Dead to Rights II (D2R2 from hereon in) is an old school arcade action game which combines Max Payne style shoot-outs with some Double Dragon dust-ups. The game is touted as a non-stop, action packed killing spree with an astronomical body count, but is it actually any good or does it end up firing blanks? Lock and loadâ¦.â¦..
You take on the role of hard-ass maverick cop Jack Slate who is on the trail of a criminal gang that have recently kidnapped a local judge. The story is a mish-mash of every Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Segal film ever made and only serves the purposes of giving you an excuse to take on a room full of punks and fill them with lead. You progress through a number of different scenarios, with each level ending with a boss fight and new information on the kidnapped judge and corruption within Grant City. The story is definitely lacking but in this sort of game, story (or lack of) is usually an afterthought and doesn't really detract from the playing experience.
Graphics in the game are decidedly mediocre â When I first fired the game up I thought it was about two years old. While not completely offensive they are definitely below the recent standard we have come to expect from the ageing PS2. Character models have a decidedly chunky feel and their movement seems a little stiff. Environments are pretty bland however at least they are chock full of items you can interact with and blow up. One thing in its defence however is the fact that at times things can get pretty hectic on screen â up to around ten enemies and tonnes of the bullets and explosions going off at once â and there is no noticeable slow down, the game runs smoothly throughout.
There are no loading times within stages which add to the hectic, non-stop nature of the game and makes play through feel seamless, however this seems to be at the expense of the loading times in between stages. I have never, ever, played a game on the PS2 with such long load times â literally I thought my PS2 was on the blink it took so long!! Loading between stages can take around 30 seconds, which considering that the game is by no means a graphical masterpiece is inexcusable.
I felt that the sound in the game was well below par. Sounds effects are often overlooked in games but I feel they can make a good game great and vice versa by setting the mood and adding to the tension. Background music for each level consists of bad euro-dance from 1994 continually looped â while I could see the point of this in the first level when you are in the nightclub after this it didn't really fit. Fortunately when the action kicks off, the background music is drowned out by the gunfire; however sound effects also fall flat. All of the guns available sound relatively similar, so much so that you can't tell the difference between a sawn-off shotgun and a .45 pistol. All of the guns sound muffled and don't convey any sense of power, this just seems lazy on the part of the developers and really detracts from the game. Voice acting of the main characters in the game is decent â Jack sounds like a no-bull hard-ass but the script is on the level of the previously mentioned Steven Segal films. One thing that is surprising is the level of swearing used throughout the game, while it fits the situation it does seem gratuitous and gets repetitive.
The main aim of the game is to take out all of the guys in an area before you can move on to the next, until you reach the end of level boss. The game is very linear and there is no real scope to explore your surroundings.
D2R2 is interspersed with a mixture of gunfights and hand to hand combat â however there is no explanation whatsoever as to why you have to resort to fisticuffs at the specific times. One minute you are packing serious heat, then on the next stage you have no guns and neither do any of your enemies â and the game resorts to a (poorly) updated version of Final Fight. This again just seems lazy by the developers as the loss of weapons could have somehow been incorporated into the story. The hand to hand fight engine is very basic, with only a few punch and kick combos to learn and it quickly becomes a button mashing affair. Weapons such as bottles and bats can be used but again button mashing will see you through and there is very little difference between the various weapons.
Boss fights in the game are also a little disappointing, most are just regular looking enemies with a longer lifespan which as a result take longer to kill, however once you have sussed out the pattern to kill them the fights become a little repetitive.
Thankfully the game is auto-saved after each stage and you are given a health and armour refill â this avoids the annoying situation of starting a new level with hardly any life where the auto save has overwritten your previous saves (Arrrghhh!!!) while preserving your sanity, this does detract from the minimal strategy aspect of the game as you have no need to preserve energy and find that wading in all guns blazing is the best approach.
The game introduces a number of elements to the genre which while not entirely original are pulled off successfully, they all revolve around the adrenaline meter which fills up as you waste the bad guys or regenerates more slowly as you hide. When full you can hit triangle to perform a John Woo style dive which slows down time and allows you to pick off enemies more easily and look cool while doing so. You can also make use of your dog Shadow and set him to chew on the arms of selected enemies or simply to fetch you ammo when you run dry simply by hitting L2. Another nice touch is the human shield function where when close enough you can grab an enemy using the square button. Not only do you steal the enemies' weapon but you are left with a handy meat shield to absorb any bullets meant for you. However, by far the best feature is the disarm function â by hitting circle close to an enemy you perform one of the 20 plus Jet Li style moves often finishing with a satisfying snap of an arm, leg or neck and helpfully replenishing your ammo in the process. All of these actions take chunks of your adrenaline so have to be used sparingly throughout.
These features are all nicely implemented and really add to the gameplay. While cool in isolation when you combine a number of these the result can be a Matrix-like fight sequence of beauty.
The features, while not only cool to use, add an element of strategy to the otherwise action packed gameplay â most of the time you seem to have only just enough ammo and as such have to decide how to take out the room full of people using your limited adrenaline supply.
I found the controls in the game to be up to scratch â all of the buttons are made use of sensibly and the vital targeting system does pick out the most obvious enemy, most of the time. As always with frantic 3D action games the camera does struggle at times to keep up but is not so bad that it ruins the gaming experience. Sometimes the wall creep mode can be frustrating as while it is useful for picking off enemies safety around corners, it can be difficult to commence normal play, as at times Jack seems super glued to the wall leading to some frustrating spots where you can take unneeded damage.
The game is not overly challenging and will take the average gamer no more than 8 hours to see everything, extras are available but as with most games only really worth it for the dedicated hardcore fans of the series or the obsessive compulsive amongst us. There are three difficulty levels but I would suggest you forget about easy and, as hard is only unlocked after completion, there may not be enough fresh material for you to even bother with a second play-through unless you are desperate for the challenge.
In addition to the main story mode there is an Instant Action mode which puts you in a room of endless bad guys to see how long you can last, but this is only useful as an extended training session.
If I had to sum up D2R2 in one word it would be 'average' - while not a horrible game to play there is nothing really new here aside from a few fancy gimmicks which have all been done better elsewhere.
The game is extremely linear and repetitive, the gunplay only broken up by the sub-standard fighting levels and the graphics nothing to shout about.
The game is fun to play in a 'no thought required' way and is worth a look if you are a fan of this genre however, don't expect to be blown away unlike the seemingly endless stream of thugs throughout the game.
Overall I give Dead to Rights II â¦â¦â¦â¦â¦â¦â¦â¦â¦.
6 out of 10