Dead to Rights: Retribution Review
A mindless action game about a loose cannon cop who doesn't play by the rules
I can appreciate a mindless action game. A game where you don't have to worry about solving intricate puzzles, instead you can just point and shoot, or mash the attack buttons until the enemies fall down. Essentially, this is the heart and soul of Dead to Rights: Retribution. Being a mindless action game isn't necessarily a bad thing and in DtR's case it is actually pretty fun, however it doesn't make it an outstanding game. Dead to Rights: Retribution was developed by Volatile Games and published by Namco. It is the follow up to 2005's Dead to Rights II. All three games in the series have received mediocre scores at best. Mediocrity seems to be the staying trend of the Dead to Rights series.
The game follows the story of archetypal loose cannon cop, Jack Slate and his loyal canine companion, Shadow. The story starts at the Grant City docks, Jack is injured but eventually makes it to the safety of a nearby bar. He meets a friend, Faith who happens to also be an EMT. While she is fixing him up, Jack recalls the story of how he came to be in his position. The first few missions of the game are told in past tense and Jack narrates the events. The first mission takes place at the Temple Tower, which is taken over by a gang called The Union. Jack stands outside with the rest of the Grand City Police force watching the spectacle. Just like any other self respecting terrorists, The Union has hostages.
While imploring the police force to take action to control the situation, one of the hostages is dropped from the building. Jack decides that he cannot stand around anymore and, against his superior's orders, he marches into Temple Tower to defuse the situation himself. After a series of events that lead to the gang ring leader's escape Jack finds himself on a path to uncover a massive conspiracy. Jack's journey really begins after his father's death, which happens pretty early on in the game. Frank Slate is shot down by an unknown assailant after he and Jack explore a Union hideout. Emotionally torn by the death of his father and mentor, Jack promises to find the one who pulled the trigger. The story is progressed by short cut scenes that happen at the beginning, end and sometimes in the middle of the game's 10 missions.
As stated before, the game starts off with Jack being too injured to defend himself. That's where Shadow comes in. The dog can sprint and takes down enemies by ripping their throats out, or going straight for the crotch. After the scrotal damage that Shadow does to the gang members, death wouldn't seem like a bad option. Shadow can also perform stealth kills by sneaking up on an enemy (R2) and taking them down from behind. When R2 is held, all the enemies in the area are highlighted in blue and their weapons, in red. This is a quick way to tell if the baddie that Shadow is sneaking up on is armed or not. This is a game mechanic that seems to be largely borrowed from Batman: Arkham Asylum; it is very similar to Batman's Detective Mode.
Even though the majority of the game will have Jack and Shadow fighting side by side, there are several parts where control will be given to Shadow. These sequences mostly happen when Jack is behind a locked door or gate (which always seem to have a gap just big enough to accommodate Shadow) and needs to get the keys. This also seems to be a way for the game to rehash some of the environments, as they require both Jack and Shadow to go through them. Each time, the areas are afresh with enemies, even if you painstakingly stealth killed every one with Shadow.
Unfortunately, Jack doesn't have the ability to sneak around and snap someone's neck. Jack is a man of action, and once you take down your first bad guy, the fighting rarely lets up. There are several ways to take down an enemy, and the first approach that is shown to the player is hand to hand combat. Players can string together combos using fast and heavy attacks. If an opponent is blocking, pressing both buttons at the same time will result in a guard break, which can then be followed up by a quick combo. If you beat on a bad guy long enough, a take down will be activated. A take down is a quick time event that enters Jack into an animation, in which he delivers a devastating final combo. The combos vary each time you do them, however most them involve pain of the neck snapping variety.
At first, watching the take downs is very satisfying especially if you're having a difficult time with an opponent. Eventually, it gets tiring and after about the 50th take down, I really wanted the option to skip them. You can also grab an opponent. After grabbing, you can use them as a hostage, throw them or just beat the hell out of them. Aside from his fists, Jack can also use a variety of weapons.
Weapons are acquired in several different ways. The quickest way to get a gun is to run up to a baddie and take it from him with a disarm. Another way is to pick them out of your enemies cold dead hands, well, actually they just fall on the ground after you dispatch of them. Although there are some sequences where hand to hand combat is a must, the majority of the game will have you hiding behind cover and peeking out every so often to try to nail a head shot. Once a weapon is exhausted of ammo Jack throws it away, however the ground is usually littered with guns after a battle. Finding a replacement isn't hard, some areas even have boxes containing weapons. Jack can hold two guns at the same time: a hand gun and a large gun like a shotgun, machine gun or sniper rifle. Aside from hand to hand combat and gun play, Jack has a couple of other things at his disposal.
When things get too intense, to the point where Jack cannot leave his cover, you can send Shadow to do your dirty work. There are few different commands that can be given to the dog via the directional pad. He can heel, attack a nearby enemy, or fetch a gun. This comes in handy during some of the difficult areas of the game. While useful, sending Shadow out into a fire fight has some inherent risks as well. If the dog takes too much damage, he will be incapacitated until Jack comes to revive him. Jack can also use a focus gauge, which is essentially a bullet time effect. When activated, it slows down time and allows him to time head shots and take out several enemies at a time. Take downs and head shots fill up the focus gauge.
Jack will encounter three different groups of enemies throughout the game: The Union, The Triad, and the Grant Anti-Crime (GAC). The Union is a group of blue collar thugs while the Triad is a typical Asian gang. The GAC is a well organized private army who are manipulating the former mentioned gangs in an attempt to control the city. Each gang has its own variation on weapons. They all have their own version of the hand gun, machine gun, shot gun and sniper rifles. Each gang also has the same types of members, although they are given different names. There are the common thugs or officers, which make up the majority of the enemies, heavy troopers who use more devastating weapons like rocket launchers. Each gang also have snipers, and fighters. The latter usually have to be dealt with by putting away your gun and putting up your dukes. This can be very troublesome if you're caught in the middle of a fire fight.
While some of the environments look nice, they don't have a lot going on. Just about every level consists of going from area to area, taking out enemies until you reach the end. While a lot of the action can be fun, it gets tedious and lacks any sort of variety. Later stages will have you escorting a prisoner or a friend through the enemy fill territories. This forces you to leave them behind cover while you create a path. After successfully completing a mission, your score is tallied up, you're given a bronze, silver or gold ranking. The ranking system has no real purpose other than earning some trophies.
As mentioned before, Dead to Rights: Retribution is a mindless action game. Each level has you go one area of cover to the next, taking out mobs of enemies and stealing their weapons. Although action is fun, it becomes irritating after a while. There are some objects which you cannot take over behind, which you should. As for objects that you can, Jack has to be in certain spot before he ducks down. This had me running dumbly back and forth behind a pile of sand bags mashing the X button before finally taking cover.
The game had some cool visuals, and the music fit very well with the action. Overall, however Dead to Rights: Retribution is a run of the mill experience. The story of a loose cannon cop who doesn't play by the rules is one that has been told too many times to be interesting anymore. The combat gives you a lot of options on how to take out enemies, but only a few are actually useful. Playing as Shadow gave the game a welcome stealth element that I wish could have been carried over to Jack. The environments didn't have much to offer and consisted of one linear path from beginning to end. Even with these setbacks, I did find myself having fun. At best Dead to Rights: Retribution warrants a rental, if you want to just sit back, turn your brain off and give your trigger finger some exercise.