Jack Slate is back and he's very, very miffed. His beloved Grant city is being terrorised by gangs of organised hoodlums and there is only one language that they understand, a series of horrifically violent takedowns at the hands and (paws) of Jack and his canine companion Shadow. A twisted combination of ultra violence and film noir cliches, Dead to Rights: Retribution is chock to the brim with visceral hand to hand combat and satisfying gun play, topped with just enough variety to keep things from getting stale.
Now Jack Slate is not a cop to be messed with, he's built like a truck, spouts hard-boiled dialogue non-stop and hangs around with a wolf. So I am baffled as why any crook would ever start trouble in his city. But yet thankfully (for the player) they do. Starting at a hostage situation in a tower block (how very Die Hard) Jack's journey takes him through all manner of warehouses, docks and back-streets in his one man mission to inflict bizarrely gruesome finishing moves on bad guys. Gameplay typically involves a mix of close quarters and ranged combat both of which provide ample opportunities for bloodletting. Some sections also allow the player to control Shadow, using a mixture of stealth and speed to take down foes and to allow Jack access to areas he couldn't normally get to. The amount of ammo that Jack can carry is curiously low, meaning that more often than not you'll be relying on your fists to dish our punishment as you play through the game.
Fist fighting is wonderfully simple to get to grips with and spectacularly effective once mastered. Utilising the obligatory weak and strong attack buttons, devastating combos can be unleashed by specific orders of button presses. This, along with blocks, counters and the ability to grab people and use them as human shields (or throw them off a balcony), means that there are hundreds of different ways to murderlize enemies. Stringing together a flurry of decent attacks on a foe triggers the option to initiate a finishing move. The sheer variety and brutality of these moves is truly staggering, arms are broken, heads exploded, necks strung and bodies flung, all with a simple press of the 'A' button. Although brutal in concept, takedowns are mostly comical in nature with the violence being so over the top and the rules of physics so obviously flaunted, that it's not really an issue. Some unfortunate animation glitches and framing issues also pop up from time to time, making the violence even more surreal.
A tap of the 'A' button in front of an armed foe leads to Jack deftly disarming his opponent, spinning the gun around and pointing it directly at the poor sucker's face, whereby a simple pull of the trigger initiates a slow motion headshot. I mean, what chance does anyone have against this guy? Jack can carry the usual collection of shotguns, assault rifles grenades and pistols but generally only two at a time. All are simple to use and all are great fun to blast away with. The inclusion of a 'bullet time' meter, filled up via headshots and takedowns, also adds a bit more finesse to the gun fights. Best used in tricky situations, slowing down time can really give you the edge when fighting multiple foes or when accuracy is needed, such as eliminating a hostage holder before he executes a civilian.
Dead to Rights: Retribution is not a sophisticated or clever game nor is it particularly original, however it looks good, plays well and is immensely fun. Grant City is a surprisingly entertaining place to spend your spare time and you'll enjoy meeting its populace, disarming them and then throwing them off of tall buildings. Even if most of the laughs aren't intentional, the gutsy and gruesome combat and well thought out pacing makes this more than a worthy addition to any action fan's game collection.