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Dead to Rights: Retribution Review

Josh_Laddin By:
GENRE Action 
PUBLISHER Namco Bandai 
DEVELOPER Blitz Games Studios 
M Contains Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Drugs

What do these ratings mean?

Cleaning up the streets, one evisceration at a time.

"Dammit, that isn't the way we do things! We arrest people, bring them in, question them!" So says police officer Frank Slate in an early cut-scene from Dead to Rights: Retribution, after his old friend's SWAT team swoops in uninvited, and guns down a whole slew of pesky gang members. Note that that scene directly follows a level in which Frank, his son Jack, and their bloodthirsty dog Shadow spend a good half-hour mercilessly beating and biting dozens of those very same thugs to death.

click to enlargeBut it's that kind of hilarious silliness in the plot and dialogue that is one of the game's few saving graces. DtR:R tries so hard to take itself seriously that the cliché plot, a modernized bloodbath spin on the noir genre, ends up being a good deal more enjoyable than it would otherwise.

Numerous people tell Jack Slate throughout the game that he's a "good cop" and he's "doing what he does best". Grant City has a really odd sense of what a good cop is, because what Jack "does best" is not so much sleuthing and arresting, but more like going for the Guinness World Record for most people killed in one night.

With Retribution, Namco took a page out of Hollywood's fad-of the-month and went for a gritty reboot instead of a sequel. I don't know how much grittier you can get when the series already revolves around slaughtering bad guys in the most brutal fashions imaginable, but I suppose current-gen graphics help to make the environments even dirtier and more depressing than ever before.

Not only that, but Jack has gotten the Chris Redfield treatment and shows up in this game totally roided-out. He's either Chris's long lost brother or a distant relative of Bruce Banner. I'm leaning towards the latter, given Jack's ability to absorb an infinite number of bullets so long as he has a few seconds for a breather in between.

The game looks good for the most part, but there's some inexcusable graphical stuttering that pops up every
so often, sometimes in the middle of a fight. Add to that nasty shadow effects on some characters' faces and floaty physics for certain objects, and the experience is one that makes you do the occasional double-take after lulling you into complacency.

click to enlargeThere really isn't anything in this game that we haven't seen many times over, but if you're looking for some mindless entertainment there are certainly worse (and better) alternatives. The combat is a mixed bag in more ways than one — you've got a multitude of methods to kill your opponents at your disposal. You can bludgeon 'em with your fists, pop 'em with a headshot, mutilate 'em with a "takedown" (read: fatality), perform a disarm to cap 'em with their own weapons, or if you're feeling cheap, send your dog in to rip out their scrotums. Yeah, you read that right. There's even a trophy for it!

Not all methods are equally effective, however. The gunplay and cover system work well enough, but hand-to-hand combat is frustrating and unintuitive. It's all well and good when you're up against one guy, but when you get swamped, the game's auto-targeting, hit detection, and camera spaz out. You will have no idea what to focus on.

The most satisfying element of combat is the short burst of bullet time you can activate with your Focus meter. Charge it up by executing enemies with your fancier moves, and once it's active you can run in and "Boom! Headshot!" a whole room of baddies before they even know what hit 'em.

Mixed into the mostly repetitive levels are a handful of areas where you can control Shadow directly. These segments are best described as canine Splinter Cell. Generally you need to sneak around and find keys or some way to let Jack into the area, and while you can get around the guards without killing all of them, the experience usually degenerates into tearing apart most, if not all, of the hapless henchmen.

click to enlargeThe Story mode will only last 10 hours at the most, and that's literally the only mode you can play on the disc, and it's here where we can witness everything that's wrong with DLC today. In about a month you'll be able to download two new extra game modes, kind of like Resident Evil 5's Mercenaries mode, for $4.99. With only the relatively short story mode on the disc (a couple locales are even reused between levels as well), there was definitely more than enough room for the extra modes to have been included from the get-go.

And unlike other games which at least have the decency to introduce trophies for DLC separately, DtR:R shows the trophies for the unreleased modes in the trophy list. Are they there to taunt us? Does Namco think it'll provide more incentive for us to shell out an extra five bucks on content that we should already have gotten for 60? Either way, it's a greedy abuse of DLC and grounds for dropping an otherwise decent game's grade several notches.

If you just want to relieve a little stress, to kick back and relax with an action game that isn't heavy with social commentary or moral dilemmas, Dead to Rights: Retribution may be just what the doctor ordered. But if you're concerned about the direction gaming is heading (spending more and more money for less and less content), the reprehensible use of DLC is reason enough to pass on it. I would give a C+/B- based solely on the merits of the game, but I just can't ignore unsavory business practices when they're out to con gamers like you.

C- Revolution report card
  • Enjoyably cheesy noir story
  • Varied combat
  • ...that tests your patience in close quarters
  • Stealth Shadow levels
  • ...that aren't very stealthy
  • Occasional graphical issues
  • Rise up and take a stand against DLC abuse!

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