Remember movies like Showdown in Little Tokyo? Lethal Weapon? Or how about any Steve Segal movie from the eighties? The only play they get now are on channels like TBS or the USA network. These movies are a testament to Hollywood's short love affair with "action-packed" cinema. These were the days of Arnold and Stallone, and no one cared whether they could act - their arms were huge! And they had massive guns. Oh lord, the guns. These warriors of the silver screen evaded bullets and lethal explosions with the grace and flair of a testerone addled ballet dancer. It was a good time to be a kid during the eighties because movies catered to a boy's most violent G.I Joe imagination with shameless abandon, and we loved them for it.
The Dead to Rights series is a throwback to that golden-age of action-packed cinema. Jack Slate, the main character jumps to the side in slow motion and shoots while he falls. He has these lethal disarming moves that come with all the flair of a Steven Segal aikido maneuver. He even has a dog for a side kick that takes down baddies at a one-button command. In just discussing the elements that make up the game, there is a lot content here to get excited about. Playing the game is a different story.
The last DTR game on consoles fell flat, and unfortunately this PSP iteration is no different. Dead to Right Reckoning is plagued by sloppy controls that constantly force the player to fight for control of the character. Along with that comes a debilitating camera that can't seem to show the threats on the screen when needed. Between the controls and the camera, playing this game is an utter chore. The two problems successfully eroded any hope I had of enjoying this experience.
As the story DTR Reckoning goes, Jack Slate gets called in to save a young girl that has been taken hostage. To accomplish this he's going to have to fight several gangs, dodge bullets, and dive for his life. There are plenty of guns and a variety of disarming moves at his disposal. In theory, all of this could work. Bright spots like the cool sound of the guns and the kung fu style disarming moves give the game style. There is also a lot of detail in the backgrounds worth admiring. I found myself trying really hard to like the game despite how rough a time I was having with the controls. I really appreciate the spirits of the Hong Kong action that the game tries to promote. Unfortunately the flaws here overwhelmed me at the end.
The drunken camera retards your ability to defend yourself in the middle of a chaotic moment. You'll jump for cover in hopes avoiding getting hit. The sad part is that whenever you get near a wall, everything goes into first-person and completely disorients you. I mean really, imagine what everything looks like in first person if your jumping to the side. How the hell are you supposed to see anything? Everything is jumbled and out of control. What's so unjust about this is that the game loves to ambush you with enemies so that they run right up on you with guns blazing and force you to jump out of the way to try and get some kind of bearings. But everything goes to hell if you're in close quarters because of that infernal camera. It's slipping and sliding, even with the autotarget enacted.
The analog nub is used for movement and it doesn't work so well. Moving Jack around the screen ends up feeling like driving a boat. It's just not sensitive enough to make agile movements. There are 3 types of control maps for you to choose from, but all of them have the nub mapped for movement. Also, target lock doesn't intuitively choose the nearest threat to you. You have to press another button to change the target. It get's weird if your overwhelmed with enemies and the camera's going crazy.
When pulling off a disarming move, if you're not careful you'll get sprayed with bullet by the other enemies. They run out of no where and pour on the punishment. You can only really pull off disarming if you have a guy isolated somewhere. But it really sucks if you run out of weapons and you have to go take someone else's. You're forced to run into gun fire and do a disarming move while another enemy stand right next to you and squeezes off rounds right into your neck. If you run out of weapons while going up against a boss, you're really screwed because you can't disarm bosses. Of course, he doesn't run out of ammo, so he's free to fill you full of rounds while you desperately run for your life. It's just a lousy experience that you run into constantly.
There are some odd design issues in the game. For instance, you have to leap to get on top of anything, or get over obstacles. So if your body armor or health pack is on some elevated platform, you can't just climb up to get it. You have to leap up there. This is a real pain if your in a desperate panic with low health and you're trying to the health pack sitting up on that infernal platform.
Ok, I understand that everything is supposed to be explosive to heighten the action of this action packed game. I even understand how being too close to an explosive item when it goes off would cause damage to your character. What I don't understand is how could I shoot an item like this if I'm laying on the ground, pointing away from it! On one such occasion, I was jumping to the side to avoid getting shot and landed on the ground next to a combustible car. When I auto targeted shot at the enemies that were stand away from the car, some how the car was hit, blew up and took health away from me. It sucks because I'm working hard to make progress, and sporadically punished through-out the game for mistakes in the design.
DTR: Reckoning played with my sanity, relentlessly. Ok. What's the point of giving me handguns with silencers in the middle of a firefight? Could silencers be in anymore useless amidst a full-out war. I'm not sneaking up on anyone. Everyone knows I'm there. The dog is cool to use, but it's just odd how he appears out of thin air and kills people at the drop of a hat. He doesn't follow you around. He just sort of pops in when you summon him, and a quick cut scene plays out of him killing your enemy -- he like a ghost dog.
Toward the end, you're finally given a level with a ton of flat open space and only a few obstructions that get in your way. At that point you can dive around better without running into walls that force you into first person at the most inopportune moments. The first few levels have some sections where you get a bit more space to jump around than other levels. But they also have complicating structures like stairs. I would have never guessed that stairs could cause me so much grief in life. How's that? Try pulling off a slow motion dive on the stairs in DTR Reckoning. All I wanted was for to jump off of the stairs so that he could run away from the danger. As Jack desperately tries to auto target enemies and dive away, he's jumping into the rails. It takes several tries to actually get him up and over the rails. Most of the time you see his character model laying in mid-air trying to jump, or first-person mode zooms in and you can't tell what the hell is going on.
There is a multiplayer mode called Wireless Battle where you and another PSP owner can go head to head over Ad hoc. Up to 4 players can participate in either a Deathmatch or Last Man Standing firefight. Unfortunately, the goofy controls that confound everything in the single player campaign proved to do the same thing in multiplayer. If you look at it all a parody of an action movie, seeing everyone leaping in the air like giant frogs, it gets somewhat entertaining. But for the most part this mode requires no real skill because all you can do is blast away as the camera goes haywire once things get chaotic. The skins and maps you unlock in the single player game are selectable here, but it doesn't matter because the game itself is just whacky.
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