Before we start talking about Reservoir Dogs, there are a few things you should know. First, you won't saw the ears off any cops - at least not on camera. Second, the game isn't a Grand Theft Auto clone. Third, of all the actors whose careers were jump-started by the iconic 1992 crime flick, only Michael Madsen (Mr. Blonde) appears in the game. And fourth, you can't just shoot undercover cop Mr. Orange at the beginning to win the game.
Rather than straight-up adapting the film about career criminals in the violent aftermath of a botched diamond heist, Reservoir Dogs fills in the missing pieces from the movie's narrative. Playing as each of the main characters in turn, you'll plow through linear shooting and driving levels that reveal how the criminals escaped the heist, how they stashed and recovered the diamonds and how at least two of them died.
To its credit, the game nails the spirit of the movie. The catchy '70s soundtrack is all there, and while the characters look only vaguely like their movie counterparts, the sound-alike actors turn in a solid performance. The in-game banter isn't half-bad, either; what isn't lifted directly from the movie actually sounds like something Tarantino would write. There are some interesting flourishes, too; our personal favorite is a level where you have to drive a car as the head-shot Mr. Brown, and as you slowly bleed to death, splashes of blood and a red corona slowly cover the screen.
If only the gameplay stayed as interesting as the presentation, then we'd have a killer movie adaptation on our hands.
Whether you're driving or shooting, Reservoir Dogs feels workmanlike; not bad, necessarily, but you've already done this a million times. It doesn't help that the levels are repetitive and generic, and that some of them are recycled for different missions.
There are a couple of interesting twists, though, the most notable of which gives players the option to play like a "Psychopath" (ignore cover and run around shooting everyone) or a "Professional" (take hostages, use them as leverage to take other hostages and do as little harm as possible).
The problem is that using either approach exclusively gets really, really boring. Just shooting wildly quickly gets mindless, even if you use cover like you're supposed to. Meanwhile, hostage-taking turns into a cycle of dragging a civilian around, using them to threaten enemies into submission and then taking one of the good guys as a fresh hostage. And if you shoot at anyone afterward, all the enemies you just ordered down will jump back up, grab their guns and start firing at you from behind.
When things get too hot, you'll be able to bust out a super attack if your special-move gauge is full. If you're holding a hostage, you'll torture them as the camera cuts away (Mr. Blonde actually flicks out a razor just beforehand), which apparently terrifies all nearby cops into dropping their weapons. If you're by yourself, you'll start a "Bullet Festival," striking a cool pose and then unleashing a carefully targeted storm of lead in slow motion.
Beneath its cool presentation, Reservoir Dogs is a fairly average shoot 'em up with good intentions and a story that's just interesting enough to keep you trudging through its lengthy levels. It's acceptably action-packed, but if it hadn't been patterned after Quentin Tarantino's signature film, you'd probably have forgotten it exists by now.