This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Dead to Rights: Retribution.
When it comes to naming your sequel, there are a couple of routes you could take. The more old-fashioned among us just put a number on the end, but that makes the property sound like the name of planet or a video games console. Others use the increasingly popular method of just using the same title as before, unchanged, if they want to fuck with peoples' filing systems. Still others use the same title but add on a word beginning with "re," as in Matrix: Revolutions, Alien: Resurrection, or, indeed, Dead to Rights: Retribution, which isn't technically a sequel since the plot starts out the same as the first game. So perhaps a better name would have been Dead to Rights: Remake or perhaps Dead to Rights: Revisionism. Let's just hope it didn't end up Dead to Rights: Retarded - that would be Dead to Rights: Regrettable!
In case you never played the first game, here's a Dead to Rights: Recap. Bang! Punch! Bang! Punch! Bang! Punch! Woof! It's the kind of over-the-top, balls-to-the-teeth action that I honestly can't tell if it's being deliberately camp or if it was written by a paranoid NRA member shaking off a debilitating addiction to horse tranquilizers. You play the preposterously named Jack Slate, a cop so close to the edge he has to wear a safety harness, who surgically implants rare steaks into his muscles, and who missed a golden opportunity when he chose policing rather than opening a roofing business. Someone murdered his father, so he's out searching for answers, and he's letting his gun do the talking, and his gun only knows one very loud word!
Without wishing to spoil anything, the central moral of Dead to Rights: Reprimand is that gung-ho military violence cannot be allowed to replace old-fashioned by-the-book arrest and trial. And forgive me if that moral seems a bit insincere coming from Jack Slate, who spends the entire game murdering gangs, anyone complicit in gang crime, and anyone who happens to be next to them. At one point, Jack demonstrates his commitment to due process by pledging to escort a main bad guy to the police station rather than kill him, thirty seconds later using him as a human shield to gun down all his bodyguards. I feel Jack is following the letter rather than the spirit of the law. A law completely unique to Jack Slate, given to him by some kind of mad ocelot god only he can see. Speaking of things that are morally iffy, I'd like to see Jack Slate filling out his Dead to Rights: Reports afterwards, trying to explain why he gunned down blatantly unarmed men as they ran towards him.
The game's intention is to allow seamless switching between gunplay and unarmed combat. In this world, having a gun in a close-range encounter is a liability, since all the guns have been smeared with butter, and anyone can be very swiftly disarmed. And when Jack does it, the victim obligingly stares dopily at their Dead to Rights: Recently Vacated hands for a second while you cap them right up the left nostril. It's a good balance, but it does create his weird Dead to Rights: Recurring Situtation wherein melee-focused enemies will completely stop giving a shit and break cover to sprint into melee range across open ground and in direct line of fire. And then once you realize that you have the Dead to Rights: Resilience of a gritty, spiky-haired fridge, Jack starts doing it as well. Overall, they're not painting a picture of good mental healthcare in Grant City, not that Jack Slate has ever been a stranger to the People's Republic of Madbodia and its principal exports of mixed nuts and batshit.
When he runs, the camera does this sickening wobble back and forth, which would be really effective in some kind of psychological horror game where the protagonist has gone into paranoid hysterics. Some people get motion sickness just from regular games, the pussies! I'd hate to see one of those guys playing this, or the state of the upholstery afterwards. Even in cover, I was constantly getting hit by stray shots because Jack's manorexia ensured he couldn't leave the gym until his upper body was the size and shape of an entire litter of pit bulls lashed together.
And then, of course, there are the takedowns. When you've beaten up a debatably bad guy enough, you can press a button to teleport both he and Jack to a little pocket dimension where pain is God and Jack Slate is Pope! Then you watch Jack work out his daddy issues on a drug dealer's spine for about ten worryingly vicious seconds while patiently waiting for that whole "game" thing to Dead to Rights: Resume. And considering that Jack's body count eventually matches the attendance figures of a Justin Bieber concert, that's a fuckload of Dead to Rights: Repetitive Visits to the pain dimension. Is there not someone else in this game I could play? Someone who, in the real world, would not be banned from owning anything sharper than a crayon?
Fortunately, you do control someone else, or should I say someone's dog! Jack's pedigreed chum Shadow has been upgraded from his previous role in Dead to Rights 1 as a sort of dog-shaped ballistic missile to full-on NPC support, which means he runs around getting shot, and you have to Dead to Rights: Revive him every now and again. But what do you want? He's a dog! And also, you occasionally control him for brief stealth sections, which are probably the most interesting part of the game. I've got shelves full of games where I can play some knucklehead popping at some identical knucklehead from behind a bit of wall, but few where I can be a sneaky and adorable hunter with a taste for scrotums. Although with the ability to see through walls (which dogs apparently have), it does tend to be a little too easy. And, of course, we find out what Jack and Shadow see in each other when you find out that Shadow's kill animations are just as lengthy and psychotic. Which not only ruins whatever thoughts I might have of playing frisbee in the park with the big, fuzzy sweetheart, but it makes it likelier that other guards can turn around and spot you before you can drag the body away. But I suppose the number of gangbanger dicks you've ripped off is something you probably want to keep careful track of if you're Buffalo fucking Bill!
I do sincerely hope Dead to Rights: Recidivism is deliberately trying to be camp, because it most certainly is. All it needs is to show Jack Slate walking slowly away from an explosion while putting on a pair of sunglasses. The seamless dual-mode combat is fast-paced and competently executed but aside the occasional stealth bit never really evolves past that. And it's most definitely not the sort of game you'd show to someone to prove that "no, really, gaming's becoming totally mature and sophisticated!" Put a burlap sack on Jack Slate's head and it'd qualify as a slasher movie. It's all so juvenile, to be enjoyed by slack-jawed teenagers acne-bursting with glee at every ravenous cock-gobble as they fondle their switchblades and fantasy about slitting up their dads. I've come up with a great title for the next sequel, though: Dead to Rights: Really Really Really Really Really Really Really Dumb.
- Off to fill out his Dead to Rights: Registration: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Presumably in the movie Jack Slate would be played by The Rock. Or Sam Flint. Or Sharon Stone.
- Awwwww is a fuzzy wuzzy doggy look at his widdle face
Hello, my name is Rebecca Mayes. I am writing a song about Yahtzee - a love song, in fact. I need your help. If you have any lyric suggestions, any musical ideas, anything that really needs to go in this song to make Yahtzee know what you really think of him, let me know on my Facebook page.
I want it to be really good.