Dead to Rights: Retribution

Canine out of ten?

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 clearly states that any dog being a type appearing to the Secretary of State to be bred for fighting, or to have the characteristics of a type bred for that purpose, must be tightly controlled. Indeed, if a dog is dangerously out of control in a public place then the owner is guilty of an offence; or, if the dog while so out of control injures any person, it is an aggravated offence - and likely that said dog will be destroyed.

In short, having sat through a presentation in which dog-inflicted genital mutilation has cropped up in conversation no less than on four separate occasions, it's fair to say that Shadow the wonder dog's time on earth is likely to be short indeed. Dead to Rights: Retribution's last level will be a solemn affair in a Grant City magistrates court, and the closing scene will be a disconsolate Jack Slate seeing him driven away in the back of a white van. Because, as we all know now, Shadow chews balls off. He also plunges his head into chests to bite out hearts, picks up corpses with his teeth to shake them around like a fleshy maraca and has an idle animation that sees him urinate upon the deceased. You'd almost think he was a 'bad dog', if he weren't doing it all to fight crime.

Retribution, in development at Leamington's Volatile Studios rather than its former haunts, isn't rocket science. There's little you haven't seen before in its third-person mix of doggy stealth and third-person action hero violence - but its developers realise they're not at the helm of a revolution in testicle-endangering gameplay. They just want to make a finely honed shooty-brawler that cherry-picks the most fondly remembered features of the series, and make things explode in an entertaining, slick and undeniably familiar fashion. To this end, they may well have succeeded - playing around with Slate's controls is immediately familiar, and immediately satisfying.

Ignoring man's best friend for a while, Jack runs and guns like a trooper. He hides behind cover, blindfires, lobs grenades and has access to a large arsenal of death-bringers - but at the same time whenever you feel it appropriate can neatly move into chopsocky mannerisms. The game's hand-to-hand combat is very much a 360-degree affair, slightly reminiscent of a less stringed-together variation on the goon-bashing in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Enemies tend to gang up around you, and you can punch, disarm and grab in whatever direction pleases you most - comboing and building up to some ludicrously violent finishing moves.

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Ruff! Ruff!

There are around eight execution animations that can be inflicted on the poor criminals of Grant City, plus an extra one for each weapon that you might have equipped at the time. They range from kerb-stomping and back-breaking all the way up to piercing skulls with sniper rifles and a rather personal encounter with a rocket launcher. Seriously, if Dead to Rights: Retribution were big or famous enough to get on BBC Breakfast News then we'd bear witness to Keith Vaz quivering like a s****ing dog. Speaking of whom.

Shadow, a beast of indeterminate breeding, is pretty helpful in combat. He works on a context-sensitive system - you can send him further up into the level, attack a particular enemy, pick up a handy-looking gun and return it to you covered in dog slobber. All useful tactics when in a pinch. He isn't super-powered though, and you're encouraged to work as a team. Shadow will grip onto a gangster you've deemed particularly offensive for example, and said triad will effectively be pinned in a certain position - allowing for a neat headshot.

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