The Good: Decent story, Shadow and Jack are memorable characters, playing as Shadow is a brutal blast, fighting has depth, lots of different weapons, looks pretty good
The Bad: Gets really repetitive towards the end, story isn't anything special, weapons are standard affair, fighting feels a bit stiff, cover based gamep play isn't flawless
Dead to Rights has been a very rocky series since its debut in 2003. Retribution is not only the best in the series, but completely redeems the quality and value of what made the game so great. The story isn't anything new to gamers with Jack Slate and his dog Shadow trying revenge his father's death and also wipe Grant City clean of corrupt cops and criminal syndicates. What is good in Retribution are the voice actors, characters, and action. The guy who plays Jack's voice is pretty good at putting across emotion to the player.
But you usually don't come to budget shooters for story right? The action is great here but repetitive. The action consists of two elements which are shooting and melee. Fist fighting consists of breakers, combos, counters, and executions which can be pretty brutal. Fighting is usually last resort, but some times can't be avoided. I did find fist fighting a bit stiff and the controls were a bit awkward. You can use enemies as human shields and grapple them as well so at least the fighting has depth and isn't just mashing a button until your fingers bleed.
Melee has other perks like being able to pull a weapon from someone and shoot them in the head via execution. The game is very brutal and it shows by what you can do to enemies. I do wish there were more environment executions, but you can't expect that from a budget game like this really. One thing I noticed is when you are locked in fighting with someone enemies tend to completely miss you while you knock the guy down. This really helps fend off frustration, but does seem a little weird when you notice it. There are a large variety of enemies ranging from weak to super strong, but they aren't unique and just feel like standard soldiers.
Shooting is fun, but weapons don't really pack a punch. The game is very cover based and is similar to Gears of War but doesn't feel as smooth as that game. You can slow down time and focus on head shots (which are key to getting through guys quickly). There is a large variety of weapons in the game, but they are pretty standard and generic so don't expect crazy sci-fi weapons here. The game has you scrounging for ammo constantly which can get annoying and deadly. Guns have very small clips and you can't hold much ammo for each one which really kind of works against you and I hated this through the whole game. Its manageable but I was always wanting some sort of upgrade system to fix this.
My favorite part of the game (and what sets it apart from other TPS) is being able to play as Jack's dog Shadow. The animations are amazing and he really feels, looks, and sounds like a real dog. The execution moves are brutal and satisfying with him chomping on jugulars, blood spurting out, or even tearing out people's crotches (when you do this for the first time you get an achievement called "Crotchality!") You can sneak around as Shadow and see heartbeats through walls and plan your attacks accordingly. I loved all the take down moves, but they recycle often and get old fast.
Shadow also comes in handy when you play as Jack since you can order him to sick people or defend you. A lot of times I would send Shadow after a guy while I take on another and it really feels good that the AI works well here. One instance two soldiers were walking away and Shadow snuck up on one while I shot the other in the head. Of course Shadow can go down so you just go revive him, but using Shadow is key to staying alive and not dying constantly.
This is also the great part about the story which is the bond between the two that makes you want to stick close and listen to the story. Shadow and Jack are best friends and you really get to feel for them both. Visually Retribution is nothing special, but it isn't ugly either. There are some nice lighting effects and there's a lot of detail in everything, but the game is very linear. One other annoyance are hidden badges through the game and I hate shooters that make you go searching for hidden stuff because it detracts from the action. Other than that Retribution is a great bargain bin purchase and is definitely a great game despite its repetition.