Dead to Rights
Reviewed July 2005 by Corbie Dillard
Dead to Rights fans have been eagerly awaiting
the PSP release of "Reckoning" for some time now.
The console versions have made a good splash amongst both critics
and players. There is a great attraction in hunting down baddies
alone, guns blazing, on a handheld gaming device. With the
current PSP library lacking action shooter titles, Dead to
Rights arrives on the platform at just the right time. But
did Rebellion port the magic that made the franchise a popular
series to the PSP? After putting the game through its paces,
the verdict is good effort but no magic.
In Dead to Rights, you take on the role of Jack Slate, police
detective and all-around tough guy. You receive a ransom note
from a local gang informing you of their kidnapping of a young
girl. Their first demand is to have you come down and meet
them at a local seedy motel called the Pink Starfish. Jack
knows it's an ambush, but has no choice but to cooperate with
the gang in order to have any hopes of getting the young girl
back alive and safe. From here on out it's all about blasting
everything and everyone in sight. Sort of a "shoot first,
ask questions later" prospect.
Controlling Jack is relegated to basically
a few simple attacks. Jack's main attack is his firearms.
Ranging from a standard revolver, to more advanced heavy
artillery like the fully automatic Tactical SMG machine gun,
Jack is seldom lacking in firepower. That is unless he runs
out of bullets, which tends to happen more often than you'd
like. If he runs out of ammo he is left to use his fists
and you'll find it quite a chore giving people black eyes
while they are pumping hundreds of rounds of ammunition at
you. Next up Jack has what's called a "disarm" move.
These moves will come in quite handy when you get into close
proximity to a bad guy, not to mention the fact that it looks
and even sounds really cool as you break someone's neck and
then shoot them in the face, complete with bone-crunching sound
effect. Jack also has his faithful canine "Shadow" that
he can rely on at certain times in the game. If you find yourself
overwhelmed by the enemies, you can send Shadow out to brutally
mame and kill a few. This isn't terribly effective since your
dog's not always at your disposal, but it's still quite a sight
to see the dog rip into one of the bad guys. I can't forget
to mention the trademark "Matrix" or "Max Payne" move
in the game. When you put Jack in the slow motion dive mode,
the time around him slows down. He will tuck and roll in super
slow motion and fire a few rounds at his enemies while they
are frozen in time. You will enjoy the time advantage and the
ability to see bullets flying overhead in slow motion. You
can roll back up onto your feet, or lay in the prone position
to give you a little more protection in order to get a few
more shots off.
There is no doubt that Dead to Rights
packed some cool moves for the hero character. But how do
the controls on the PSP fare in an action shooter game? Since
the PSP has only one analog stick, some concessions had to
be. Instead of controlling the targeting reticule manually,
you now use the "R" button
to lock on to a target. The lock-on feature works well enough,
that is until you get enemies in both front and back of you.
There's nothing like trying to lock onto an enemy in front
of you only to have the targeting reticule lock on to the enemy
behind you. And the manual targeting option that worked for
the console versions isn't included in the handheld version.
The good news is that you can switch between locked on targets,
the bad news is you have to remove your thumb from the analog
nub and reach up and toggle the "down" direction
on the d-pad.
You can't talk about a 3-D game without at least mentioning
the camera, and the camera controls are less than desirable.
It's not so bad when just walking around, but when you begin
to be attacked by enemies in multiple directions and you're
trying to move around to see the action, it can get crazy.
To add insult to injury, whenever Jack gets close to a wall,
the camera automatically goes into first-person mode which
can really disorient as you don't expect a viewing mode change.
The only saving grace to this camera issue is the lock-on system.
When you lock on to a target the camera automatically switches
around for you to view targets straight ahead. Any other time
you're going to be almost running in circles trying to get
enemies into your line of sight. If it sounds frustrating,
that's because it generally is.
We've all become a little spoiled when it comes to 3-D games
with the type of realism and advanced polygon usage we see
in titles on the home consoles. Although the PSP is clearly
capable of producing graphics at least near the level of console
quality, we're still a little early in the development cycle
of the PSP titles to really take advantage of its power. That's
not to say that Dead to Rights: Reckoning doesn't look good.
It has good graphics by handheld gaming standards, but lacks
the full texture and the super realism we've come to expect
in console-level game graphics. It's worth mentioning that
the game has a very dark look to it which, at times, can make
seeing in tight spaces a little confusing. The good news is
that everything seems to run at a constant framerate, giving
the game a very smooth look in motion. The characters in the
game look a step or two above PS1 quality, but nowhere near
the look of a PS2 game. Those looking for advanced lighting
effects need look elsewhere as there's not much lighting to
talk about here. Dead to Rights has the basics of the graphics
in place, it just lacks the polish we'd like to see in a hit
Imagine watching a Chow Yun-Fat or Steven Segal movie and
you'll have a pretty good idea of what the soundtrack in this
game is like. There's some orchestrated music along with some
fairly impressive up-tempo rock tracks. The music fits the
mood and intense action in the game perfectly. If we had a
complaint it was that there just wasn't a lot of variety in
the different music tracks and the music gets a bit repetitive
after long playing sessions. All in all, the soundtracks were
very well done.
If it's one area of this game that truly shines, it's the
sound effects. You're gonna get an earful of gunshots, explosions,
as well as the all-to-familiar sound of bones splitting in
two. You'll also notice that the sounds of bullets ricocheting
off of objects produce different pitches of sound depending
on what material they're hitting. This was a nice attention
to detail in a game that seems to lack details in graphics.
If you can appreciate a good third person shooter, you're going
really fall in love with the sound effects in Dead to Rights.
Dead to Rights has a lot of potential and presents an action
genre adored by fans. It's great to see that Namco brings this
title to the PSP and did a decent job on porting the graphics
and controls to the handheld platform. Players will enjoy the
many aspects of the gameplay including the slow-mo dive and
the canine companion. The sound tracks are fitting and the
sound FX is excellent!
The flaws in camera angles and controls can become frustrating.
The graphics lacks the quality we saw in the console versions.
It's a rental title for most players and a buy for the passionate
following of Dead to Rights franchise fans.