Dead to Rights: Reckoning
The PSP hasn’t had any action games until just recently. If you take a look at the original launch titles, many of them were good, but Spiderman and Untold Legends were just about the only games that had any bit of violence in them. Don’t get me wrong, I think the PSP had a very nice launch, especially for a system produced by Sony, but the lack of a decent action game was definitely its “Achilles Heel.” And so, we all looked forward to Rengoku, which promised a lot of great action over a series of expansive levels…and it sucked. So, we had to wait again for the next game promising intense action, which turned out to be Dead to Rights: Reckoning. And this one had to be good because Dead to Rights was a reasonably popular franchise published by a reputable gaming company. At least, that’s what PSP gamers thought. Turns out, we still have to wait for the next big action game before we’ll be completely satisfied, because Dead to Rights: Reckoning isn’t the action game we were searching for.
So, once again we’re stepping into the shoes of Jack Slate. Jack and his dog Shadow are sent out in search of a young girl who’s been kidnapped. They’ve got no evidence and no leads, but since when has that stopped a video game detective from getting the job done? Jack Slate certainly won’t be stopped.
Typically, the first level introduces us to the controls and the workings of Dead to Rights: Reckoning and from the get-go you can tell that this is a pretty shallow game. Jack has your typical action hero moves: he can run, he can dive, he can crouch, but he can’t jump. Just as you’re getting comfortable with moving around, a group of goons (the same goons you’ll kill a million times over in this game) arrive and it’s time to start killing. Since there’s no second analog stick on the PSP and there’s really no way to aim, a lock-on aiming system has been put into place that will probably target the thug farthest away from you because unfortunately the lock on is a little stupid. Once you eliminate the first few thugs another set of them will pop out behind you. You’ll be told to send your dog to take care of one of them (complete with cool “dog lunging at goon’s throat” animation that’s great for the kids) and you’ll be instructed to disarm the other one. In three minutes of gameplay, you’ve experienced nearly everything Dead to Rights: Reckoning has to offer. In another three minutes, the first level is over and a brief, silent cutscene tells us where we have to go next.
But, you’ll keep playing Dead to Rights: Reckoning because nothing is cooler than sending Shadow cause some guy a bad day. Nothing is cooler than diving into an enemy and watching Jake Slate shoot him in the head. You’ll keep playing Dead to Rights: Reckoning because nothing is cooler than diving into an enemy and popping him in the face with a shotgun. A few levels into it though and you’ll realize that you want Jack and Shadow to do more – and they won’t. Each level, all 6-7 minutes of it, requires that you do exactly the same thing you did in the last level. The scenery might change, but the gameplay won’t. That’s Dead to Rights: Reckoning most unforgivable fault.
I can forgive that the levels are short because this is a portable game but the amount of repetition is mind-boggling. The overwhelming repetition is made worse by the fact that the storyline is forgettable drivel. Perhaps if I even cared about the girl that needed rescuing, perhaps if she had any background story, perhaps if she even had some direct relation to Jack Slate, I would care more about her plight. But I don’t. There is hardly any storytelling at all anyhow. You’re barely told why Jack is going to his next destination during the fifteen second cutscenes and are even more rarely told why he’s there in the first place. Now, combine this with the previously mentioned moronic lock-on system with an unadjustable camera system that is fine in open outdoor environments but terrible in claustrophobia-inducing indoor levels and you have a recipe for disaster.
Even still, Dead to Rights: Reckoning does have a few things going for it. There’s no denying that this is an attractive looking game. The various levels that you’ll shoot your way through are often expansive with lots of environmental objects to hide behind, dive over, and shoot at. While the army of thugs that you’ll go up against don’t offer much in terms of variation, the bosses that you encounter are uniquely animated (too bad they have no personality). Even Shadow, your trusty sidekick, has some great animations. And those fifteen second cutscenes? Yeah, they look good too. As for the sound in this game, there’s really none of that. There are lots of bangs and booms and the sound of silenced weapons whips around as you’d expect, but there are no voiceovers and the music is a less-than-refreshing blend of rock music that really isn’t pleasing to anyone.
Dead to Rights: Reckoning is a great looking game with no personality. Sure, it’s got an alright wireless multiplayer mode, but really, it’s like that gorgeous ditzy blonde that everyone knows. Sure, she looks really good and she might even have a few funny stories to tell, but really, she’s partially brain-dead and you certainly don’t want to take her home to meet your parents. If Dead to Rights: Reckoning had managed to capture any of the personality or originality that had managed to make the first game the franchise a success this easily could have been one of the best PSP games on the market. Since it didn’t, this is one that I can’t fully recommend.