I like biting off men's genitalia as much as the next guy, but after a while it tends to get a bit old. Once you've chomped and chewed your eleventh set of meat-and-two-veg, it simply ceases to be that big of a deal. If variety is the spice of life, then Dead to Rights Retribution has enough seasonings to fill a sizeable wooden shelf; unfortunately, they're all minor variations on the same herb: freeze-dried leaf of ultraviolence.
Like the previous two games in the Dead to Rights franchise, Retribution follows the bloodthirsty adventures of Grant City detective Jack Slate, and his best friend Shadow the Dog. Slate and Shadow are supposed to be an investigative partnership, but most of their cases simply involve the wholesale murder of assorted bad guys – Slate using guns and his brutal martial art styles, Shadow using his teeth and snuffling wet nose (well, maybe just his teeth). Retribution starts out in Die Hard-like fashion, with Slate slaughtering his way through a whole tower's worth of crims, then moves on to several other gritty-yet-familiar urban environments – junkyards, railway stations, and sewers. Later on a slight sci-fi vibe is thrown into the mix for good measure, but the basic formula remains pretty much the same throughout: kill everyone in sight, then go for a little walk until you find your next victim.
It's a primitive setup to say the least, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes a spot of mindless destruction is just what the doctor ordered (if only to drum up business), and to its credit the game does offer a multitude of ways to inflict painful misery on your foes. At a distance you can blaze away with pistols, machine guns, and a wide selection of other firearms, with headshots yielding a satisfying burst of slow-mo; when you're up close you can batter away with combos consisting of light and heavy attacks, and guard-breaking moves that stop your opponent from blocking. When an enemy is low on health you'll be given the option to snuff them out with a violent finishing move, triggered at the touch of a button. For added chuckles, you can also use a gun for these executions – resulting in charming little vignettes in which knee-capped thugs plead for soon-to-be-ended lives. Finally, and perhaps most satisfyingly of all, Slate has the ability to disarm gun-toting goons, allowing you to shoot people in the face with their own weapon.
It all adds up to a broad arsenal of attacks, and yet in other ways our renegade copper is surprisingly limited. Like Woody Harrelson in a 1992 basketball flick, Jack Slate can't jump. He can't manually crouch either, but if you're near something sturdy there's a good chance that he'll be able to take cover behind it. Unfortunately, the button to initiate this cover mechanic is the same one for the disarmament move; it's rather aggravating when you want Slate to snatch away the shotgun that's prodding his face, and he has a nice little sit down instead.
On the whole the combat works well. There's no lock-on system, and occasionally this results in melee fights feeling a bit scruffy, but at first there's plenty of fun to be had from pounding on assorted gang members, kicking their faces in and throwing them into electric fences and the like. There's a bullet time system to assist with shooting and brawling, but this largely feels like a fun bonus rather than an essential tool. Enemy and friendly AI is decidedly patchy: rescued hostages have the smarts to pick up discarded weapons, and your foes have pretty much the same hand-to-hand skills that you do (including the disarmament move), but sometime you'll run across gang members doing something stupid, standing around and staring into space.