Our protagonist awakens, covered in debris from a train wreck he managed to narrowly escape from. How did he get there? The game rewinds to earlier in the adventure, as our hero makes his way on a sordid journey towards the disastrous ride. Along the way, he'll have to dispatch enemies, taking cover, mixing gun play and melee combat.
No, this isn't Uncharted 2. It's Namco Bandai's Dead to Rights Retribution. And unfortunately, it too easily welcomes comparison to Joystiq's Game of the Year 2009 ... and comes up short.
Dead to Rights Retribution is not a bad game per se; however, the third person cover shooter is such an over-saturated genre, that anything short of perfection stands out. There's a good idea for nearly every aspect of the game; and simultaneously, a shortcoming. Some examples: the deliciously brutal execution animations are marred by dated graphics; a relatively deep Tekken-inspired melee combat system is hampered by awkward controls; a competent cover shooting system is plagued by lackluster AI and enemy design.
Perhaps the game's greatest strength (and most original concept) is Shadow, a canine companion that joins Jack Slate. He's been a staple of the franchise since its inception, but Retribution is the first time you'll be able to control him. Akin to Batman: Arkham Asylum's detective mode, Shadow has the ability to see enemies through walls and sense their awareness of your presence. You'll be able to bark to draw attention, and do instant take downs when sneaking up on an unsuspecting enemy. Should you get caught, though, Shadow can bolt away at an incredible speed. Even better, you can usually ram head-on into an enemy at full-speed and take him down. Playing as Shadow feels just right: the sense of speed, coupled with his unique stealth abilities, make us wish he was the real star of the game.
Dead to Rights Retribution isn't exactly terrible, but it doesn't have enough polish to make good on its more promising ideas. We've seen this time and time again, with games like Eat Lead and Wanted. However, with only two weeks until release, it seems unlikely that Retribution will blossom into a game worth getting excited about.