Max Payne was the first title that I had the chance to play on my XBox. After the horror that was the watered-down PlayStation 2 version, and not having a powerful enough PC to play the original, I was pleased to see that the XBox was able to handle a decent port of the game that started the action noir genre.
Dead to Rights is following up on Max Payne’s success, but after abandoning its PlayStation 2 release, it found a new home on the XBox. Initial experiences turned out to be promising, as the E3 alpha I played had tons of potential.
Now why didn’t the final release fulfill that potential?
Compared to Max Payne, the storyline is less shocking, but it still fits the crime noir setting. K-9 cop Jack Slate is investigating a case, but finds his father murdered, and he ends up being framed and sentenced to Ol’ Sparky. But during a dramatic prison riot, he escapes and tracks down the clues leading to his father’s murder, as well as a heated mayoral race that could possibly end the corruption in Grant City.
As one would guess in any typical Action Noir game, there is lots of gunplay involved, and fortunately this is DTR’s high spot. But even that is marred by a troublesome camera made even worse by a stupid lock on system. Case in point, when in the middle of a gunfight, there is a thug in front of you at point blank range. When the lock on is activated, it will end up aiming at a thug not even on the screen (even behind at times). This is inexcusable in a critical gunfight.
In addition, during a gunfight, ammunition is limited, and other means would be necessary to obtain weapons. Using your attack dog, Shadow, is an easy way to obtain a weapon in a method similar to Shinobi: Shadow Dancer. The other options are to either physically disarm a foe (which itself is graphically impressive, and a key factor of the game that doesn’t happen often) or use him as a human shield (which can easily be disposed of with a simple .45 to the head).
If DTR was only gunplay a la Max Payne, it would easily get a higher rating. Sad to say, moments of simplistic hand to hand combat, with a terrible control scheme, ruin the whole experience. Add to that the inclusion of some bad mini-game modes (although the bomb disarming modes are fun), and it makes DTR less fun to play.
In addition for a game that was designed for the XBox, it looks like it is still designed to run on a PlayStation 2. Simplistic character models combined with drab environments make for an average XBox title. At least the sound is better; in fact, the voice acting surpasses that of Max Payne’s cheesy B-movie dialogue.
Dead to Rights turns out to be a major disappointment after the version I tried out at E3. I really wanted to enjoy it, but I couldn’t. It earns 2 + gems are awarded for a poor lock-on system, horrible fighting engine, and an average presentation.