|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Volatile Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Namco Bandai||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Q4 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
May 14, 2009 - The Dead to Rights franchise got its start in 2002. The game was hailed for its brutal combat, dual-character control, and bullet-time mechanics. Fans across gaming-dom agreed that a premier action franchise was born. Subsequently, the series became diluted by prequels, a handheld entry, and a sub-series spin-off. This had the effect of pushing the game into relative obscurity, especially in the face of such must-have, bar-raising next-gen titles as Gears, Resistance, and BioShock.
Not to be foiled by the missteps of the past, Namco and Volatile Games have come together to completely restart the franchise in order to make it the next-gen game a more mature audience can truly sink their teeth into.
Dead to Rights: Retribution, according to Creative Director Nick Dixon, marks a "year 0 restart" for the series. Rather than just being a reimagining or a revamped look at the old franchise, the developers have actually scrapped the superfluous trappings of past iterations in an attempt to overhaul and rejuvenate the IP. Consequently, nothing fans have learned from past entries will necessarily hold true. The origin story of ex-vice cop Jack Slate and his canine partner Shadow starts now, and the inclusion of old friends and adversaries will be cherry-picked from only the best of what was previously offered. Of course, Jack Slate will still be the brutal badass with a chip on his shoulder - a "knight in rusty armor" if you will, and Shadow will still be as bloodthirsty as ever - even more so according to Dixon. However, this time around, a deeper concentration on character and plot development as well as a revamped combat mechanic and control scheme will be offered up to a new generation of fans.
The first major difference with this Dead to Rights has to be the integration of combat techniques and tactics. Now, rather than focusing solely on gunplay or hand-to-hand combat by dividing levels into segments, Jack will be able to beat street-toughs to a bloody pulp, mixing in shotgun blasts for good measure. Best of all, enemy A.I. will be smart; hoods and elites will quickly surround players, disarming and bludgeoning them with group tactics. As a result, players will have to combine combat arts in Retribution like something out of a well-choreographed action film. Disarming a thug, taking out a couple gunmen on balconies, and then transitioning into some drunken kung-fu will be par for the course. Moreover, players will also be able to send in Shadow to flank enemies via advanced friendly A.I. or directly take control of the dog to release their fury up close and personal. All of these are "seamlessly integrated" into one control scheme, making players feel almost god-like in their execution.
Second, emphasis has been placed squarely on spinning "an in-depth, character-driven storyline combining classical storytelling with advanced game design techniques to immerse the player in a compelling journey." Online multiplayer gaming has been shunned by Volatile Games in order to pour all their effort into a truly engaging single-player experience. As such, expect Jack Slate's motivations, the relationship he has with Shadow, and the growing conspiracy he'll uncover to be more than just setting fluff - they're made to inspire players through the title all the way to its poignant end.
Finally, accentuating the brand-new story will be the poverty and corruption-ridden backdrop of Grant City. In fact, Grant City will almost act as a character itself. From the concept art, screens, and trailers we've seen so far, the "neo-Noir" style of the hopeless cityscape looks to be quite breathtaking in both breadth and detail. Truly, the level of polish going into this game should reap major rewards. The development team has decided they are going to create a blockbuster title with a moody atmosphere that takes advantage of the impressive hardware packed into next-gen platforms. One only needs to visit the game's official website to get a feel for the attention to detail going into the game. Dripping city pipes, wailing sirens, crashing trash cans, sloshing puddles, a sweeping musical theme, and an atmospheric background score are set to have players deeply entrenched in the world of Dead to Rights: Retribution.
While Dead to Rights flashed onto the gaming scene with loads of promise, the franchise eventually succumbed to a lack of vision and purpose in game design. Fortunately, the series is getting a complete next-gen overhaul where nothing but the most sacred cows is being spared. This should not only attract a new generation of gamer, but it should also appeal to the franchise's core audience that has grown and matured over the years, eager to relive old gaming memories in a completely refined way. We will likely get some hands-on time with the title at E3 2009 and give you even more insight. Hopefully that'll be enough to tide you over till the game's release near the end of 2009.
CCC Editor / News Director