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Dead to Rights: Retribution

Dog's dinner?

Everybody was gun fu fighting

Dead to Rights: Retribution

One way to park a car

In promising “360° hand to hand combat”, the developers implied something akin to the fluid CQB mechanics of Arkham Asylum. But, unlike that game, striking out isn’t contextual, so it’s impossible to change target without breaking your combo. Instead, you’re forced to concentrate on one enemy at a time, leaving you vulnerable to others, or left just wildly flailing your arms about in the hope of hitting whoever is closest. A poor camera exacerbates this, and you’ll often find yourself being struck by an off-screen assailant.

Gunplay is better implemented. Firing from the hip, over-the-shoulder and blindly from cover all work well. The only time shooting doesn’t work is in the thick of a melee. Your turning speed is reduced when holding a gun, so you’re always better off holstering your weapon and taking them on mano a mano.

This necessitates the game’s most obvious and belief-suspending design concession. Even on the most difficult setting, as you rush towards a hail of bullets, Jake Slate is able to withstand some five to ten direct hits at close range before being felled.

Given the game’s gun fu mechanics this is an understandable trade-off in realism, and it’s admittedly difficult to see how else the developers could better employ the series’ trademark marriage of unarmed combat and gunplay. But it reinforces the feeling of last-gen gaming instilled by the game’s poor textures and animation. Overall, this forced marriage remains a broken one, and one of gaming’s least successful partnerships.

You’d be forgiven for giving up at about this point, so mediocre are the title’s early levels and controls. But, if you do, you’ll miss out on some considerable improvements just around the corner, as two elements combine to elevate the game from bargain-bin status.

The first is the return of Shadow, your K-9 partner from previous games. Although again poorly animated, he comes replete with tricks. Part guide dog, part treasure hunter and complete face-mauling, groin-ripping devil dog, Shadow is one of gaming’s most capable, and sickeningly violent sidekicks.

His dog-only stealth sections provide a welcome break from the mindless bullets and fists. And his use as a canine boomerang against entrenched enemies, or as your tag-team partner in hand to hand combat, brings a worryingly sadistic savagery to proceedings, as well as a superficial level of strategy.

 Dead to Rights: Retribution

Nice doggy

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