Dead in the Water takes one of the most popular PlayStation genres, vehicular combat, and puts it in the water. While, for the most part, the game is simply a Twisted Metal/Vigilante 8 on the high seas, the game does offer a bit of originality and, more important, longevity.
In Dead in the Water, you cruise around 3D landscapes picking up rockets, shields, and other various weapon power-ups with the intent of completely obliterating your opponents. But the one thing that sets Dead in the Water apart from the other vehicle combat games is its race mode. The race mode, as the name implies, lets you race against opponents to see who can get to the finish line first by any means necessary, including simply outracing the other participants or eliminating them from the race with your firepower. To progress through this racing mode you, of course, have to do well. The better you do, the more money you earn, which lets you purchase upgrades to increase your vehicle in various categories, such as speed, acceleration, and armor. This race mode and rewards structure gives you an actual purpose to play other than simply blowing your opponents up. In two-player mode you can use your modified boats saved on memory cards in a head-to-head or cooperative battle. The two-player screen can be split either vertically or horizontally, or you can use the link cable to play on separate screens.
Graphically, Dead in the Water looks great. All the 3D boats and landscapes are quite detailed. The lighting and other special effects give the game a clean, sharp look. The water looks better than any water on the PlayStation thus far. It's especially impressive when a grenade or some other explosive device detonates just beneath the surface, creating a giant ripple effect.
Dead in the Water is just as exciting in the audio department as it is in the visual department. There are tons of sound effects and voices that are constantly popping off. It really adds to the battlefield feel of the game. Characters are constantly taunting you with quirky little sayings, like Sargent Steel's favorite hymn of affection, "I will physically kill you." Some of the taunts, however, are extremely annoying.
The game controls well enough, although the naturally loose control of boats is a little annoying when you're trying to spin around and get a shot off at an enemy boat. It took some time to get used to, but in the end I was still frustrated with the control. It's not really a fault of the game; it's just that, coming from having played a ton of land-based vehicular combat games, I found the sloppy handling of these boats a bit troublesome.
Overall, Dead in the Water is a good vehicular combat game. It doesn't quite rank up there with Twisted Metal 2 or Vigilante 8 on the combat side, mostly because of the sluggish turning that comes naturally with boats. But when you factor in the race mode, Dead in the Water has more longevity than either game, and it's solid in just about all aspects. Fans of vehicular combat games should definitely give Dead in the Water a try.