The Matrix was a cultural milestone. If you look at any popular media from the early 2000s, you are likely to see its influence. No where is this more obvious than games, with the primary example being Max Payne. Dead to Rights (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia) is no different – it cribs certain elements from both Max Payne and The Matrix, but doesn’t provide enough originality to be remembered in its own right.
In Dead to Rights you play a cop, Jack Slate, who honestly isn’t very cop like – he never makes arrests as far as I can tell and his primary method of conflict resolution is to shoot guys in the face. I even shot a guy in the back once – he didn’t even know I was there let alone threaten me. The basic gameplay is as follows, walk through a corridor, encounter some enemies, kill said enemies, find a key card to open a door, go to the next area. There is some mild puzzle solving where you take control of Jack’s dog, but that’s about it. In an homage, or outright theft, of Max Payne, you also get a bullet time mode. One extra method of taking down enemies is to use your faithful dog. Target an enemy, and if his stamina bar is full, hit the square button to have him attack. If this all sounds dated it’s because it is.
This was clearly what is referred to as a B tier title – titles with smaller budgets that can be churned out in a year or two of development time. With increasing development times and complexity, most B tier games have been driven out of the market – and I miss them. I miss the days of going to a retail store and seeing something on the shelf that I had never heard of before. Dead to Rights is a great example of this. Is it great? No. Is it fun? For short bursts at least, yes. Granted these days most B tier type games are being made by indie developers, but they seldom get physical releases – and publishers like Namco are unwilling to publish games like this now that the risk level is higher. Enough with budgets and the changing market – let’s get back to Dead to Rights.
There are a lot of noir inspired lines of dialog in this, but the story seems incredibly thin and the dialog is so generic that it seems like wasted effort. The voice acting is particularly bad, and it’s clear that they spent very little money on it. The music and sound effects aren’t great either.
Graphically, the game has aged pretty poorly. It looks and feels like an early PS2 game – lots of muddy textures, stiff animations, and jaggy objects. The controls are a bit strange too, this was a time when console controls for games hadn’t been standardized. You target an enemy with the R1 button and fire your weapon with X. Camera controls are mapped to the right analog stick as expected though, which is a blessing.
So, reading the above this sounds like a game that is best left on the shelf, but despite the poor sound, graphics, and dated gameplay, I found myself still having fun with this one. I don’t know that I would ever play it entirely through to completion, but as a fun diversion for a few hours I think it’ll fit the bill – just what I’m looking for in a B tier game.
Verdict: Play again!
Images courtesy of Giant Bomb