Dead to Rights: Retribution • Page 2

Woof justice.

Once the game moves on from its tutorial phase, things really kick up a gear and the set-pieces pile on the agony. Before long you start to appreciate the balance between gunplay and bone-crunching melee - the likes of which takes its cue from the head-stamping brutality meted out routinely in the Yakuza titles and, latterly, Batman: Arkham Asylum. Leamington-based studio Volatile certainly hasn't missed a trick to make you wince.

Utilising the same 360-degree combat system, Dead To Rights: Retribution feels like a modern-day progression of the non-stop brawling insanity of Streets of Rage and Final Fight, but with added guns. It's a fairly casual system at its core, with light and heavy blows and an array of combos to choose from, while pointing the left stick in the chosen direction directs the focus of your attack.

To add an extra layer of Die Hard-style mania to proceedings, you can even grab enemies and use them as a human shield for a while. As they writhe around in panic, you can crack them over the head to keep them in check. The knockabout ambience is in evidence everywhere, aided no end by Jack's exasperated, expletive-strewn utterances.

Although the game's main focus is undoubtedly explosive action, it manages to shoehorn in a few stealth-based interludes without making it feel a tedious chore. Controlled from the perspective of psycho-hound Shadow, the world is an entirely different place, filled with gaps to sneak through and armed sentries on patrol.

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I want a codpiece like that.

The general idea is to sneak up behind each guard and rip their throats out one by one. Initially you can pad around silently with the left trigger held down, and pull off a context-sensitive kill when the button appears, but once you have to deal with more than one guard at a time, you have to use Shadow's bark to provide an audio distraction.

One might split off from his group to go and investigate, leaving you free to savage them to death for daring to be curious. If you happen to get caught, a chase will ensue, and they'll spray bullets in your general direction - but more often than not the net result is that they'll end up separated from their colleagues. Upon returning to their patrol, once again you'll be able to pull off a sneak attack and whittle down their numbers with patient ferocity.

Your canine companion can also help out during combat on certain levels, and when available he proves a very useful ally. Sometimes it's useful just to send him scurrying off to provide a distraction, while other occasions make for perfect stealth kill opportunities. With a few basic commands issued via the d-pad, it never becomes overwhelming, and the fact he can only be incapacitated spares you from interminable frustration, even if it is a bit silly to witness Shadow continually raised from bullet-ridden hell.

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In the kneecaps, Jack.

But like everything in the game, there's always a sense of fun about what's going on. Take the story: its progression from gang thuggery, to Triads, through to an army of mechanoid Anti-Crime soldiers, is so utterly insane it might just be genius. Whatever the hell it's about, its permanent adherence to being utterly unhinged is quite alright in my book.

With impressive tech allied to its thoroughly engaging mashup of gunplay and melee, Dead To Rights: Retribution is chaos of the best kind. It's tough to call quite how good the game becomes towards its conclusion, but by the halfway stage it looks mightily promising.

Dead to Rights: Retribution is due out for PS3 and Xbox 360 on 23rd April.

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