Bad cop, worse cop.
Even before his distinct style of gunplay made it big with American audiences, John Woo was dropping bodies like a seasoned pro in movies such as Hard Boiled, The Killer and A Better Tomorrow. These films are the first to feature Woo’s double-gun shootouts, acrobatic dives and doomsday body counts.
Apparently, the crew at Widescreen Games and Namco thought such ingredients were the recipe for a smash video game, so they got busy cooking. The result, known as Dead to Rights, was less than savory.
We don’t remember asking for seconds, but Namco served them up anyway in Dead to Rights 2. Essentially a bad impersonation of Max Payne, Dead to Rights 2 does almost nothing a third-person shooter should, aside from giving you tons and tons of baddies to put down. From its weak gunplay to its half-baked canine companion, this game will kill your appetite for action.
Dead to Rights 2 puts you back in the boots of Jack Slate, a bad-boy cop who bathes in blood and chain-smokes cons, usually at the same time. A somewhat important judge was kidnapped and it’s up to Slate to rescue him. With roughly two million enemies in the way, Jack and his trusty canine sidekick Shadow must shoot and bite them all, respectively.
To this end, Jack starts off with a basic pistol and gradually accumulates an assortment of shotguns, automatics and explosives from the quickly disappearing bodies of his fallen enemies. Unlike most action games, guns cannot be reloaded, so you’ll frequently need to switch weapons. This can be done manually by cycling through the inventory or by firing the last bullet in a given gun. While this might sound okay, the automatic weapon switch often gives you the wrong gun for the situation, like a shotgun when surrounded by snipers. Argh. You should be able to simply take ammo from fallen foes and reload your damn weapons. Why they changed this basic, real-world tenet is a complete mystery.
If you completely run out of bullets, you can use a simple disarm move to relieve a foe of their firearm and then whack them about the face with it. It looks cool, but isn’t very useful.
Most of the time, your finger will be firmly attached to the trigger, but only because pulling a trigger automatically locks you onto the nearest enemy. You can change targets with the control stick, but it’s much easier to just mash both the “fire’ and “target’ buttons until everybody dies. Since you don’t automatically switch to a live target upon making a dead one, it’s easy to waste bullets if you aren’t constantly changing your focus.
The best plan of attack seems to be diving right into the heart of the enemy and shooting like there’s no tomorrow, an idea that might be ineffective if your enemies weren’t mental midgets. Trying to play it safe by using available cover is a waste of time as you can usually hit the ground running and shoot much faster than they can. The enemies occasionally run for cover, but most of the time, they’ll just stand there taking pot shots while waiting to die.
I guess it’s not an action game without bullet-time, which explains why Jack has the ability to perform spherical slow motion dives. These help his offense about as much as a pat on the back. Equally useless is the ability to call in Jack’s K9 partner, Shadow. With the push of a button, Shadow runs on screen and attacks a baddy, but compared to the damage Jack can do by himself, Shadow’s assistance really isn’t needed. Both diving and calling the dog somehow use up an adrenaline meter, which never becomes much of a factor since its dependent abilities aren’t very uber.
Inexplicably, some levels are restricted to melee combat. You’ll spend hours shooting and getting shot at, and then shockingly get into a boring fistfight. Even lamer is the fact that Jack can’t throw a single punch during the rounds that do feature guns. What’s up with that? Someone’s been watching too much West Side Story.
As if to put a punctuation mark on the game’s shortcomings, Dead to Rights 2 features lackluster visuals on both the Xbox and PS2. Clipping errors are fairly common and the overall graphical performance hasn’t improved at all in the three years since the original came out. The sound effects haven’t improved much either, although there seems to be a lot more profanity than before. Some of that might have come out of my mouth while trying to reload a gun, actually.
Dead to Rights 2‘s only saving grace is its no-nonsense approach to nonstop action. Despite the aforementioned faults, anyone can pick it up and start blasting away with success. The thrill is short-lived, but it is there.
Dead to Rights 2 really isn’t, though. It manages to stumble all over itself from the second you turn it on and never manages to recover. Simple control functions are handled clumsily, changing weapons is a chore and someone actually thought the dumb melee-exclusive levels would be a good idea. Like the rest of this stinker, it is not.