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(PSP) Dead to Rights: Reckoning
By Ryan Newman
Jul 18, 2005,
8 :57 am
As generic detective Jack Slate, your mission is to rescue a kidnapped girl from the clutches of bunches of guys with guns. This particular rescue involves going from one isolated location to another, killing hundreds of cloned thugs. Aside from the addition of an attack dog and slow motion acrobatics thrown in for good measure, the game is a straightforward action title that asks nothing more than for you to dispense firepower upon everything in the immediate vicinity. To be forgiving, we can say that this is a meat-and-potatoes game, and that would be a fair assessment, but it would also be more of an excuse than anything else. Some games like Serious Sam do this run-and-gun approach right, mainly by emphasizing one aspect of the design such as large numbers of enemies and destructive environments, and going all out in terms of polish, creativity, and implementation as a way to compensate for what they recognize as an overall basic design. Reckoning relies on two features to give it some spark: an attack dog and an acrobatic, slow-motion evade system, neither of which is all that compelling, at least on the PSP.
The attack dog, Shadow, is seen only during the brief cutscenes and animations in which he is mauling his prey. Having him unseen is a good thing, because screen real estate tends to be low, with random objects cluttering up the widescreen view, and with a camera that often fails in keeping up with Jack, or in basic functionality in general for that matter. Having another object on the screen could easily wreck what few smooth moments there are. Actually, Shadow is the most powerful weapon in the game; aside from the bosses, he kills enemies with one attack. His use is limited by a meter that slowly charges throughout, but he comes in handy whenever at the ready: it doesnít matter if a villain is unseen behind a corner or up on a balcony, as long as you have your target on them, Shadow can get them. I have to admit, itís always fun having a would-be killer mauled to death.
The evade system could have actually been pretty cool, or at least it was the first time it was properly implemented in Max Payne. What is supposed to make Reckoning special is that, aside from the obvious similarities between Jack jumping to the side in slow motion like another character, is that he can also choose how he lands: he can land with a roll, laying down on the floor, or laying on furniture, all of which allows him to continue to fire. He can also kneel and roll to the side, as well as jump backwards and fire. Heís a pretty versatile police officer in many respects, though not a very keen one, as peeking around corners or blind firing over objects seems to be beyond his skill level. There is one particularly snazzy move that involves Jack taking down a bad guy by taking their weapon and killing them with it, complete with a short animation to show off all sorts of cool twists and flips followed by the death blow. Iím not sure if it says anything about me or not, but I enjoyed the animations every time I saw them.
In addition to having plenty of style, Reckoning also has lots of weapons. Throughout the game you will be using anything from a single pistol to dual-wielding sawed-off shotguns. While there is an option to switch between weapons, doing so is rarely needed, as all you really need to do is just keep firing until the ammo is gone. This approach is so effective because the areas you fight in are so small. In fact, many are so small that the cool acrobatics become more of a hindrance than a help, with the camera unable to get a good point of view and often losing Jack in all the action. Making good use of the arsenal of weapons is made even more difficult by an erratic targeting system. Aside from having to use the up directional button to switch targets, which is in itself inconvenient, the targeting system often targets the most inopportune targets such as an enemy behind a corner or farther off as opposed to the one two feet in front of you that is already firing. This often leaves you to try to compensate in the middle of a firefight. Many problems stem from there only being one analog stick, and the absence of another makes camera control a daunting task. These are things that shouldíve been worked out.
The game is also extremely short. On Normal, I would venture to say that the game lasts about two-and-a-half hours. Throughout the story, you unlock skins and levels to use in multiplayer, and beating the game unlocks some more modes, but none of these are enough to bring any true longevity to the title. After fighting with a shoddy camera and targeting system - not to mention facing bosses who simply sat there and let me shoot them - I was none too eager to jump back in. Multiplayer is done in deathmatch style, which fits the game well, but the availability of others to play it with may be a problem, though there is a trick to play a round on two units with one disc, if anyone is that interested.
If nothing else, Dead to Rights: Reckoning at least manages to excel at general mayhem. While environmental damage is limited to a few barrels and cars, the carnage wreaked from firing off hundreds of rounds in a confined space is impressive and fun. If the game didnít suffer from technical problems, Iíd say it would be average as far as action titles go Ė nothing spectacular, but a decent diversion for a few hours. Sadly, the fun Reckoning provides comes at the cost borne out of frustration due to a poor design. If youíre dying for unbridled carnage, you might want to hold off on picking this one up, because although itís cheap now, itíll be even cheaper shortly.
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