Guess what? Slate's got even more tricks up his sleeve. He can grab explosive canisters conveniently strewn about some of the levels, toss them at his foes, and then shoot the canisters as they're nearing their targets, allowing you to blow up several baddies at once. Unarmed, Slate can perform various combinations of punches and kicks, as well as a limited number of grappling moves. He can block enemy punches and kicks, too, or break enemy grapples with a well-timed button press. And don't forget Shadow, the dog, who basically works like a recharging super weapon. You "equip" Shadow like any other weapon, target a foe and push the fire button as you normally would, and then you'll suddenly be watching a slow-motion close-up of Shadow mauling the victim. The faithful mutt then kindly brings the enemy's weapon to you and vanishes as suddenly as he appeared. He'll be ready for another meal in less than a minute. You'll rely on Shadow often, but as a gameplay mechanic, this dog could have used some more attention. The way he's implemented just doesn't make any sense--you get the impression that the developers couldn't really get Shadow to work quite like they wanted him to, so they cut corners. At any rate, don't worry about sending your dog into the middle of a firefight, because he'll always come out unscathed. If only you were so lucky.
Some minigames, like this bomb-defusing sequence, will keep you guessing.
Considering that Dead to Rights spent a while in development, it's surprising to see problems like disappearing dogs. Other aspects of the game clearly could have used more work, too--especially the camera. Usually, you can rotate the camera around using the right analog stick. You'll have to, because the camera doesn't do a good job of tracking your movement all by itself. As you might imagine, having to futz with the perspective while trying to take on a dozen enemies with AK-47s doesn't make the proceedings any easier. The camera also wigs out whenever you get into tight corridors, and you'll be in tight corridors fairly often. Additionally, the camera angle is unpredictably locked in some sequences, but this isn't any better than the free-roaming camera and will only disorient you even more. The only thing good about the camera is how it snaps to whichever enemy you have targeted. Beyond that, it's arguably the most dangerous enemy you'll face throughout the game. During brawling sequences, you'll frequently get blindsided by enemies who attack you from just off the edge of the screen. These situations could have been avoided if the camera worked more intelligently and interacted better with surrounding objects, or if the game at least used visual indicators to point out enemies that Slate can see but you can't.
The camera makes Dead to Rights particularly frustrating at times, but it's a very difficult game regardless. You'll be constantly on the lookout for health and armor power-ups, which can instantly take you from death's door to perfect shape--not that Slate looks or acts differently depending on his health and armor levels. The shooting sequences are actually fun once you get the hang of them, though they're relentlessly tough. Throughout the game, you'll also take on a number of powerful bosses, and while the early boss battles are straightforward slugfests, some of the later ones are much more interesting. The brawling sequences usually are neither interesting nor particularly fun, though. Your enemies will block and counterattack seemingly at random, and all your foes dish out big damage. Disappointingly, all your standard foes also use the same canned punch-and-kick combos and throws that you have access to. Worse yet, though you'll be fighting large groups of enemies hand-to-hand, you can't knock or throw an enemy into his cohorts. Enemies won't coordinate their attacks, either, and they'll stand idly by as you beat up their pals. Then again, you won't be wishing for the brawling sequences to be any harder. Success in these battles requires either a lot of luck or some cheap keep-away tactics to throw off the enemy AI.
Death in Dead to Rights comes swiftly and often. You can save your progress at any time, but loading a saved game will start you off at the last checkpoint rather than where you last saved. Some checkpoints can be pretty far apart, so you'll often play through some lengthy sequences over and over again. It's a small blessing that loading times are virtually nonexistent in the game.
That's about the best that can be said for the game's technical merits. Jack himself looks OK, and you'll see him sporting several different outfits throughout the game, but many of the other characters look blocky and simple. Most of the game's environments can be described in the same fashion, as they all use lots of bland, blurry textures. For what it's worth, though, some of the levels--like the neon-lit streets of Chinatown--do look considerably better than others do. Interestingly, none of the game's environments are destructible, so you'll use things like wooden boxes to protect yourself from munitions that would rip right through them in real life. Dead to Rights does feature some stylish animations, especially for Jack Slate's various combat moves, and some of the special effects are well done, though the garish pools of blood left behind by slain enemies look like something out of a horror movie.
Not everyone will have what it takes to get through Dead to Rights.
The game also sounds pretty good. The voice acting is hit-and-miss, though Jack has some pretty good lines. The music is mostly subdued and at times repetitive, but the report of all the various weapons is loud and realistic.
Despite its appealing premise, the gameplay of Dead to Rights won't appeal to everyone. The game gets very hard in a hurry, and then it mostly just keeps getting harder from there. It's the sort of game that many are likely to stop playing in frustration and never come back to. But, armed with the knowledge that the game does get better as it wears on, you may find yourself enjoying Dead to Rights as you force your way through its numerous, seemingly impossible scenarios. The game could have certainly been better in a number of ways, but if you're the sort who's been able to finish most recent games without breaking a sweat, then you'll likely respect the challenge that this one has to offer.