The very last videogame dog we remember is the pipe-smoking pooch in Tales of Vesperia. To call Shadow – the canine co-star of the revived Dead to Rights – ‘different’ would be a slight understatement. Shadow’s a vicious, snarling beast of an animal that spends most of his time in the game ripping throats out, tearing faces off and – men, prepare to wince – biting bad guys in the gonads.
As the hound pal of tough cop Jack Slate, Shadow follows you around for the bulk of the action, lending a paw in your unending quest to rid the streets of gothy scumbags with shotguns. Playing as Jack is a familiar experience, combining the cover system from, once again, Gears of War with gory hand-to-hand brawling. It’s early days, so the frame rate and camera haven’t yet been nailed, but even playing in staccato-vision we had fun with the game’s brutal, messy combat. The action slows down when you perform killing moves, letting you revel in the stupid violence you’ve unleashed. You can also manually slow time, in a nod to the follically-challenged Maximus Payne.
But it’s the parts where you get to actually play as Shadow that make Retribution stand out. Either he stealthily bows his head down and makes Jack practically invisible, so long as you keep Shadow in the, er, shadows, or you can jump out and bite chumps in their precious areas. It’s certainly a novel experience, even if we suspect these stealth sections won’t appear that often in the game proper.
With this and Painkiller lined up for release, there seems to be a trend for obscure shooters from the start of this decade to be given a wash-’n’-brush-up for the new generation. Although we were initially quite skeptical about this series revival – Dead to Rights, really? – there’s been such extensive work done on the game that it barely resembles its rubbish origins. There’s considerable work left to do, but this ball-busting action title is definitely on the right track.
In our brief time with the game we must say we had a blast, but it’s not complete enough yet for us to judge whether the combat will be as ‘fluid’ as promised, or if the Shadow sections will be more than a gimmick. Will it be a Lassie or a Poochie? Only more hands-on time will tell, and we’re onto it.
Sep 23, 2009