Don Bluth might disagree, but not all dogs go to heaven. Especially Jack Slate%26rsquo;s mutt Shadow, a vicious, possibly rabid, fusion of malamute and mountain lion with an accumulated bodycount that would embarrass Robocop. If we were Jack, we wouldn%26rsquo;t let that thing within 50 feet of ourselves, let alone let it sleep at the foot of the bed. In fact, we%26rsquo;d have it put down. Post haste.
Demonic dogs aside, it turns out that Dead to Rights: Retribution is a pretty good game, the kind of game, in fact, that we%26rsquo;d didn%26rsquo;t actually think ever got made in this day and age. Eschewing any pretensions of critical grandeur, it knows what it%26rsquo;s about and sticks commendably to its guns (and feet, and teeth%26hellip;), delivering satisfying violence in a comic noir shell. It feels like it might have come out on Dreamcast, and some-times looks like it might have, too. But it%26rsquo;s all about ultra visceral, ultra-violent fun, and in this respect it delivers.
The plot, as you might guess, is suitably dark but largely irrelevant. The action is anything but, as cop-with-attitude-and-Popeye-forearms Slate takes it to criminal gang The Union and their army of brawlers, martial artists, armed punks, snipers%26hellip; and fat men. They die in droves, but it%26rsquo;s the inventive ways in which you can kill them that frequently stole our oxygen. Jack%26rsquo;s armed with a progressively extravagant, increasingly sadistic roster of punches and kicks that deliver the %26lsquo;oomph%26rsquo; factor. Lob in headshot-heavy shooting, a concrete cover system and imaginative %26ndash; if relentlessly depressing %26ndash; level design and you%26rsquo;ve got a scrapper/shooter that goes on a box-ticking riot. Leave your brain at the door and you%26rsquo;ll revel in the rampage.
If Jack%26rsquo;s bits ever threaten to drag, in comes faithful Shadow. A multitalented mutt, he not only accompanies Jack on his vigilante excursions (where you can order him to attack, defend territory and reconnoitre for weapons%26hellip; but not cock his leg, sadly) but even stars in mini levels of his own. These bits fondly recall (well, rip-off) Batman: Arkham Asylum%26rsquo;s Detective Mode, as Cujo %26lsquo;smells%26rsquo; through walls, identifies the individual heartbeats of his prey and stalks them around levels, before ripping their throats out and dragging the remains into some dark, undiscovered corner. It%26rsquo;s a welcome distraction, slickly done and adds another layer of polish to an experience that occasionally threatens to come undone thanks to crappy AI and a frustratingly arbitrary health system.
You could argue lots of the aspects of Retribution %26ndash; like the blink-and-you%26rsquo;ll-miss-them evidence hunting sections %26ndash; are underdeveloped, tantalisingly hinting at what might have been, but you%26rsquo;d probably be missing the point. It%26rsquo;s a B-grade game that dishes out the laughs with riotous abandon, swapping out pathos and plotlines for pain, pain%26hellip; and some more pain. Admittedly, the first few levels actually hint at an even grittier amalgamation of Batman%26rsquo;s Gotham, Max Payne%26rsquo;s Big Apple and Condemned%26rsquo;s Metro City, but when the rain finally stops pouring you%26rsquo;ll realise just how dated %26ndash; and ugly %26ndash; this game engine really is. Then again, you may be having too much fun to notice.
Don%26rsquo;t go near Dead to Rights: Retribution at full retail price, but wait a month or two for the price to drop and it%26rsquo;ll be worth delving into as your favourite %26lsquo;bad%26rsquo; game since Wanted: Weapons of Fate.
Apr 27, 2010