Though it was released in Europe way back in 2003, Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death is just now arriving in the US. It's not clear what took so long, though every year that goes by puts more distance between Sylvester Stallone's Judge Dredd movie and anyone who might remember it, which can only be good for any product based on the Judge Dredd license. Whatever the reason, the game hasn't gotten a whole lot better with age. It's a short, simplistic shooter that's not worth even its budget price.
Arresting a hippie.
The game's based on the popular, long-running 2000AD series of comic books rather than the aforementioned unpopular Sylvester Stallone movie. You, of course, play Dredd, a cop of the future who acts as judge, jury, and executioner in a fascistic consumer dystopia called Mega-City One. Though the game's price is budget, it doesn't skimp on the heavy-handed social satire. On your quest to recapture four escaped "Dark Judges"--Fear, Fire, Mortis, and Death--expect to be hectored by lots of absurdly unsubtle and poorly acted jabs at various antiestablishment buzzwords, like "consumerism."
You can also expect to be badgered by a lot of vampires and zombies. Though there are some token human lawbreakers to execute here and there, for the most part, the game's 11 short levels pit you against swarms of the undead. Even for a game released in 2003, Dredd vs. Death's single-player campaign is a pretty bare-bones affair. There's virtually no variety in the gameplay from level to level, the combat isn't very intense, and the enemies aren't interesting or clever enough to support an entire game. You'll occasionally have to escort a civilian somewhere, but for the most part, the game comprises straightforward and not particularly well-executed combat. The four boss battles are especially tepid.
In what might have been an attempt to spice up gameplay, you can arrest human lawbreakers rather than kill them. Sometimes they'll surrender on sight, and sometimes you'll have to wing them first. The problem is, unless it's a very occasional part of a mission goal, or unless you're deeply into role-playing Judge Dredd, there's basically no reason to do this. Arrests do boost your "law meter," which is a stat bar that tracks your success as a judge. Unfortunately, the law meter isn't tightly integrated into gameplay. So unless you willfully ignore instructions, it rarely dips below maximum and can be safely ignored.
The entire single-player campaign can be completed in about five hours. The PC version, which lets you save anywhere, goes by even faster than the console versions, which feature only checkpoint saves. Two people can tackle the single-player campaign cooperatively (split-screen on the consoles or over a LAN or the Internet on the PC). This is a nice feature that would have been a lot more exciting in a better game.