but doesn’t turn them into wimps, as they will find other means of attack such as with fists instead of guns – who says camaraderie is dead. The game really does present some dynamic play as the enemies and jack utilize the feature of guns and fists on the fly. There are a number of combos Jack can use, although don’t be expecting fighting game numbers (around 18). At one point during the early part of the game, you’re able to practice these in a boxing ring with Jack’s father and really get to grips with side stepping, counter attacks, grabs and of course those lovely combination moves.
In the field, once Jack has dished out a certain amount of damage to an opponent, he is then able to perform a take down move. Now these are brutal and dependant on what weapon Jack has equipped, so expect to see a fair number of variants. The game slows down and showcases the brutality up close and personal which is spectacular to watch – it does make you wonder what kind of vice cop Jack is, but as they say, ‘by any means necessary’ and it appears Jack follows this to the letter.
There are 10 missions in the game which take place in various locales across Grant City. However, it’s not all gun-play and fisticuffs because Shadow has his own sections too, and as you progress the story, the two of you can team up and fight together. Using the d-pad you can command Shadow to pick up dropped guns, defend you, or stay put in a particular spot. However, the most useful tool is sending him to take down the enemies who think they are safe tucked behind cover. Shadow also becomes useful in the same vein when you get mobbed and need a bit of breathing space, especially versus enemies who are more adapt at hand to hand fighting and will favour rushing up to you.
The Shadow specific sections where you actually control him take on a different angle for the game. As you can expect, hand to hand and shooting fly out the window in favor of some stealth based play. His missions usually involve fetching an item from an enemy which requires sneaking past guards. However, you’re able to perform attack moves, and brutal silent kills which slows the pace down and feels more like a traditional stealth game. You can lure enemies with a bark and by holding down the ‘stalk’ trigger can sense enemies through walls. You get an almost X-Ray type visual display here and it works well. It does make a welcome change of pace from Jack’s combative gameplay, but the moment you’re tasked with urinating on electrical boxes becomes comical more than anything. The game does have some pure cheesy moments which are not going to be spoiled here, but come on, a dog urinating on electrical devices – whoever thought of that needs to be shot, it’s not big and certainly not clever.
The game does look very polished using the BlitzTech game engine as there are some dark and moody locales and neat character designs. You’ll fight with somewhat clunky animations in dimly lit wet streets to drab interiors that are run down and indicative of the decaying Grant City. However, the opening has you gunning through a rather spectacular office tower (think Die Hard) which offers a stark contrast to some of the darker areas in the game. There’s enough variety on offer, but don’t expect an organic looking game as it’s all city based. It’s also a neat touch being introduced to the various tougher opponents by use of an introductory sequence which is shown when you first encounter them. Overall the presentation is good, although on occasion you’ll see some glitches, such as ragdoll enemies spinning around or clipping through walls. It’s not enough to hinder the game or your enjoyment, but a bit goofy when you do see these things happening.
The sound is pure cheese, and whether this is deliberate is debatable. Jack is a typical gravelly voiced hard nut, although in one scene his cries are so chilling and cringe worthy that it’s almost embarrassing to watch. That said, once it’s over and you can get back top being a tough as nails cop it does become easier on the ears. There’s some interesting dialogue, and narrative which is easy to follow and voiced to a reasonable standard but nothing too memorable – other than that one despicable scene early on. The music is standard fare for an action game, and like the graphics is gritty and fitting to the game’s content. Other sound effects are as you would expect, and the cries of beat up, shot and maimed opponents is what you’re going to be hearing a lot of, so be prepared.
The game offers 10 missions which range from 20 minutes to 40 in length, and possibly more if you try the Detective difficulty, (which is the toughest of the three on offer and simply becomes very cheap at times). There are also hidden badges to collect and not much of an incentive to replay the missions again even though there is a mission select option. The only lasting challenge on offer for those looking to gain achievements and unlock extra artwork etc. is scoring gold badges for all missions. This is quite fun to achieve as it means mixing up all available options to you, but considering the reward is very little, there seems to be no point really. You’ll see a breakdown of stats and a score at the end of each mission, which is great but should have been incorporated with online leaderboards or something similar. The game should take the average gamer around 6-8 hours to beat on a first play and with no extras thrown in such as multiplayer means the lure of extra missions as DLC content is the sole reason to hang on to the game.
Dead to Rights: Retribution is a solid game which looks pretty good based on a fictitious NYC. The combat whilst dynamic, does get a bit repetitious and by mission 10 you’ll be glad it’s over rather than begging for more. The game does try to inject some variety by allowing you to control Shadow, but these moments are few in comparison to the shooting and punching you’re going to be doing. With cheesy dialogue, some interesting themes, and a dog which urinates on electronics, this game reeks of bargain bin fodder but in fact is reliable, and good fun while it lasts. A lack of replay value will probably hurt the game more than anything, although fans will undoubtedly lap up what’s on offer here. The dynamic gameplay is very well realised and should be applauded, but sadly a lack of direction in terms of gameplay means it’s a one trick pony which only the patient are going to fully enjoy.