Dead To Rights: Retribution Preview

By Mary-Lynn McLachlan on April 7, 2010, 11:00AM EDT

Plenty of games let players to shoot, or brutally maul an enemy with their fists, but how many allow them to eviscerate a foe with a dog? And not just any dog at that, a dog with a ruthless skillset more grim than any dog before it. Only a few come to mind, but none of them compare to the viciousness of Volatile's Dead to Rights: Retribution. Jack Slate has been brought back along with his half malamute - half wolf counterpart; Shadow. While Dead to Rights may be a franchise that many never expected to see resurface, it has been done. How successful this reinvention will be is yet to be determined, but so far it's looking to be a vast improvement on the 2002 release which was complainingly referred to as looking too dated, and having poor cameras.

Film noir inspired with a modern edgy twist, Dead to Rights: Retribution offers a vice cop drama filled with betrayal, conspiracy, and a fight to restore a once great city. Play as Jack Slate, or his partner Shadow through the underbelly of Grant City, bringing justice, and leaving piles of bodies in their wake. Jack is military trained, and a boxer in his spare time, making him ready to tackle anybody or anything that stands in his path. Both Jack and Shadow share the attributes of being rugged, charismatic and primal, making them the perfect lethal team.

Great characters need to be backed by strong art concepts, and the stylized gritty, over-the-top animations work well. While stylized, Dead to Rights offers realism that is pushed beyond anything that's fathomable. By being generated through motion capturing, and touched up via hand key animation, Jack Slate and Shadow perform over-exaggerated, yet realistic attacks. In other words, they took the awesome parts of kicks and punches, extended, over emphasised, and made them a little beyond realistic. Grant City is dark and gritty, much like Gotham City, offering tons of attitude and violence. Pair the look of Grant City with the bold and bombastic musical themes, and what's created is a seriously badass city.

While the look and sound is great, praise has to be given to the gameplay, as it is by far the most important aspect of any game. Dead to Rights offers a long list of mechanics, making it seem almost overly opportunistic, and maybe a little too good to be true. A working destructible cover system is in operation, there are various weapons and a hand-to-hand 360 degree combat system. Ranged attacks are also in there too, alongside a guard dog for stealth manoeuvres, distractions, and mob control. It seems like it could get rather overwhelming, but Volatile have promised it will be a unique seamless experience. A pinch may be necessary to regain focus at this point. If these tools actually do work well together, and shifting between shooting, hand-to-hand, and the dog AI controls are that well blended, then Volatile will have something special on their hands. So many options offer varied play styles, and as a result the opportunity to experience different play-throughs which will be refreshing compared to other third-person shooters. However, how well this will work, and if the mechanics will be balanced enough to even consider using all of them is yet to be determined.

Two mechanics that are particularly interesting are the blended shooting-hand-to hand combat, and of course the dog. Having the option to fight with a gun or hands is great, but when dealing with 360 degree combat the prospect of being overwhelmed by foes, and bludgeoned to death is a realistic threat. Hopefully with the ability to disarm, attack in multiple directions, and use enemies as human meat shields this will be lessened. There would be nothing more frustrating than being surrounded by foes and being able to do very little about it. Shadow, the dog, is most likely a major highlight of Dead to Rights: Retribution. From being able to play as Shadow, and do stealth takedowns, to being able to direct shadow to pin down and control an enemy when things get crowded, this dog looks awesome. Hopefully he is more than just an appealing aesthetic and is as useful as he has been played up to be.

From gritty take-down combos, to playing as a dog, Dead to Rights: Retribution offers a lot of unique and horrifying ways to kill a man. If using an enemy as a human shield, and beating them back into submission as they regain consciousness while trying to cross a firing squad seems appealing, be sure to check this title out. While it's not completely certain how well implemented all the varied tools Jack Slate has in his arsenal will be, the story and violence will be more than entertaining.

Dead to Rights: Retribution releases on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 the 27th of April, 2010 in Europe.

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