Dead to Rights II: Hell to Pay Hands-On

We get our hands on Jack Slate's second gritty starring role and bring the fight to the criminal underworld.

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In 2002, Namco introduced Jack Slate, a down-on-his-luck K-9 cop with a chip on his shoulder and a yen to, well, kill every no-good lowlife he could possibly find. Cut the guy a break; the slaying of a family member will do that to you. The original Dead to Rights presented a reasonably stylish Hong Kong action flick-style shooting experience that was hard as all get-out and pitted you as a lone gun against legions of enemies in gritty urban environments. We recently got to play a brief demo version of the upcoming sequel, Dead to Rights II: Hell to Pay, and found that while the shoot-everything-that-moves spirit of the game has been maintained, the gameplay mechanics have been streamlined to make the actual shooting a lot easier to pull off.

Hell to Pay retains the presentation of Dead to Rights and makes great attempts to streamline the gameplay.
Hell to Pay retains the presentation of Dead to Rights and makes great attempts to streamline the gameplay.

The first level of the two-level demo we tried was set early in the game, in a standard dilapidated back-alley sort of area full of gutter punks and other unsavory characters who just happened to be armed to the teeth. Thankfully, so were we; a cheat was enabled that gave us access to a large percentage of the game's roughly 20-strong arsenal of firearms. Immediately, the first thing we noticed about the action was how easy it was to target enemies and waste them in a stylish fashion. The shooting this time around is eased by the addition of a newly tweaked lock-on system, which allows you to cycle between available targets with ease.

Not just enemies will be targets that you can lock onto, though; a new addition to Dead to Rights II is destructible background elements. For instance, we were able to shoot out the gas tank of a nearby motorcycle to cause a big explosion that took out two enemies, rather than individually targeting and killing the enemies one by one. This targeting system allows you to shoot in just about any direction, so you can target an enemy and then run away from him, essentially firing over your shoulder as you flee. The run-and-gun action felt pretty loose and easily accessible, from our brief experience in the demo, and it seems to address any issues players of the first game may have had.

Slate has some other useful tricks up his sleeve, too. For instance, you can roll in any direction to evade fire, which obviously comes in handy. Even more useful, though, is a slow-motion dive that you can activate by holding the roll button rather than tapping it. While you're moving in slow motion (which is limited by a meter), you'll be able to target enemies as normal, and you can take out a whole group of them before you hit the ground if you're fast enough. You'll also be able to back up against a wall and sidle over to the corner, target enemies on the other side, and pop out to fire rounds at them before ducking back behind cover. This move works for smaller objects like crates, too; you'll duck down behind the cover and pop up over the top to dispense your justice, rather than around the side.

The tweaked lock-on system in the game makes wasting bad guys a whole lot easier and more satisfying.
The tweaked lock-on system in the game makes wasting bad guys a whole lot easier and more satisfying.

The other level in the demo was set in a fancy bar of sorts, and was labeled "hard." This area certainly put our skills (such as they were) to a much greater test, as the enemies here seemed to be a highly organized group of fighters rather than simple street toughs. We had to make much greater use of cover in this level, which was said to be set toward the end of the game. Simply charging into a room and attempting to target and kill all the enemies, which had worked fairly well on the previous level, was no longer a viable strategy.

Dead to Rights II is looking pretty sharp at this point, with just the sorts of urban areas and unpleasant opponents you'd expect to see in an action movie like the game seeks to emulate. There's even more to the game than we got to see in this limited demo--Slate's dog, Shadow, will be making a return from the previous game and is said to be a much more functional attacker and companion this time around. Dead to Rights II: Hell to Pay is currently slated (har har) for release in April of next year, and we'll bring you more information on the game before that time.

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