Meanwhile, opposing players act noticeably differently depending on their aggression ratings, and they may be quick to fight or may concentrate on trying to score. Deathrow matches are often pitched, but you won't get the sense that the closeness of the scores is orchestrated--you'll just feel like you're taking on some very tough competitors. Inevitably, you'll be on the edge of your seat for the entirety of each match, since letting down your guard for a moment or two may easily cost you a victory.
The game offers two different perspectives of the action, an "action view" and a "sports view." The former is a behind-the-back, third-person perspective that is reminiscent of what you'd find in many 3D action games these days. The latter is more of a top-down, isometric perspective that's farther removed from the action. The action view is therefore a lot more fun. However, the main disadvantage of it is the fact that there's no good way to tell if an opposing team member is coming up behind you--not until he or she crushes you into the pavement, anyway. Strangely enough, you select a view option when you begin the conquest mode and then can't change your setting unless you restart.
Additionally, Deathrow has a number of tweakable parameters that can be used to adjust the length and style of each match. Notably, one option is to penalize players who attack opponents who have already been knocked down. The game also includes a large number of unlockable extras that must be "purchased" using points that are earned by winning matches against the computer. Most of these are teams, players, and arenas, though there are also some gameplay options and concept art waiting to be unlocked.
If you'd rather play with friends than with the computer, you'll be pleased to know that Deathrow allows for cooperative play for up to four players in a split-screen view, though competitive multiplayer options are available as well. It's even possible to link up multiple consoles with multiple copies of Deathrow for network play. Regrettably, though, no Xbox Live support is included. This could have been a really great game to play online.
Deathrow sports some great visuals, the likes of which you couldn't find on any console other than the Xbox. Effective use of the system's proprietary visual effects gives all the arenas a highly believable look, with various surfaces--from steel to wood to glass--that all seem to have real texture to them. Liberal use of motion blur and other flashy effects can make the presentation seem rather gaudy at times, but it's still pretty slick. The game's character models look good but are animated even better, and they boast a variety of brutal-looking motion-captured moves that will make you wince whenever you see them. While the whole "violent futuristic sport" theme isn't terribly original, and while Deathrow's many different teams run the predictable gamut from convicts to aliens to robots to military types, the game's look and style are maintained consistently to excellent effect.
Deathrow provides lots of fast, high-adrenaline fun in single-player or multiplayer mode.
Deathrow sounds even better than it looks. It features a roaring crowd that responds to the ebb and flow of the action of every match and a number bone-crushing effects to accompany the high-powered punches and kicks. So if you've got a 5.1 surround-sound system, this is a fine way to put it to good use. A fittingly enthusiastic announcer merely informs you of the beginning and end of each round, though there's plenty of colorful commentary by the players themselves. Each team sounds completely different, but most teams--for better or worse--are incredibly crass. There are more obscenities in your average Deathrow match than in an episode of Jerry Springer, but they aren't bleeped out in the game. It's actually a bit unfortunate that no option exists to turn the cussing off, since it's bound to offend some prospective players who, for whatever reason, are more averse to swearing than to graphic violence. Even still, the quality of the voice work in Deathrow is undeniably impressive. Despite the large number of different teams in the game, matches begin with slanderous exchanges that are specific to the two teams competing against each other. And, for what it's worth, all the foul language does seem appropriate in the context of the game. A pulsing, energetic techno soundtrack complements the action effectively all the while, but if you want to rip your own music to replace it, you can.
Knowing that the game is chock-full of four-letter words, you might expect that Deathrow is trying to get by on its edgy material. But make no mistake--this is a great game because it's so very intense to play, and the violent animations and unbridled dialogue just add to the effect. Deathrow offers significant challenge and great lasting value even for those not looking to play it with others, since the AI is challenging by default, and even tougher difficulty settings are available. And if you do plan on playing Deathrow with others, you can spend your time concentrating on learning the intricacies of the game and leave the smack talking to your team members.