Released in 2002, the original Dead To Rights—with its sadistic executions of enemies—was little more than a poor man’s Max Payne with an attack dog. The 2010 sequel doesn’t fare any better. The game tells—or rather, retells, since it hashes over the same narrative ground—the story of Jack Slate, a rogue cop whose most distinguishing characteristic is his Kratos-like anger over the murder of his father, from whom he inherited his blank, handsome looks.
This personal injustice supposedly justifies the cruel and unusual rampage on which Jack embarks. Merely killing an enemy is never enough. Instead, he must snap the enemy’s neck, break his arms, legs, and back, and then shotgun his head clean off. The executions are designed to provide a was-it-good-for-you catharsis. They don’t. They come off as juvenile and obscene. Whatever shock value they might have wears off almost instantly, transforming the game’s supposed “money-shot” into something pedestrian and tedious. (The execution animations can’t be turned off or skipped.)
The developers intentionally limit the amount of ammunition guns have, pushing players into the illogical position of having to use fists against gun-wielding enemies. In order to reach an enemy, you need to run flat out into the line of fire. After one, two, three, four—or more—shots to the chest, you will finally be in close enough proximity to land a punch. You can also grab enemies and turn them into hostage-shields, or snatch weapons out of their hands.
You should feel like you’re improvising their way through the game’s never-ending warehouse and train yard environs, taking hostages, snatching weapons, and snapping necks. You won’t. Battles are ham-fisted and messy, and you wind up spending less time fighting, and more time limping to cover.
In the name of mixing things up, the developers devote several levels to Jack’s wonder dog, Shadow. Taking control of Shadow to sneak up on unsuspecting enemies is far more interesting than any of the hyperbolic killing that Jack does. In a game that’s filled with violence and tragedy, it’s Jack’s affection for his dog that provides a single note of genuine emotion.