Judge Dredd: Dredd Versus Death Hands-On Impressions

Rebellion's new first-person shooter lets you dole out justice with extreme prejudice.

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We recently got some hands-on time with Judge Dredd: Dredd Versus Death, a new first-person shooter from Rebellion that is, in fact, based on the Judge Dredd comic book. Those who remember the film version of Judge Dredd can rest easy--this game draws only from the original comic book line that inspired the mid-'90s action dud and not from that flop itself. In any event, the game will place you in the role of Dredd as you battle through 11 levels of criminal scum and undead monstrosities in an attempt to take down your nemesis, Judge Death.

In the far-flung future, order is maintained by the judges, who are freely operating, judge-jury-and-executioner-style human machines of justice. The judges are empowered with the privilege of meting out punishment at the very scene of the crime, and Dredd is the most well-known and feared judge of them all. The game will give you an opportunity to peaceably apprehend criminals (by ordering them to surrender) before you have to resort to disabling them violently. In fact, your own morality is rated by a "law meter" that is maintained by doing things the right way. If you wantonly kill everyone in your path, your law meter will eventually deplete, and other judges will be dispatched to apprehend and punish you.

Many of the game's enemies will be resistant to peaceful negotiations, so you'll have to bring Judge Dredd's considerable arsenal to bear on them. Your standard sidearm is the "lawgiver," a firearm with a whopping six types of fire. Machine gun, armor-piercing, heat-seeking, high explosive, incendiary, and ricochet modes are all available with the lawgiver alone. If you tire of those death-dealing options, another 10 weapons will also be on hand, such as a machine gun/sniper rifle combo, a shotgun, a laser gun, and the STUMM grenade.

We got to try out the single-player mode in the PlayStation 2 version, and it seems to have cohered into a pretty decent first-person shooter. There are no real surprises to be found in the gameplay--it plays like most any console FPS game, although you'll usually want to arrest a suspect without resorting to violence rather than just rushing in with guns blazing every time. If you request that perpetrators drop their weapons and they run away, you can sometimes fire a warning shot near their feet to make them rethink their actions. If that doesn't work, you can always just shoot them in the leg. Graphically, things seem to be running pretty smoothly, without any serious frame rate problems evident in the levels we played. The game's look is pretty consistent with the future design set forth in the comic series, too.

Judge Dredd: Dredd Versus Death will feature an 11-mission single-player campaign as its main component. Additionally, you can play a series of challenge missions that have you trying to accomplish a specific objective, such as apprehending 30 suspects or escorting an important figure to safety. A multiplayer mode will also be available for up to four players in which you can play against humans or bots. The game is due for release in March; we'll bring you more information soon.

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