Less easy to forgive is Shadow's non-existent AI. The shaggy dope requires an infuriating amount of micromanagement, given his inexplicable habit of standing in the open, taking constant fire from mounted machine guns or snipers, forcing you to dash into harm's way to revive him after each suicidal bout of inaction. Equally annoying are the times when you set him on an enemy, only for him to leave them alive. Getting blasted in the back by someone your virtual partner was supposed to have handled is the very definition of a cheap shot.
Thankfully, gunplay works best out of all the gameplay elements crudely stitched together here, though even then it's never anything more than an adequate cover-based shooter to add to the Gears of War wannabes pile. Headshots are frustratingly inconsistent, but the variety of weaponry keeps things just the right side of interesting. This isn't a game where you need to cling to a favoured weapon; when a gun runs dry, Jack simply discards it, forcing you to grapple with bad guys to restock your arsenal.
Praise is at least due for the commendably smart enemies, who almost compensate for Shadow's drooling ineptitude. They'll seek cover, fall back and regroup, and will even pick up and re-use whatever weapons are left lying around. The same is true for friendly AI characters, on the few occasions they're part of the mix.
Mostly, however, Dead to Rights: Retribution is one of those games that should be far more entertaining than it actually is. The violence is ludicrously overplayed, with the obligatory gory slow-motion takedowns and burst-melon head explosions, and this is bolstered by wet, sickly bone-crunching sound effects and a relentlessly mean-spirited tone. A bombastic Danny Elfman-style soundtrack strives to give these grisly events an epic feel, but only serves to illustrate how pompously overblown the whole thing is.
Jack Slate is certainly one of the least enjoyable action heroes to come along for some time, appearing in the effectively acted cut-scenes as little more than an angry muscle on legs who treats everyone around him (apart from his beloved dog) like dirt. He's a horrible prick, but the game seems unironically in love with his B-movie posturing, never missing an opportunity for him to spit the same repeated quips over and over.
"You have the right to remain...SILENT!" is a good one. "Stop f***ing firing at me!" is hilariously petulant, but appropriately honest given that this is probably what you'll be thinking as well. My favourite beefcake bon mot is when he randomly bellows MOTHERF***ER! at nobody in particular, presumably just to remind you that you're playing a mature game for grown-up adults.
Punch, shoot, swear. This is one of those games that reveal everything they have to offer by the end of the third level, and then just keep going, making enemies tougher to beat but never really varying the things you need to do along the way. What should have been an unpretentious fast-food morsel of a game instead becomes a bloated, indigestible monster burger, weighed down with ten flabbily paced levels, unbalanced boss fights and slack checkpoints that force you to replay just enough of the mindlessly bruising action to break your spirit.
The game at least has the good grace to cram pretty much everything of value into one solo play-through, which suggests that it was never intended to be anything more than a boozy weekend rental, much like the meat-headed movies it aspires to. Taken on those terms, Dead to Rights is a lot like its belligerent hero, getting the job done in the crudest manner possible, leaving behind nothing more memorable than a sticky adolescent mess of blood, bullets and profanity.