Dead to Rights: Retribution review

  • Old school violence
  • Great dog-on-nutsack action
  • Knows exactly what it is with no pretensions
  • Super dumb story
  • Crappy AI
  • Arbitrary health system

Don Bluth might disagree, but not all dogs go to heaven. Especially Jack Slate’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’t let that thing within 50 feet of ourselves, let alone let it sleep at the foot of the bed. In fact, we’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’d didn’t actually think ever got made in this day and age. Eschewing any pretensions of critical grandeur, it knows what it’s about and sticks commendably to its guns (and feet, and teeth…), 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’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… and fat men. They die in droves, but it’s the inventive ways in which you can kill them that frequently stole our oxygen. Jack’s armed with a progressively extravagant, increasingly sadistic roster of punches and kicks that deliver the ‘oomph’ factor. Lob in headshot-heavy shooting, a concrete cover system and imaginative – if relentlessly depressing – level design and you’ve got a scrapper/shooter that goes on a box-ticking riot. Leave your brain at the door and you’ll revel in the rampage.

If Jack’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… 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’s Detective Mode, as Cujo ‘smells’ 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’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 – like the blink-and-you’ll-miss-them evidence hunting sections – are underdeveloped, tantalisingly hinting at what might have been, but you’d probably be missing the point. It’s a B-grade game that dishes out the laughs with riotous abandon, swapping out pathos and plotlines for pain, pain… and some more pain. Admittedly, the first few levels actually hint at an even grittier amalgamation of Batman’s Gotham, Max Payne’s Big Apple and Condemned’s Metro City, but when the rain finally stops pouring you’ll realise just how dated – and ugly – this game engine really is. Then again, you may be having too much fun to notice.

Don’t go near Dead to Rights: Retribution at full retail price, but wait a month or two for the price to drop and it’ll be worth delving into as your favourite ‘bad’ game since Wanted: Weapons of Fate.

Apr 27, 2010

More Info

Release date: Apr 27 2010 - Xbox 360, PS3 (US)
Apr 23 2010 - Xbox 360, PS3 (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Action
Published by: Namco Bandai
Developed by: Volatile
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Drugs
PEGI Rating:

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  • erreip199 - April 29, 2010 2:24 p.m.

    i shall wait for a price drop :) games dont have to be ubber complex to entretain and this one seems like one em
  • avantguardian - April 28, 2010 1:47 p.m.

    great dog-on-nutsack action...never thought i'd hear that as praise about
  • AlexMercer1337 - April 28, 2010 12:14 p.m.

    Rent. 'Nuff said.
  • Tomkins - April 28, 2010 7:48 a.m.

    I like the first one as well.
  • xDxP - April 28, 2010 5:38 a.m.

    Am I the only one that enjoyed the first one like crazy?
  • n00b - April 28, 2010 4:14 a.m.

    this showed up on my radar and i was slightly interested. i don't I'll pick it up though especially since i have a huge back catalog of games on the wii. the wii can you imagine
  • arcticseven - April 28, 2010 2:31 a.m.

    i bought this yesterday and hated it! its silly thought it would of been better, but then again ive never seen hands on previews of this game..
  • ventanger - April 27, 2010 11:22 p.m.

    I was looking forward to a game where your AI partner isn't just useless clone of yourself, but since this review is glowing compared to the majority of others, I think I'll just pass.
  • CH3BURASHKA - April 27, 2010 11:03 p.m.

    I was anticipating it, for one. However, I knew (theoretically) what I would be getting into. This is exactly what I hoped for: a good "7/10" game - like 50 Cent: BotS.
  • Samael - April 27, 2010 10:52 p.m.

    Was anyone really anticipating this? Sounds like a good, cheeseburger rental though.