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Dead to Rights: The longest video game review ever

Daniel Weissenberger's picture

Dead to Rights Screenshot

"Slate is as much a two-fisted fighting machine as he is a gun-toting kill dispenser." - Xbox.com

Dead to Rights is fun, stylish, and incredibly violent. It also has a plot that is so spectacularly bad that you have to wonder if it was written by actual humans, or rather by retarded gibbons hurling refrigerator magnet poetry tiles at a really long metal board. I'd say it was worth buying, but it's really one of those games you want to rent first, to see if it's your bag of oranges. This won't be a traditional review, more of an analysis of the game's plot, along with a few comments thrown in about the gameplay here and there.

Since a discussion of the game's plot will involve recapping most of it, this article will essentially be one extremely long spoiler—so be forewarned.

(Note—It has come to my attention that my use of "Designers" as a derogatory term when discussing the people behind the game may have insulted the myriad honest and hardworking people who crafted this game. In this revision I've used the term "Creators" instead, and that term refers specifically to Writer Flint Dille and especially Producer/Writer Andre Emerson. Since Mr. Emerson has put himself in the forefront of the publicity concerning the game, going so far as to claim credit for its plot, from here on in he'll bear the brunt of criticism as well.)

The game's opening movie gives us a window into one of Jack (our hero) Slate's previous adventures, in which a team of madmen have held the Grant City Public Library hostage. Now for our first digression—his name is Jack Slate—not only is this an incredibly obvious "tough guy" name, but it's eerily similar to the name of Arnold Schwartzenegger's character from Last Action Hero. That's right, the game's main character has a name that's only a single letter away from being a parody of an action hero's name. We're introduced to Jack Slate as he takes a book off of a shelf—it's a book about Houdini's great escapes (in the writing biz, this is known as foreshadowing—extremely obvious foreshadowing. Supposedly this serves to make it more believable that Jack is able to pick locks later in the game). Jack is then tipped off to the presence of criminals in the building by the villain (a rather distinctive character, actually), who decides to execute a hostage for no discernible reason.

It's more effective if you let the cops know before you do that.

Although it's questionable why Jack was alerted by a pistol shot, rather than the excessive amount of automatic weapons fire going on both in and outside the building. In fact, this entire sequence is rather confusing, as it's never really clear whether Jack just happened to be in the library when the criminals arrived (how did he not notice the men in body armour setting up explosives and taking hostages?) or if he's just such a great cop that he managed to infiltrate the building (but then why would he be picking books off of shelves?). Either way, he doesn't come across as the best cop in the world, a theme that will permeate the rest of the game.

Also puzzling? Just what kind of crime the villains are perpetrating. They've got hostages and have rigged to the library to explode. So they must be holding people for ransom, right? Except no, here's the contents of the case that the bad guys open when getting inside—

I feel the 100 dollar bill is more traditional.

So maybe they just robbed a bank, and are holed up in the library after an unsuccessful getaway? But then why is the money also trapped with explosives?

So you want the money to explode?

And then the action starts, along with the first of the game's laugh-out-loud ridiculous moments. Two Thugs are standing by a railing on the mezzanine—a book cart rolls up behind them.

They seem unusually menaced.

On the book cart is a fire extinguisher. Jack steps from behind a stack and shoots it. Now I'm fully ready to believe that shooting a fire extinguisher will make it rupture, maybe even to such an extent that it could mildly injure someone standing directly next to it (my rationale for this? Metal Gear Solid 2. Hideo Kojima does his research). Sadly, pressurized CO2 is in no way flammable or explosive, and will certainly not do this—

I think there was a labelling error.

Of course, this isn't just a cute and preposterous bit from the opening movie, no, the exploding canister is one of the game's main innovations to the third-person shooter genre.

What makes this canister from the opening movie so much more than a simple humourous mistake is that it demonstrates what the game's creators were intending to do, but failed at—throughout the game, the exploding canisters are ubiquitous, helpfully installed all over the levels just like, well, fire extinguishers—only they're not fire extinguishers. You see, at some time during the development of the game, after the whole "canister-throwing" thing had been finalized, someone noticed that no, fire extinguishers don't explode like that. So they decided to make the switch to something a little more believable. Now Jack spends a good part of the game throwing around canisters of Propane, which are far more likely to explode in the way the game depicts. So the makers of the game patched up one potential flaw, but at the same time raised a much larger question: Why exactly are there canisters of propane installed on nearly every conceivable flat surface?

In the world of Dead to Rights, are people really fond of barbecues? So fond, in fact, that they're terrified of being more than fifty feet away from a some emergency propane?

Sadly, this question, along with a great many others, goes unanswered.

The action moves fast and furious, with only one unusual point worth mentioning. It's Jack's use of "action hero intuition'—namely that he manages to Just Know how to defuse a bomb. You see, there's this detonator that looks like a toy car remote, where a pull of the trigger arms the explosive.

Why do you even put a text readout on a detonator?

Only Jack doesn't see the explosive get armed—and there are two other buttons on the remote. So when it comes time for Jack to disarm the explosives he decides the best course of action is to just pull the trigger. Okay, so I'm not a hard-boiled dog-cop, but pulling the trigger of a remote-control bomb detonator seems fairly counterintuitive—although I am just basing that on the scene from Terminator 2.

From there, the game begins in earnest with the rather ambitious "titles" sequence, which is designed to give the game a more cinematic feel, as well as get as much messy backstory out of the way as quickly as possible. It gives us glimpses of headlines from the history of Grant City (formerly Glitter City—also formerly "Granite City." Apparently after some wag in the press commented that the name made it sound like the game was taking place in the Flintstones world, the creators rushed to change the name of the city to something a little less unintentionally hilarious), a gold rush boomtown gone bad. It also subliminally establishes that the main character is somewhat of a badass by mentioning that his great-grandfather was an escaped convict back in 1893.

Unfortunately, it also introduces us to one of our myriad villains, the "Pinnacle" family. And there's bad sign number two. One of the main villains of the game is non-ironically named "Pinnacle." When is it that people are going to realize that it's all well and good to give your characters suggestive, metaphoric names, so long as 1: It's not painfully obvious (ie: every character in Max Payne). 2: The names you give them are actually last names! Pinnacle is such an unpopular last name that according to whitepages.com, there are only 34 people in all of America with the last name of Pinnacle, and further research has determined that none of them are conveniently mountainous corrupt politicians who operate at the (conspiratorially fey laugh) "pinnacle" of society.

Chapter 1: The Last Call

Now we're brought to the present—with Jack Slate driving around in the middle of the night, his canine buddy Shadow in the back seat, panting happily. Jack begins a typical neo-noir tough-guy voice-over that's just as awkwardly written as you'd expect from a video game. Here's a sample:

Not a good sign when your main character doesn't actually understand how trees work, is it? I don't know many people who got out of grade school without figuring out that while almost all trees start out green, whether they turn yellow, orange, red or any combination of the three is dependent on the type of tree they are, not the amount of time that they've been dying. So one of the first things that Jack says suggests to the audience that he's not sharpest tool in the shed. I'm not spoiling anything by telling you that there will be very little to refute this assumption as the game continues.

See? Stoplight. Damn.

Also? Just FYI, but the red in a stoplight doesn't mean "Danger." It means "Stop." Hence "stoplight."

(Also, wasn't the closeup on that lion great? You just know he's up to something…)

Suddenly there's a call on the radio—shots fired at a construction yard. Jack happens to be nearby, so he rushes on over. Okay, back to question time—K-9 cops just drive around the city, looking for crime? Huh? Don't they spend most of their time training and waiting around for bomb scares and drug busts? It's not like you'd send a dog into a hostage situation or have him chasing muggers. Really, the whole idea of a hard-boiled K-9 cop is a little ridiculous, it makes it seem like the game's creators were really big fans of Sega's "Shadow Dancer", and just had to add a dog to the game. Even stranger, the dog (not coincidentally named Shadow) is a huskie, just like the dog from "Shadow Dancer", despite the fact that K-9 dogs are almost invariably German Shepherds, who are known for their trainability and excellent sense of smell. Actually, the dog is more of an afterthought than anything else, and other than a single sequence in which you control him to open a pathway, and a bomb-sniffing minigame, the dog is utterly superfluous, nothing more than a weapon of last resort, who tears out throats and brings back weapons.

So Jack gets out at the construction site and charges in without waiting for backup. Because he's a Cop on the Edge (hereafter CotE). Now you are allowed to enjoy a training sequence in which the game teaches you to play it by slaughtering a few dozen construction workers. Now this is the first point at which the game gets a little confusing, and I'm going to have to jump around in the plot a bit in order to make the lack of logical sense clear. The people you fight (and kill—there are no non-fatal options available) are construction workers, who work for Pinnacle construction (more on that later).

Yeah, that's legal.

Not only are they construction workers, they're construction workers who have, until this point, not actually killed anyone. Later in the game we'll learn that they had nothing to do with the shooting at the construction site. So why are they so ready to attempt murder? Anyone's guess really. Not only are they incredibly quick to fire on a police officer, once the tide of battle is clearly turning against them no one makes any attempt to flee, in fact, every single one of them guard the centre of the site with their very lives. What is in the precious thing in the centre of the construction site? Jack's father, Frank Slate.

Pathos!

So all of these construction workers are willing to fight and die to keep the police away from the body of a person that they didn't even kill, rather than, say, escorting the policeman into the crime scene while professing ignorance. Interesting, no?

Before I continue talking about the game's plot, I'd like to take a moment to address one of the moves taught to the player in the training level. If you have a weapon, you're allowed to run up to an opponent, grab them, and use them as a human shield. This is an understandable choice—after all, the person was trying to kill you, as are his (with the exception of a few masseuses in one level and one set of bosses, all of the villains in the game are men) compatriots, so it seems only appropriate that you use him to soak up some enemy gunfire while taking out his friends. No, the thing I take issue with is what happens once you've killed all of his friends. The game tells you that you can "get rid" of the hostage by pressing the same button you used to take him in the first place. How do you get rid of him? By pulling his head to the side, jamming the barrel of your pistol into the side of his head, and executing him.

You might experience some hearing loss.

Let me restate that, just so we're clear. You grab a guy and strip him of his weapon. Then while you blast his friends, he takes a number of bullets in the chest. Once all of his friends are dead, you're left holding an unarmed, severely injured hostage—essentially a helpless person who logically can't be of any threat to anyone. So what do you do? You shoot him the back of the head, literally murdering him. Now, of course, this can be somehow justified, I suppose, later in the game, when your character has become a Cop on the Edge with Nothing to Lose (hereafter CotEWiNoLo), but here, in the first level, he's supposedly still a good, if somewhat hardboiled, cop.

A good cop who executes injured hostages.

Okay, so, back to the plot. Jack gets his moment of angst over his father's corpse, and the voice-over gives us a little more of that precious exposition we love so well. Apparently Frank used to be a cop, but then he was convicted of a crime he didn't commit, and was sent away. He told Jack that he was innocent of all the charges, and Jack believed him. It's never really gotten into, but one can assume that Jack joined the marines and then police force in an attempt to make up for his father's public disgrace and the shame it brought to his family, sending his mother to an early grave. Of course, nothing like that is mentioned in the game, so I'm just providing a few character notes you can assume about Jack, if you want to pretend his character has a little more depth.

That's more detail than I'm interested in seeing.

So the other cops arrive, led by Hennessy (who appeared briefly in the trailer, but looked so different that it took me a while to tweak to the fact that they were supposed to be the same guy), to investigate the murder, and Hennessy gives Jack the traditional speech about not getting involved. Then something peculiar happens. Jack is frustratedly trying to figure out who would want his father dead (other than the horde of trigger-happy construction workers, of course), and Hennessy says (and I'm paraphrasing here)—"Your father had only one enemy that I know of." That enemy? Auggie Blatz.

And here's where the game starts to go a little nuts.

Chapter 2: The Den of Iniquity

Iniquity # 1. The quality of being unrighteous, or (more often) unrighteous action or conduct; unrighteousness, wickedness, sin;

So, after Hennessy mentions the fact that Auggie didn't like Frank, we're treated to a voice-over explaining their relationship in the vaguest way possible. Apparently Auggie is that wonderful stock noir character, the businessman who pretends to be a generous philanthropist, but is, in reality, a vicious racketeer. According to Jack, his father was the only one who was "on to" Auggie. This raises the rather obvious question—what exactly did Jack's father do for a living that he was Auggie's nemesis? No one's said up to this point, so he could be anything from a lawyer, to a cop, to a crusading social worker, to some kind of politician, or even a PI. Now it's important to stress at this point that there is no evidence of any kind implicating Auggie Blatz in Frank Slate's death.

So based on nothing more than one character (who Jack profoundly hates) mentioning that Auggie didn't like Frank, Jack decides that his best course of action is to forgo any formal investigation, and just head straight over to Auggie's place and murder the guy.

Our hero, folks.

So Jack goes to a dance/strip club that Auggie owns. In a spectacularly odd and unpleasant move, the club is named "The Den of Iniquity", which, of course, is akin to renaming Denny's 'Place where Artery-clogging crap is sold." I guess the message here is that Auggie isn't an especially clever fellow.

Sneaking in the back way, Jack runs into Hildy, his father's assistant, who also happens to be an exotic dancer at the club. In an infuriating move, they manage to have an entire conversation without ever making it clear exactly what Jack's dad did for a living. Oh well. Hildy offers to perform an erotic dance routine to distract some guards while Jack sneaks through the back room into the club proper. Now, at this point, Jack's choices start to become a little, well, insane. While it's true that he's there to murder a man, he's still a cop after all, and he could probably muscle and intimidate his way past a few guards into Blatz's office. Instead, he decides to pull a fire alarm to clear the club out, so that the place will be clear of innocent bystanders. Although his actions may be somewhat ill-advised, Jack here is at least acting in character, even if that character is little more than a crazed would-be murderer.

No, the problem here is the behaviour of the guards at the club. You see, it turns out that Auggie had nothing to do with the murder of Jack's father—he's completely innocent. So while Jack is there to murder Auggie, Auggie has no way of knowing this. In fact, there's no reason that the guards at the club should think that Jack showing up is anything other than a normal investigation or raid. Yet their first reaction upon seeing him is to attempt to beat him to death.

A little later in the game, a character will say that killing cops isn't a good idea.

He's the only person in the game who holds this opinion, Jack included.

After Jack has beaten about ten men to death, a Boss runs out and challenges him to a fight. Jack identifies the man as Boris, a minor figure in the Russian mob. Jack wonders aloud what Boris might be doing meeting with Blatz. Well, I'm no dog-training supercop, but I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest... Planning crime? Again, this is a question that will never be answered. Boris attacks Jack, offering no reason or excuse for his attempt to murder a police officer.

After Boris is dead, Jack gunfights his way through a few dozen men until another Boss arrives. This turns out to be Dimitri, Boris" brother that Jack had earlier sent to prison. Jack makes the somewhat questionable move of taunting Dimitri by saying “Hey, you just missed your brother!” Now, I'm all for edgy characters in fiction, but am I, the player, supposed to be rooting for the guy who, upon meeting a criminal, essentially says "Hey pal, I just beat your brother to death with my bare hands! You want to make something out of it, sissy?"

With Dimitri dead, Jack takes the private elevator up into Blatz's offices, killing another fifteen guards along the way. At this point, I started wondering how many of the people I was shooting were cold-blooded killers, and how many were security guards trying to keep a crazy gun-toting cop away from their boss. Rather hilariously, when the upstairs guards first see Jack, one of them exclaims "Cheez it! It's Slate!." No, really. This is supposed to be a tough, violent, "mature" neo-noir game… The guards sound like Peanuts characters swearing.

When he finally comes face-to-face with Blatz, the crime lord is revealed to be a cowardly, weaselly little man voiced by an actor doing the worst Christopher Walken impression I've ever heard. I mean it. This thing has to be heard to be believed—it's like half the time the guy can't remember what actor he's trying to sound like so he slips into a bad Vinnie Barbarino voice. It's sad.

Jack kills a whole lot more people and chases Auggie back to his apartment, which is in a rather high-class hotel that's only a couple of blocks away from the low-rent strip clubs and massage parlours of Chinatown. Jack kills a few more people in the lobby, and takes the elevator up to Auggie's apartment. And here we get the one and only interesting character in the entire game, so please pay attention, folks, 'cause he's not going to be around too long. Jack wanders into the apartment and finds Auggie bound and gagged. There's just barely enough time to be confused (in a.. you know... manly way), before Jack gets shot in the head.

Much to the detriment of the gamer, however, this doesn't prove to be a fatal injury.

Out of the shadows steps "The Artist."

Style, thy name is this random guy.

Look at that guy! Violet tuxedo over a frilly shirt, a goatee, carries a golden Luger. He also gets the game's only really good line.

So you just know his days are numbered.

While standing over Jack's bleeding body, The Artist then takes out his cell phone and has a conversation with his employer, offering up a few more plot points. Oh, and also, the game's single most preposterous contrivance. You see, The Artist takes Jack's gun and shoots Auggie in the head, and then drops the golden Luger he used to shoot Jack in Auggie's lap—right on top of his tightly-bound limbs. The idea being to frame Jack for murdering Auggie, and make it look like Auggie got off one shot. Also, The Artist doesn't wear gloves of any kind. A consummate professional. The Artist actually brags about his ability—he was able to knock Jack out with a bullet without killing him. Which raises the huge question: Why not kill Jack? Now, The Artist's employer apparently thinks that it's a bad idea to kill cops—the theory, I guess, being that the ensuing investigation would be all the more thorough.

We'll learn, however, that the mastermind of the scheme is in a position to control the investigation, so that explanation doesn't quite fly. One might think that there was some kind of greater scheme going on—that the villain might have something to gain by keeping Jack alive. No, this isn't the case, in fact, the events of the game will demonstrate that absolutely no one's life is made any better by having Jack Slate continue breathing. And since you've got Auggie's body right there anyway, and you're making it look like he shot Jack—why not just kill two birds with one stone?

The answer? Bad writing.

Just before Jack passes out, The Artist reveals, for no discernible reason, that Auggie wasn't responsible for Frank Slate's death.

Fade to Black.

Now let's just take a look at how incredibly preposterous this entire "frame-up" was. It will be later implied that Jack "fouled up" the villain's plan by showing up at the crime scene, which means that the plan to kill Auggie and frame Jack had to be concocted during the ten minutes it took Jack to drive across town. Also, the plotters had to know that Jack would succeed in getting in to see Auggie, but fail to kill him—in fact, they would have to know that Auggie would flee from the club, but not just hop in a car and drive to the police station, no, they managed to predict that Auggie would head back to his apartment, where The Artist was waiting for him.

Which raises a bigger question—why frame Jack for murder at all? The whole point of the "frame-up" is to get Jack out of the way. By sending him to jail, not by killing him. Since Jack was headed to Auggie's place to murder him, why not just let fate run its course? One of two things would happen. 1: Jack gets gunned down by one of Auggie's hundred guards. Problem solved. 2: Jack kills a hundred men, then murders Auggie in cold blood (Sure, Auggie might plead innocence, but it's kind of hard to prove you didn't have someone murdered. Especially when the person you're trying to convince has already killed a few hundred people). Jack spends the rest of his life in jail. Problem solved.

Why do villains always have to go and make life harder for themselves? Oh, and just a little note for anyone who doesn't want to wait until the end of the game for the killer to be revealed—everyone else just skip this paragraph—the killer of Jack's father had to be someone who knew that Jack was going to try to kill Auggie. Of course, the only person who knows this is Hennessey. Jack, however, won't ever figure this out.

Chapter 2.5: The Trial of the Millennium

In an innovative twist for the action genre, the next level of the game is a courthouse sequence. Jack is charged with the murder of Auggie Blatz, and the player controls his attorney, making his final summation to the jury. This is handled through a Britney's Dance Beat-style interface, with the player pressing highlighted buttons at the correct times. A missed button press makes your lawyer stumble, stammer or miss a word, lowering the jury's confidence meter. If your confidence meter runs out, Jack is convicted and sent to the electric chair. If you manage to make it through the entire summation, Jack is free to kill again.

Of course, none of that is true.

But I decided to digress again to point out something that the good people of Namco seem to have missed. There's a reason that the action movie genre overlooks the whole "consequences" section of the story. You see, whether it be Marvin RIggs gunning down most of the South African consulate, or John Matrix slaughtering 200 men whose only sin was being born in the wrong Central American country, the deeds of action movie characters defy conventional morality. Really, they can only be looked at two ways—entirely unnecessary, or entirely justified. Which raises the question of exactly what Jack's trial must have been like.

Of course, Jack wasn't charged with the murder of a hundred or so bouncers, guards, and hitmen. He's just charged with the single killing that the player didn't control. So we can assume all the other murders were considered self-defense. So why wasn't Auggie's? The Artist went to all the trouble of making it look like Auggie got a shot off, wouldn't Jack have just been able to claim that he had come to see Auggie about the murder of his father, Auggie had opened fire, and Jack had only returned fire? Sure the ballistics wouldn't match up, but giving how sloppy the original frame was, something tells me that "science" wasn't a huge element of the prosecution's case.

So, long story short, Jack is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. In fact, he's sentenced to the state's first "Fast-Track" execution. More on that in...

Chapter 3: Iron Point

A radio story fills the player in on the necessary backstory as a subtitle informs the player that 7 months have passed. Well, there's a horse of a different colour. In a city as crime-riddled as Grant, how on earth could a case go to trial within 7 months? Not just go to trial, actually, go through pre-trial motions, jury selection, trial, conviction, sentencing—so that 7 months later, Jack's waiting to be executed.

That's right, in Grant City, they've done away with the appeals process. In fact, the radio goes on to explain that the new "Fast Track Executions" have been put into effect by Mayor Pinnacle, and they are opposed by his "feminist" opponent in the upcoming elections, Gloria Exner. She's referred to as a feminist, but we never learn anything about her policies other than that she's against constitutionally questionable summary executions, and is running for Mayor. In the world of Dead to Rights, this is apparently enough to deserve a derisive "feminist" nickname.

What's interesting here is that this is the first instance of what will become a theme in the game—a total lack of understanding about what exactly a Mayor does all day long. In fact, the entire character of Mayor Pinnacle feels like the archetypical corrupt Governor you'd see in traditional Film Noir and Hard-Boiled detective stories. Only he's just a Mayor. A Mayor with the power of life-and-death over the people who live in his city.

Is Grant City a sovereign nation? If not, none of this makes a lick of damn sense.

When the radio program ends, Jack is revealed lying on the bunk in his cell. Conspicuously, he is neither on the normal Death Row, a solitary cell where prisoners spend 23 hours per day in lockdown, nor is he in "Final Day" accommodations, totally isolated from all other prisoners, constantly watched by guards to ensure that he doesn't kill himself. But let's move on. An offensively stereotypical religious black prisoner appears.

Not voiced by Morgan Freeman.

He's supposedly an old friend of Jack's Dad. Of course, due to the game's policy that "context is for suckers" no details of any kind are given. The friendly black man (conveniently named "Preacherman"), tells Jack that a con named Tattoo is planning a break at midnight—as Jack is being put to death. (This is the only place where the game gets prison right—prisoners are always executed at 12:01 AM, because Death Warrants are only ever issued for a single day, and they want to make sure that they have a full 24 hours to defeat any last-minute legal challenges) So now Jack just has to figure out a way to get out of the whole "being electrocuted" thing. So it's off to the workshop, so someone with a brain can work on the problem.

But first, he has to beat a few men to death.

Now, this is going to be a point of contention, but I'm of the mind that when you beat other characters down in hand-to-hand combat they're killed. Some people might suggest that they're just unconscious, but I don't buy it. Here's why.

Well, at least they dragged the body away.

1: From time to time, if you stand over one of the bodies, a very large pool of blood will spread out underneath it. 2: Later in the chapter, when escaping from the prison, you're chased by guards. If you punch and kick a guard until they're out of health, the game ends—the only logical assumption is the game doesn't want to let you kill a corrections officer. Although, a few paragraphs from now, that will seem fairly ridiculous. So it's safe to assume that, with the exception of the two characters that make return appearances, Jack beats everyone who attacks him to death.

These attacks are so arbitrary and constant that I'm not going to attempt to chronicle all of them, but suffice it to say that during his last day in prison, Jack Slate beats upward of 70 men to death with his bare hands. Funny, after the first 20 or so, you'd think the rest would take a hint. Oh, and by he way, there are almost no guards anywhere to be seen in this prison, and even when there are guards nearby, none will ever do anything to deter Jack from murdering inmates.

Some people have commented that the prison in the game isn't depicted very realistically, what with the lack of anal rape. I don't have any complaints though, both because I'm sick of the constant references to prison rape in popular culture, and because, let's face it—Jack is probably killing a couple dozen people every day—who's going to try anything with him?

By the way, this is by far the worst part of the game—an endless series of fights using the game's laughably underdeveloped brawler engine. Sure, if you squint very hard, you can overlook the fact that every single character (other than three bosses) has the exact same set of moves—although it gets a little ridiculous watching a bunch of convicts performing jumping spin kicks followed by sweeps. What makes no sense whatsoever is the sudden underpowering of Jack. This is a man who, while performing the game's patented "disarms", effortlessly breaks arms, crushes legs, and snaps necks. Now, when Jack gets hands on someone, all he can think to do is toss them off to the side. It's sad, really.

So once he's killed a few people and gotten to the workshop, the con in charge tells Jack that he'll be able to short-circuit the electric chair by putting some battery acid on the contacts. And he's willing to sell Jack the battery acid for 50 packs of cigarettes. How do you get those cigarettes? Well, first there's the gym sequence, where you have to play some of the game's much-maligned minigames, including weight-lifting and speed-bagging. I'm not going to address the mini-game controversy here, but this is a perfect place to mention that there were two other minigames cut from the prison sequence. The exclusion of the first - 3-Card Monte, baffles me. Simplistic gambling games are de rigeur for this type of sequence. Frankly, I'm amazed we didn't see some riff on the old "Which Conch Shell is the Ball under" sequence (Best done in the game Heart of China—if you're making some kind of a list or something). The other minigame was excised for a great reason—it was Handball. I have no idea what the mechanics of that game might have been—although a deranged pseudo-3d pong with more swearing springs immediately to mind. Do people actually play handball in prison? Any prisoners want to give me a heads-up?

The lion's share of the cigarette-gathering is done by, of course, beating other prisoners to death and stealing their smokes. In fact, at the beginning of the prison sequence, you don't have access to the entire prison—a realistic touch, since prisoners aren't allowed to go traipsing about wherever they please. Or it seems like a realistic touch, until you realize that in each cell block there's a "boss" prisoner you have to beat up—once he's dead, you take a keycard off his body that will allow you to access a different part of the prison. Of course, the guards manning all those checkpoints will make no effort to stop you. No, they'll just look the other way while you use a magnetic key-card to enter their sections of the prison and beat a few of their charges to death.

Found your keycard! What's that? You don't care?

There are only two more sequences worth mentioning during the mind-numbingly tedious prison adventure sequence. The first is when Jimmy, a random con, approaches you and asks you to "take care of" another prisoner that's been bullying him, offering you a pack of cigarettes as compensation. The whole "murder-for-hire" thing isn't what I take issue with, since Jack Slate will soon prove that he is a wholly and unambiguously terrible human being. What puzzles me is the idea that Jack would only want a single pack of cigarettes. This is a human life we're talking about here, people. A carton, minimum. Please.

The second sequence is so deranged that it deserves its own paragraph. Allow me to set the stage—Jack just used his blood cigarettes to buy a vial of battery acid, and he's walking back to his cell. He hears a dog barking. It sounds like Shadow, the wonder dog. Jack runs down the hall and bursts into—a kennel?

Oh, you don't want to do that.

That's right. Shadow is in the same prison as Jack. “What's he doing there?” You might ask. Again, no answers are anywhere to be found. If you really stretch your imagination, you might manage to convince yourself that the prison has its own K-9 squad (hence the ten other dogs). Of course, since the prison is actually inside of Grant City, it seems like the more cost-effective move would be for the police to just send out their K-9 squad for the infrequent drug searches. Whatever justification existed in the game creator's minds, it's not evident in the game, so the only conclusion that the player can come to is that Shadow was sent to Doggy prison when Jack was put in jail.

So, anyway, Shadow was barking because Sickle, the "Toughest Screw in the Pen" (hereafter TSitP—and by the way, this part screamed for a Clancy Brown voice-over, but it was not to be) was rattling his cage. You see, the TSitP has taken a dislike to Jack for no other apparent reason than that Jack is the main character. Unable to do anything to Jack, TSitP has elected to taunt Jack's dog. Big Mistake. Jack beats TSitP within an inch of his life, and then heads back to his cell for a nap before the big show. Waiting for him is a reporter, hoping to get Jack's story on the last day of his life. Jack agrees, because the reporter will probably be important later in the plot. This would be a great opportunity to provide a little tough-guy foreshadowing, with Jack telling the reporter that the real people behind his father's and Auggie Blatz" murders weren't going to get away with it. Another missed opportunity, though, as the game cuts away to a cinema sequence of Jack reading the sewer map he got off of Tattoo after beating him half to death in the shower room.

He's being executed in the year 1912.

Cut to the big death scene, presented as another full-motion video. Present at the execution are two guards, a press person, Hennessy, Mayor Pinnacle (finally revealed, he looks as much like the Kingpin as copyright laws will permit), and a former boxer-turned security expert Rafshoon Diggs. Now, what's interesting about this character is not that he represents the first time a parody of Lennox Lewis has appeared in a video game—although that's true—no, the interesting thing about this character is that he has no reason whatsoever to be at the execution. Sure, it's claimed that he was a "friend" of Auggie Blatz in the brief intro he's given, but nothing like that will ever be mentioned again, and it really ends up feeling like they just needed to shoehorn in an introduction as quickly as possible. This becomes even more confusing a little later in the game, when it's revealed that the security company Rafshoon works for is Pinnacle's private security organization (that's right, in addition to owning a construction company, the mayor also owns a security company)—so it would have been believable that Rafshoon was just there as the Mayor's bodyguard.

But no, he isn't. Now, it might have been interesting if the suggestion had been made that Rafshoon (and you can imagine how silly I feel typing that name over and over again) was somehow in charge of security for the apartment/hotel where Blatz lived, and was instrumental in sneaking The Artist into the building. Nothing like that will ever be implied, of course, but it might have tied things together nicely.

The TSitP straps Jack into the electric chair, and mentions that he bribed someone a hundred dollars to get the switch-pulling job. Not exactly a charming fellow, is he? Especially since the "switch-pulling" is never performed by a guard, but rather by a random person hired specifically to do that job. There to perform the Last Rites is Preacherman—now why, exactly, the warden would allow a prisoner to do this is beyond me, other than the obvious reason—to give Preacher the chance to slip Jack a razor blade, and sprinkle some battery acid on the electric chair's contacts. That's right—Jack's entire escape plan was hinged on the warden allowing another prisoner to get within inches of him when he's strapped into the electric chair. Oh, and by the way, Jack's head hasn't been shaved—so there's a good chance his hair and the chair would catch on fire had the execution actually proceeded according to plan. Why is the warden putting up with this?

Well, actually, there's doesn't seem to be a warden of any kind in the prison. No, Mayor Pinnacle seems to not only have the powers of a Governor, but also the duties of a warden. Nice and confusing, isn't it? It's at this point that it becomes clear "Mayor Pinnacle" is actually a crude combination of two characters, the Corrupt Governor, and the Corrupt Warden. Really, the game's plot just screams for there to be two separate characters here—but for some reason the game's creators have decided that the game already had enough characters, and we're stuck with Mayor William Pinnacle.

I hope Marvel doesn't sue.

Given that he's just the Mayor of Grant City, the actions that he takes and power that he has makes little to no sense. Although his being the Mayor will be somewhat important for a plot point a little later in the game, for now, it's simply ridiculous to see the Mayor of a city sentencing someone to death for "Intentional Murder."

Yeah, that's not a crime. All murder is, by definition, intentional. If it was unintentional, it's Manslaughter, which is a different crime. It's possible the creators got confused about 1st and 2nd degree murder, which are seperated based on whether or not premeditation was involved. It's hard to imagine how that misunderstanding could lead to writing "intentional murder." Have they never seen an episode of Matlock?

So, the TSitP pulls the switch, and the acid does its job—the entire prison blacks out, and we only see the following actions in single-frame flashes. We see Jack climbing out of his chair, punching out Sickle, and shoving him down into the electric chair. Someone screams for the power to be turned back on. Preacher somehow does this, although I'm not sure how flipping a switch can fix a central problem in the building's wiring. Anyhoo, the lights all come back on—as does the electric chair. Everyone left in the room is horrified to see the TSitP being fried to death in the chair—shaking violently, his skin turning black.

Seriously, don't touch that dog.

That's right, you didn't misread—Jack knocks out and then pushes Sickle into the electric chair, murdering him. Now let's pause for a second and consider the morality of this action. Sickle doesn't seem like an especially good man—he taunts a dog, insults Jack, and then makes sure that he'll be the one who actually gets to kill Jack. None of these are particularly stellar characteristics, admittedly—but did Sickle actually do anything that he deserves being murdered for? While it might be a little mean-spirited to want to execute Jack, in Sickle's defense, Jack is a convicted murderer—about to be legally executed. What Sickle wanted to do, while distasteful and possibly immoral, was in no way criminal. Jack, on the other hand, beats a prison guard up and then electrocutes him essentially because the guard screwed with his dog.

Our hero, folks.

Freed from bondage, Jack runs through the prison and joins the prisoners in their escape through the tunnels. Here it gets a little interesting once again. Now, one might think that, upon finding the power out and their escape route open, the prisoners would decide that freedom was job number one, and devote themselves to getting as far away from prison as fast as possible. They don't, however. No, their first priority seems to be to set up as many traps as possible to gun Jack down.

I'm not going to get into the nuts and bolts, for example, where did the guns come from—but I am going to ask the bigger question—how exactly do the prisoners know that Jack is following them? Yes, it's probable that Tattoo mentioned to the other prisoners that Jack stole the map—but why would the other prisoners have any reason to believe that Jack isn't a large slab of bacon by now?

And even if they somehow did happen to know that Jack was escaping—here's a more important question: Who cares? What does it matter to the other prisoners? You're in jail for 5 to 10 years, maybe even life. Suddenly you're shown a tunnel that leads out of said prison. Do you take the tunnel, or do you wait around for another convicted murderer (who used to be a cop) to show up so you can try to kill him? Not just one or two, mind you, but 50-60 men make the exact same decision to try and kill Jack, despite the fact that he's not a cop any more, is doing nothing to hinder them, and no one has given them any kind of incentive to kill him. Of course, this could have been rectified in the writing stage had there been some kind of open bounty placed on Jack's head by a mysterious underworld figure—a no-questions asked million dollars to anyone who kills Jack Slate. There isn't anything like that in the game, though, so the counter-productive actions of the would-be escaping prisoners are nice and confusing.

Once Jack has killed the last few prisoners, all helpfully gathered around the exit, waiting for him, he climbs out of the tunnels and finds himself in a park. Headlights flip on, and a car tries to run Jack down, which takes us right into...

Chapter 4: The Black Orchid

Jack is frozen like a deer in headlights. Which is convenient, seeing as "deer" would be a good guess as to the size of Jack's brain. Luckily Shadow is there to knock him out of the way! As you'll see in this hard-to-decipher screenshot that I've helpfully annotated:

Does the sketching help?

Now it's time to start up a regular feature here, um… inside this review. It's called "Where is Shadow preposterously teleporting from now?"

In our first entry, let's consider where we last saw Shadow:

Good dog. I'm not going to let you out, though.

Jack had just beaten up Sickle, and took a moment to pet his dog before non-fatally thrashing Tattoo. This leaves Shadow, just a few hours before the execution, sealed in a plastic dog container with a metal gate. Which means that in order to save Jack just then, Shadow would have had to 1) Escape the container. 2) Escape the prison. 3) Figure out which way Jack had gone and meet him outside at the precise moment that car drove up.

He did show up to save the day, though, and the driver of the car is so shocked to see a dog push a man aside that he, for absolutely no reason, swerves off the road and slams into a tree.

He jumps out of the way, and the car crashes into a tree. Jack throws the door open and finds a man slumped over the wheel. Based on Jack's muddled voiceover, it's impossible to tell at this point whether the man int he car is supposed to be alive or dead. Later, he will turn out to be alive, which will make Jack's next move very confusing. Jack throws the man out of the car, then steals his wallet. It turns out that the man is named "Marvin Silt"—the game's second mining-related name—and he seems like a generic thug. Jack makes it abundantly clear that he has no idea who Marvin Silt is.

Petty theft - the hallmark of every great hero.

Jack then drives away, making a comment about how the police are probably watching his apartment - but he has another place to hide. Now, this half of this comment shocked my brain with its stupidity, while the other half actually impressed me with its cleverness. The dumb part first: Uh, Jack—you don't have an apartment. You haven't had an apartment for a very long time. Once you've been convicted of murder, your lease is voided. Did you think they'd be holding the apartment for you until you were actually executed—just in case? Now the thing that impressed me was not actually something the game did, but something I thought they were going to do.

You see, it's only logical to assume at this moment that Marvin Silt is dead (more on that below), and since Jack has his car, keys, and wallet, I thought that he'd elect to hide in the place no one would ever think of looking for him—Marvin's place. Who would think of going to a generic dead thug's place to look for a crazed, murderous, escaped convict?

It's a residential hotel. They just let shirtless people walk into those, right?

Of course, that isn't what Jack does—the game was just setting me up for a fall. No, Jack heads over to Auggie Blatz" apartment. He walks in the door, past the broken yellow tape, the voiceover informing us that he knew the bureaucracy in Grant City was so bad that he was sure that Blatz" place would still be a closed crime scene. Jack pauses to look at the tape outline on the ground where he lay after being shot in the head (including a bloodstain in the carpet), then wanders into the bathroom to clean himself up.

Stop twitching, god-damn it!

The stupidity of this sequence is epic.

First off—he's trying to lay low. Why on earth would you go to a swanky residential hotel if you're trying to keep a low profile? Then there's the question about how the crime scene could possibly still be open—it's been seven months, and the case is long since closed. Even if the cops wouldn't have gotten around to closing it on their own, why would the hotel managers allow it? Think about it—this is a high-class place. Three story, all-marble lobby, fountain, the whole magilla. A nice apartment in it would probably run five grand a month, minimum. Is it really conceivable that the hotel management would take a 35 thousand dollar loss on the apartment while they waited for the wheels down at City Hall to turn? Of course not. This is "The hardest place on earth." They'd slip a clerk a few hundred dollars and the tape would be taken down, simple as that.

Finally, there's the dramatic moment where Jack looks at the tape on the floor. Which is all well and good—except Jack wasn't killed. So who put the tape there, and why? What was that crime scene like, exactly? The paramedics standing by, waiting to cart away the bleeding Jack while some CS guy told them to "hold their horses" and finished putting down a line of marking tape around Jack's twitching foot?

Perhaps the system of Grant City isn't corrupt, after all. Just incredibly incompetent.

Dramatically staring into a mirror, Jack tells the audience that he needs guns and information—and the best place to get both is in Chinatown. Now, I'm going to skip the most of the guns-getting sequence. Why? Because Jack should have, as well. I mean, seriously, Jack, what about the dozen guns you still have on you after that whole epic tunnel shoot out? Didn't feel like bringing them along? Actually, as numerous later levels will attest, Jack just decides not to bring guns along more often than seems safe, or even sane. So the whole gun collecting is entirely superfluous, and feels very tacked on to pad out the game.

So it's bad business to kill cops, huh?

A couple of minor things do happen that are worth mentioning. Jack sees "Fat Chow", the Chinatown mob boss talking to a police officer. Fat Chow's goons show up and gun down the cop for some reason, and then Jack starts to chase the overweight mobster through Chinatown. There's a fun bit right in the middle of this sequence, actually. Jack has killed most of the guards in the back alley, and three cops show up to arrest him. Jack surrenders meekly, tossing his guns aside. How is Jack going to get out of this one? Well, a group of mobsters show up and start shooting at the cops.

Wow, that was convenient.

Wow. These are just the worst criminals in the entire world, aren't they? As I see it, the Chinatown mobsters have two problems: 1) they just killed a cop. 2) Jack Slate is slaughtering them. Now, what's just happened is that the cops have become too distracted by Jack to continue chasing after the criminals who shot the other cop. By some unimaginable stroke of luck, against all odds, the Chinatown mobster's two problems have solved each other. So what do they do? They kill all the cops, freeing up Jack Slate to resume his rampage.

Bravo. I'm finally beginning to understand why Jack Slate was able to become such a celebrated hero cop—the criminals may actually be stupider than he is. Oh, and why does Jack surrender to the cops so easily? So it's fine to kill prison guards, but you can't kill a cop? Isn't that some kind of bigotry?

Jack walks into Fat Chow's gambling parlour and asks the rhetorical question “Well, well, well, what kind of illegal gambling den do we have here?” Proving that none of them have seen The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, not a single one of Chow's guards guns down jack while he's wheeling out that clunker. So it's actually a good thing when Jack kills all of the slow-witted lummoxes.

Jack finally confronts Fat Chow, and finds out that, in a happy coincidence, Marvin Silt (who is rather quite not dead, thank you very much—more on that later) hangs out at the Black Orchid whorehouse. Cut-scene Jack then elects to not put a bullet in Fat Chow's head. Now, Fat Chow has had numerous cops killed, and just got finished trying to kill Jack. So why doesn't Jack kill him? Because he's unarmed, begging for his life? Come on, this is vicious murderer Jack Slate we're talking about. Once again, the awful writing shines through, as Jack leaves someone alive just so they can show up later to cause trouble.

Oh cut-scene Jack, why are you such a pussy?

As Jack is about to leave the gambling den, another group of cops come barging in after him. Jack says "I don't want to start shooting cops—he's just doing his job." So what, exactly, was Sickle doing when he pulled the switch on Jack? Sure, Sickle actually wanted to kill him, but since when is it a crime to enjoy your work?

So, we've now learned that not only his Marvin Silt still alive, but the information that Jack wanted to get in Chinatown is "do you know Marvin Silt?" Sure is lucky for him that the single person he let live long enough to talk to happened to have a positive answer to that question, isn't it?

So Jack's plan is to head to the whorehouse and kill everyone until he can get Marvin to talk. Sensible plan, right? I've got one question, though—if Jack wanted to ask Marvin who hired him so badly, why not ASK HIM WHEN YOU'VE GOT HIM UNCONSCIOUS NEXT TO YOU?!?! That's right. Jack threw Marvin out of the car the night before just so he could be forced to track him down the next day. Quite a detective, this one. It's becoming clearer and clearer why he was relegated to leading a dog around for a living.

But don't worry, gentle reader, Jack does manage to track Marvin down, after a ridiculous sequence where he enters the massage parlour and surrenders his guns, only to decide a second later that he wants them back, and is forced to beat two dozen people to death to get them. Really, his inability to do Steven Segal-esque crippling attacks to unarmed men or bosses becomes more and more frustrating as the game progresses. Oh, and it's just inexcusable in this day and age for there to be any significant wait-time required between dying and resetting to the last checkpoint. I mean, just look at Halo. Blink and you're back at the beginning of your current mini-level. And when considering graphics, level size, and enemy AI, this game is certainly no Halo.

So Jack finally catches up with Marvin, who was nice enough to just hang out in the back of the massage parlour while Jack was beating people up. Now Marvin turns out to be one big red herring, since he was just hired by a man named Gopher to pick up Tattoo outside of the tunnels, and run down anyone else who came out first. So, in retrospect it was smart of those dozens of other convicts to wait in the tunnels. Although, given that Marvin really only could have run down a few of them, perhaps not waiting around to get shot by Jack would have been the better plan after all.

Just before Marvin can give Jack any more information, he's shot in an unhappy coincidence that was a cliche when Get Smart parodied it back in the 60s. The shooter is the game's Ubiquitous Asian Chick Assassin (UACA).

You're not seriously wearing that, are you?

Her motive for killing Marvin? It seems that her brother was killed by a member of the ludicrously-named "Mayhem Incorporated"—a riff on the famous "Murder, Inc." of the 30s, although, despite their name, the game's MI seems to be little more than an organization of professional killers. They evidence no love of mayhem, nor do they attempt to foment any chaos. (You know you've spent too much time at a keyboard when you find yourself desperately searching for an excuse to use the word foment)

Proving that she's essentially the female version of Jack, UACA has no idea which MI member killed her brother, so her plan is to just kill every single member—the idea being that by the process of elimination, she'd get him eventually. This sounds like a good plan on the surface, but just a little bit of thought reveals it to be rather senseless. For example, it seems to be predicated on the idea that an organization of professional killers would have a well-documented and strictly regulated roster of members, which seems rather doubtful to begin with.

Then there's always the chance that the one who killed her brother might simply have retired from the organization, and she'll have killed a whole lot of people for no good reason. Well, sure, they were all murderers, but she's not exactly community-minded, and I'm sure she wouldn't think of that as a good reason.

The chapter ends with Jack and the UACA slaughtering a whole lot of masseuses, who, in addition to providing rubdowns with optional release, apparently are more than willing to take up MP5 (and take a bullet in the head) when their crime boss comes a-calling. Now that's a full-service massage parlour! As the coup de gras, Jack kills Fat Chow, who returns to cause the aforementioned trouble with a rocket launcher.

Interestingly, this sequence reveals to the audience that the massage parlour is, in fact, just down the street from the Den of Iniquity. This is either laziness on the part of the creators, or just an amazingly happy coincidence.

In what proves to be a failed attempt at wackiness, UACA gives Jack her card and they agree to another "date", by which, of course, they mean getting together to kill more mob thugs. Now that's a good place to start a relationship. UACA exits, and Jack is left with no clues or leads of any kind. So what's next for Jack?

Chapter 5—A Late Goodbye

Naturally, he heads out to visit his father's grave. Now, while this might not seem like the smartest possible move, there's a good chance that Jack is using a reverse-stupidity kind of argument. The theory being that it's such an obvious place to look for him, that no one would bother. That's the theory anyway.

In another happy coincidence, Jack runs into Hildy by the grave—despite the fact that there will later be more levels and twists to her character, there is no suggestion that Hildy had some ulterior motive in this scene, or was looking for Jack. No, it's just a random thing. Yay! Finally they reveal what Jack's father did for a living! Turns out he was a private investigator, after all. Of course, this makes no sense, since he was an ex-con. Now, perhaps he was some sort of off-the-books underworld PI, but that isn't suggested, which leads one to assume that the game's creators just didn't know that convicted Felons can't get a PI license. So it turns out that Frank was working for Gloria Exner, the "feminist" mayoral candidate, trying to dig up dirt on Pinnacle for her campaign. Hildy also mentions that she's working as a waitress now, and complains about her lack of money again (foreshadowing alert!). Before Jack can decide on a course of action, the Clowns attack.

You could stand to lose a few, chuckles.

Clowns. And they attack.

The rest of this chapter is just one long fight scene, so there isn't a lot to discuss—except for two points. First off, there's the boss battle. It takes place in a large gated section of the cemetery. Once Jack gets there, a large truck backs through the gates, blocking his only exit. The back door of the van slides open, revealing a Gatling gun with a final Clown manning it. The Gatling gun has a shield around it, keeping Jack from just shooting the clown in the head. So how is Jack expected to take care of business? That's right, our old friend the propane canister. Yes, the only way to kill our Clown friend is to get close to the truck, hurl a propane canister at the truck, and shoot it when it's a couple of feet from the Clown. But wait—what's that you ask? Where is he going to find all those canisters he'll need in order to kill the Clown? Well, it turns out that someone has helpfully strewn propane tanks all across the graveyard. A seemingly endless supply. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but as I tried to beat the level I kept wondering if there had been some kind of horrific accident two weeks earlier in which Fed Ex plane headed to some sort of four-state BBQ festival had crashed into a radio tower, sending aluminum propane canisters raining down across the city. Perhaps this was the last place on the clean-up list and they just hadn't gotten around to it yet.

I hope Hank Hill doesn't hear about this.

The other, far more serious problem worthy of discussion is the identity of the would-be assassins. Now, Jack won't learn of their true identity for another seven chapters, but it's important to talk about it now, because if you get too far away from the incident, the utter dumbassity of it can end up being overlooked by someone playing the game.

You see, in the graveyard, all of Jack's attackers clown masks and ponchos, and when you shoot them, their health bar identifies them as "Clown", "Joker", and "Mercenary". Of course, this isn't the truth—in fact, they're actually Hennessey's GAC troopers, sent to kill Jack.

Now, obviously the game wants to hide the fact that Hennessey is the real villain at this point, despite the fact that it's kind of obvious. So when he sends troops to execute Jack, he sends them in disguise. But why? Why bother with the disguises at all? You see, Jack seems to be acting like an innocent man on the run, which is entirely reasonable, since he's a deeply disturbed person who lives in his own little world. The strange thing here is—everyone else treats him like an innocent man on the run as well.

Whether or not Hennessey is evil, he's still a high-ranking police officer in charge of his own stormtrooper swat team. Considering the fact that Jack is an escaped convict, isn't it not only Hennessey's right, but his actual job to bring Jack down? When you add to that the fact that Jack actually murdered a corrections officer when escaping, isn't it likely that even non-corrupt cops would be shooting to kill in Jack's case? Really, is there any possible reason why Hennessey wouldn't just send the GAC troops to kill Jack?

Since there's not, the only explanation here is that the plot is manipulating the characters, which, of course, is a sign of absolutely awful writing. At this point in the game, Jack (and the player) theoretically doesn't know that Hennessey and GAC are evil. So to keep the player from having any moral questions about gunning down police officers, the game's creators have Hennessey do something that there is no logical reason for him to do.

Also incredibly suspicious, but in no way commented-on by Jack? The fact that, after all the Clowns are dead, and Jack runs away, Hennessey just happens to be there to attempt an arrest:

Really? He could be bothered to dress up? Why do we even have Clown Tuesdays?

Could it be any damn clearer?

The Chapter ends with Jack escaping the graveyard—we hear a phone conversation he has with the UACA in which he asks her why she didn't tell him Mayhem Incorporated was trying to kill him. Now, exactly how Jack came to the conclusion that it was MI dressed as the clowns is another one of those unanswered questions that I was talking about earlier. It's not like Jack ever took a mask off one of the bodies, or searched them for any kind of identification. I mean, it's common practice to take all jewelry and identification off before going out on any kind of dangerous mission—but out of the fifty guys Jack guns down, what are the odds that one of them wouldn't have accidentally brought his badge along with him? Perhaps Jack just saw the "Mercenary" lifebar and jumped to the wrong conclusion.

Anyway, the UACA reveals that all the members of MI are holed up, waiting for a big hit the next day. Apparently an open contract has been put out on "Some feminist mayoral candidate".

Let's take a moment to unpack that actual line of dialogue that the UACA says. Not only does it continue the game's charming trend of having literally every character use the term "feminist" as a vicious insult, but it makes the UACA look like an idiot. The mayoral election is in a few days, it involves two candidates, one of whom is a big enough deal that she's having a rally at a huge sports stadium for tens of thousands of supporters. Yet the UACA doesn't know her name. Yikes.

Now, it seems like if the UACA has enough information to know that MI are all holed up, she could probably find out just where some of them are. Doesn't hitting guys when they're getting ready for a job sound like a better idea than waiting until they're all together, armed and ready to go at the target's location? The UACA isn't known for her deductive skills any more than Jack is his, though—so she just invites Jack along to help her kill all the remaining members of MI.

Jack readily agrees. Of course he does.

Chapter 6: Mayhem Incorporated

The Chapter opens with some much-needed exposition, helpfully provided by the reporter from Chapter 3. Gloria Exner (The Feminist) is holding a rally at a sports arena. Apparently she's also been very critical of Hennessey's GAC squad, and their "Nazi-style" tactics. Now, it's not really clear whether these are Exner's words or the reporter's, but it seems like dangerous levels of hyperbole to me. How exactly are they Nazi-like? Are they denying Jews the right to own property? Are they sterilizing and euthanizing the mentally handicapped? I mean, I can see calling them fascist or totalitarian, but using the term Nazi to describe vicious cops kind of devalues the word.

At least there aren't any red eyes this time.

During his entire speech, there's a helicopter sitting idle behind the reporter. Logic would seem to dictate that it's a news chopper, but we're never told. Suddenly it takes off, shocking everyone. The rest of this level plays out like an average rail shooter, as Jack hovers outside the windows of the Arena, using a machinegun to cover the UACA. That's right. A machinegun. Whether this is a news copter or a police helicopter, there's really no good reason for there to be an M60 with an unlimited ammo supply mounted on the side of it. But let's move on.

Now, put yourself in the position of a team of professional assassins. You've been hired to murder a political candidate who's going to be making a public speech at a sports arena. How might you go about doing that? What's that? A sniper in the rafters, with a lookout man to watch for guards, and a couple of other guys keeping your escape route clear?

Congratulations. You're smarter than every single member of Mayhem Incorporated.

They came up with an interesting, two-pronged attack. Prong one: Plant six bombs in bathrooms around the building. Prong two: Have heavily-armed men wandering the halls, hoping that people won't notice them and, I don't know, warn the political candidate not to bother showing up?

I knew bomb disposal guys were overpaid.

So basically the level boils down to the UACA walking down hallways, trading gunfire with the assassins while Jack provides support fire from the helicopter. She then goes into the bathrooms and disarms the bombs, with the player controlling the minigame. This is as good a time as any to discuss the UACA's outfit, which is only describable as insanity made cloth (and leather).

Gosh, I hope no one stabs her.

Now, I understand that she's all about style over substance, but there's a point (usually about five minutes after becoming a professional killer) that your fashion choices begin to have an impact on your ability to do your job. This is a woman who spends a large amount of each day being shot at. In most of the game you can suspend your disbelief concerning the amount of bullet hits that people take simply by thinking "Well, they've probably got a kevlar vest on under that." What's her excuse? Is the sheer power of her sensuality magnetically repelling the bullets? I mean, this outfit would be pathetically ineffective at protecting her against snowballs.

Since she's killed a few minutes into the sequence, the truth will forever remain a mystery.

Yes, that's right—the UACA doesn't manage to live out the game's running time. The Artist reappears and stabs her int he back in one of those embarrassing sequences when someone runs through a doorway without looking around, and manages to avoid seeing someone lying in wait without cover of any kind.

Here's the completely empty balcony she's about to walk out onto-

No, there's no one looking to stab her in that corner.

Now here's The Artist sneaking up on her from a pocket dimension-

Oh wait, there he is.

Then, the chase is on once more. The helicopter flies after The Artist's limo which speeds down a culvert. Just stopping under some kind of a tunnel would seem to protect them from any threat that a helicopter had to offer, but what do I know? Through this all, the helicopter pilot dutifully follows the enemy cars, even when Stinger missiles are fired at the helicopter. One must wonder exactly what Jack threatened to do to the pilot to engender such obedience.

After Jack has destroyed the limo, the helicopter comes in for a landing next to the wreck and Jack runs out, eager to get to the bottom of the plot against him. Unfortunately, The Artist is already dead, and all Jack manages to do is grab his beeper. Luckily that's enough to carry Jack to his next adventure,

Chapter 7: No Vacancy

Jack decides that he's got to go and talk to Exner because, as a feminist, she'll be able to tell him what his father was working on that got him killed. He heads over to her hotel and finds Hennessey outside, calling his GAC bomb squad out of the building. Now, Hennessey does some fairly obvious "villain cackling to himself" stuff here, but there's no evidence that Jack can hear him. In fact, Jack's only suspicious because he saw them take a lot of equipment into the building, and not bring any of it out. Now, this would be very suspicious if all the cops left the building after bringing the equipment in—it might even suggest they're planning to blow it up. But once Jack gets inside it will be clear that there are still dozens of cops left in the building—so the suspicion just kind of drains out of the situation.

Do you really have to dress evil too?

Here's the thing, though—once Jack's inside the building, the cops start shooting at him. A totally sensible thing to do, since he's a dangerous, armed escaped convict. While the player knows that Hennessy is evil, Jack does not. And while very quickly the GAC boys inside the building will start gloating about planting explosives, Jack doesn't hear them doing it right away—which means that when Jack kills the first five guys or so, Jack believes that he's snapping the necks of honest, hardworking police officers. Which, of course, he doesn't even break stride after doing.

And there's the problem with giving the player information that the character doesn't have—compromised morality.

Here's the game's one attempt to be witty and self-referential about being a video game.

It's sad that the game's one attempt at cleverness faceplants so spectacularly—seeing as the building he just entered is a hotel. As with all buildings that serve the public, Hotels are forced, by fire code regulations, to post floorplans on the walls so that, in the event of an emergency, temporary residents will be able to find their way to an exit. So it makes completely perfect sense for there to be a "map" on the wall of this building.

Jack uses the map and his trusty, largely invisible, dog sidekick to disarm the remaining bombs in the hotel, all of which are within a minute or two of going off. In fact, the detonation is so near that I can't help but wonder why all those GAC officers are still in the building, chasing after Jack. I mean, yes, it's possible that Jack might disarm the bombs if you leave him alone, but what's the upside in chasing him deeper into the hotel? Best case scenario—you gun him down mercilessly and then you're left with 15-20 seconds tops before the entire building goes up. Is there a person on earth who, put in that situation, wouldn't just run the other way as fast as their heavily-armoured legs will carry them?

In fact, the GAC go on to prove that not only do they go above and beyond the call of duty, but that they seemingly have no instinct toward self-preservation. After all the bombs have been disarmed, Jack continues higher into the building, searching for Gloria Exner. In an attempt to kill two birds with one stone, Hennessey has the GAC troops set the building on fire. Which is unfortunate for the fifty or so GAC troops left inside the building, including the oddly named flamethrower-wielding and apparently Hispanic "Antorcha." I mean, seriously, why not call him "Guy with Flamethrower whose name suggests that he carries a Flamethrower", if we're going with the Den of Iniquity naming convention.

The flamethrower in question.

Now, what do all these suddenly-doomed GAC boys do? Curse the soul of Hennessey, try to make good their escape, or fall on their knees and repent their sins? No, the correct answer was D—they keep trying to kill Exner, and lie in wait for Jack in the middle of rooms that must be in excess of 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

After Jack has put all of these insanely stupid people out of their misery, he and Exner slide down a drainpipe and just walk away from the building. Gee, it's lucky the GACers didn't just set the building on fire and then surround it, waiting for Jack and Exner to either burn to death or run out into a hail of gunfire. I mean, it worked at Waco, didn't it? (Opinions expressed in the last sentence are those of the film "Rules of Engagement", not necessarily those of the author—No, not the one with SamJac, the one about Waco. Sheesh)

I'm sure she'll be fine.

Once they're out of harm's way, Exner spills the feminist beans. It turns out that she hired Frank to dig up some dirt on Pinnacle. Frank had discovered that something suspicious was going on with the city's new subway project, but before he could tell her what it was, he was murdered.

This brings up an interesting point. Earlier in the game I wondered about the "Pinnacle" trucks and equipment all over the construction site. This scene pretty much confirms that William Pinnacle, Mayor of Grant City, owns a construction company, and he hired that construction company to build the subways. Now, in most cities a Mayor can be toppled just by a scandal involving taking bribes for arranging that a certain company gets the winning bid for a public job. There are also strict rules about how many civic jobs a given company can bid for and receive in a year. In Grant City, though, it seems William Pinnacle can just openly hand himself money out of the city's budget, all legal and above-board. So remind me why, exactly, the state or federal government hasn't just walked in at some point and shut the city down?

Gloria thanks Jack for saving her life, and Jack offers to do anything he can to help. Now, it seems like Gloria's course of action is pretty clear just now. All she has to do is phone up the FBI and say "Hey, I'm running for mayor of Grant City, and last night a few dozen cops burnt my campaign headquarters to the ground and tried to murder me!" The federal government would love to get involved in a case like this. People love it when corrupt politicians get busted—and the FBI always needs some good PR.

How much do you want to bet she does that?

The beeper Jack took off of The Artist starts to buzz. It's the Gopher! Apparently in addition to hiring losers to pick up prison escapees, he also arranged jobs for The Artist! Isn't that an amazingly convenient coincidence?

Jack arranges to meet him down by the docks in an hour. He leaves Exner alone on the street while he goes to meet his only remaining lead. Well, actually, he has one other lead, his father's investigation, but Jack still doesn't understand that real detectives do things like research, interview people, take pictures, and make a lot of notes. Theoretically, there should be a long paper trail out there somewhere, one that someone could follow right back to Frank's killer. Now we're left with just two possibilities, either Jack slept through all of his classes at the Police Academy, or this whole "incompetent detective" thing ran in the family, and Frank never had any files in the first place.

Well, we can hope that Exner will head straight for the Feds for protection, because she clearly isn't safe on her own in Grant City....

But before moving on, let's pause for another game of "Where is Shadow preposterously teleporting from now?"

When last we saw Shadow, he's just accompanied his master up through three stories of a burning hotel to a fourth, merely smoke-filled, level. Here he is tearing out someone's throat on the top floor.

He didn't need that throat.

Directly after this Jack and Gloria head up onto the roof and climb down a drainage pipe that runs along the side of the building. Obviously Shadow is incapable of doing this, but when Jack leaves the alley, who's right there bounding after him?

Wait for me!

Yup, it's Shadow. Who managed to somehow make it down through three stories of blazing inferno, through any number of closed doors, and past whatever remaining GAC stormtroopers were stationed outside.

Given his obvious level of competence, it's at this point that I realize I'd rather be playing a game about the dog.

Chapter 8: Boatload of Trouble

Jack shows up at the dock and confronts Gopher, who is, for no discernible reason, British. Actually, this is a good point to bring up another very strange thing about the game. Quite often villains will taunt Jack, pulling their comments from a very limited pool of different voices and sayings. Somewhere along the line someone thought it would be a good idea if a few of the taunts were performed with a British accent, most likely because they were inexplicably fond of the films of Guy Ritchie. But since there are so few distinct "characters", roughly 1 out of 5 villains turns out to be a filthy Brit. Which leads to the inevitable question: Why are so many English thugs and low-class troublemakers emigrating to Grant City? This isn't like putting in Russians or Chinese or Italian villains—there isn't even historically a large organized crime structure in England, let alone one interested in branching out across the pond.

How can you not hit at that range?

Now, Gopher, not being as slow as every other one of the game's villians, turns tail and runs the moment he sees Jack. I'm dead serious here: Good work Goph. Although Jack's reaction is a little puzzling. Although he's got a gun, and Gopher is only about ten feet away, Jack makes no effort of any kind to stop him. I guess it's just one of those "I want him to die tired" type of situations.

Jack wades through a veritable sea of troubles, slinging arrows at them until he's the only one left standing. Now, it's never really clear who all the criminals in the warehouse district are. You see, when Gopher phoned the beeper, he didn't know Jack was going to show up, so it's not like he had any reason to bring along a whole entourage of hired killers to watch his back. Also, Gopher is the guy who hires independent contractors to murder people, so it doesn't seem too likely that he'd have close associations with any particular gang. Despite this fact, there is a legion of killers just itching to get in Jack's way. Like everyone before them, they pay for this mistake with their lives.

After a very, very long chase, Jack finally reaches the end of the fisheries warehouse, an ice room. This is actually a very nice location, with huge bulletproof blocks of ice hanging from hooks. Of course, it would be a little nicer if the blocks took damage and chipped away as Jack unloads bullets into them, but beggars can't be choosers. As Jack runs into the room, he sees Gopher—dead, hanging off the ground, pinned to a block of ice by a dozen crossbow bolts.

I don't know, maybe it was acupuncture gone horribly wrong?

And here comes the most screwed-up thing to happen in the game yet. Out strides Longshoreman X!

Jason-tastic!

It's important to stress just how out of place this character is. It will never be addressed who Longshoreman X is, or why he wanted to kill Gopher and Jack. Did someone hire him? If so, when could that possibly of happened? If he was hired to kill Jack, how would he know that Jack was going to be down at the docks? If he was hired to kill Gopher, why would he wait around for Jack to get there—also, how could he know that Gopher would go running through the warehouse, and into the ice storage facility, fleeing from a CotEWiNoLo?

In fact, the only way to properly express the non-sequitoriousness of this scene is to use an analogy. So here goes: You're watching NYPD Blue. Sipowicz and Zach Morris are chasing after some Skell. They follow him into a building, running up a flight of rickety stairs, pushing past some beligerant slum-dwellers. Finally they think they've got him cornered in a back apartment. Zach kicks open the door and they rush in to find—the Skell dead on the floor, split into two halves. Standing over the body is Jason Voorhees in all his rotting-zombie glory, with a bloody machete in his hand.

I swear, that's exactly what this is like. It almost makes you think the game is a Robocop-style satire of a video game, a theory I'd love to get behind, were the rest of the plot not so ill-conceived and horribly executed.

Once the nefarious Longshoreman X has been sent on to his ultimate reward, Jack stumbles out of the warehouse, for the first time in the game feeling the effects of being shot dozens of times. His vision going hazy, he realizes that he's only a few blocks away from Hilde's restaurant. Again—convenient, right? That the villain chose a meeting place that happens to be within easy "wounded stumble" distance from the workplace of Jack's only friend!

Jack collapses in the front door of the luckily abandoned restaurant, and is quickly sewn up by Hilde. He wakes some time later, and hears a few men come into the restaurant. Jack gets his gun and peeks around the door from the back room. It seems that Rafshoon Diggs (the ex-boxer turned security expert) and two security guards have come to collect Hilde. Why? Because Fahook wants to see her. Now, while it's not at all surprising to see Jack unable to figure something out, this sequence makes it abundantly clear that not only is Hilde familiar with Fahook and Rafshoon and she's not particularly frightened by the prospect of being taken to see him, but Rafshoon and company are totally and unambiguously not there about Jack. They make a comment about Hilde not hearing the gunfire on the docks, but that's it. Again, it's important to note here that no one has made any kind of a threat against Hilde.

Oh, for god's sake, just shoot him.

Deciding that he's got to take matters into his own hands, Jack swoops out of the back room and pushes a gun into the back of Rafshoon's head. Now, this is the first instance of another one of the game's themes—Cut-Scene Jack is significantly less hard core than playable Jack. You see, playable Jack, finding himself with his gun pointed at the back of an unarmed man's head, would execute him as quickly as he could make his finger squeeze. Cut-Scene Jack, on the other hand, stands around making idle threats, giving Rafshoon ample time to punch him in the face and groin, incapacitating him.

Jack wakes up suspended by his feet from the ceiling over a tank of water. He's being interrogated by Fahook, an Arab prince, and his two silent chick bodyguards (who dress like sexy versions of Raziel from Soul Reaver. Now there's something I don't want to picture... but here one is).

Those are impractical fighting costumes, I'd think.

Always the gentleman, Jack's first thought is of Hilde's fate. Fahook replies that she is being helpful elsewhere. Jumping to conclusions, as he is wont to do, Jack accuses Fahook of being a white slaver. That's right, Jack, the darkie crimelord is all about kidnapping white women. Oy. Fahook laughs off the idea, then walks away, telling Jack that he'll finish the whole interrogation thing later if Jack's still alive.

As they leave the room, the villains turn on a large dunking machine that lowers Jack into the water, forcing him to hold his breath for a minute before it pulls him back out. Rather fortuitously, no guards are left to oversee this action, so Shadow is able to crawl through a window and set Jack free. Of course, the dog knows just how to operate the control console. Actually, this was a really obvious place to drop in a dog-intensive mini-game. Let the player control the dog with its snout hanging over the panel, staring in black and white at a series of buttons and levers with gibberish written beside them. Then the player has to experiment about with the buttons, as a dog sorely unequipped to do what he's being asked to.

Once Jack is free he saunters out of the warehouse into the dockyards once more. Jack's weapons have been stripped from him, of course, but for some unknown reason none of the guards and criminal dockworkers have guns either. That's right, it's time for another endless sequence of Jack beating people up with his depressingly sub-par kung-fu skills. I mean, really, the Master of Kung-Fu kicked more ass than Jack Slate. And he only had 16 frames of animation to work with, total (In case you're wondering, the breakdown is: Walking—3 frames. Standing and crouching stances get 1 frame each. There are 2 frames of jumping. Punching, Kicking, Crouch punching and sweep kicking get a lush 2 frames each for a total of eight. Finally there's the jump-kick, for the final Sixteenth frame. He's also got an utterly useless jump-punch, but since it's just one of the standing punch frames again, it's disqualified from the count). After a few maps and a couple dozen dead bodies, Jack does finally manage to find some guns. And a thousand gamers sigh in relief.

After shooting his way through a few dozen people, Jack reaches the end of the docks, and sees Hilde walking toward a limo with two bodyguards. Just walking toward the limo. Not being dragged, not resisting in any way, not even stumbling as if drugged. Yet Jack still can't figure out that she might not be all sweetness and light. Oh well. The limo drives off, and then Jack is almost run down by an army transport truck. Jack shoots the driver a dozen times (using a pistol type that doesn't appear in the rest of the game) and the truck skids out, spilling its cargo all over the road.

And what is that cargo? Gold bars. Hundreds of them.

It's actually just chocolate wrapped in foil.

Jack is understandably shocked, and he picks one of them up to get a closer look. Luckily, he happens to pick up The World's Lightest Gold Bar, effortlessly plucking it off the ground. You see, the thing about gold is, it's not light—not at all. It's malleable, sure, but it's very, very heavy. Gold ingots weigh between 30-45 pounds—not something you'd casually heft.

Jack immediately presumes (correctly, for once), that Fahook is moving gold out of the country on a boat. But where is the all the gold coming from? Jack sees another army truck driving by, so he quickly jumps into the back of it, hoping that it will take him right back to the source of the gold, back to-

Chapter 9: Billions in Bullion

This really kind of sums it all up, doesn't it? The game's creators think they're clearing everything up with a clever tough guy line, but they can't even write a sentence with a clear subject.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The entire trip is just skipped over, leaving us unsure as to how long they've been driving, or where exactly Jack is. The important part, though, is that he's in a warehouse, a warehouse full of men with guns. The warehouse also contains a great number of boat or train-sized shipping containers. Now this would make sense, if they were to fill these containers with gold, put the containers on a flatbed, and carry them out to the docks. In fact, that would make quite a lot of sense. Except for a couple of things—first, there is no crane or loading mechanism of any kind inside the warehouse, leading one to wonder how the containers got there in the first place, let alone how they're supposed to get them back out. Secondly, if they've got all these containers, why are they moving loose bars around in the back of army trucks? Anyway, after shooting the men full to the brim with bullets, Jack climbs a set of stairs (this is important) and walks through some concrete hallways until he reaches the second floor of a large smelting room.

Is this what gold smelting looks like? I've seen milk vats that look like this.

So we've got no reason to believe that Jack is underground or anything like that—and there's a huge smelting operation going on in what we're forced to assume is just the industrial district of the city. Wouldn't that be just the least bit suspicious in a town that hasn't had a mining industry in a hundred years? Of course, the preposterousness of being able to cover up an operation this large isn't the most unbelievable thing about this situation—no, the ridiculous part is exactly how this whole situation got started in the first place.

For example, why would the "officials" claim that the gold had run out? I can think of a few possible motivations, like lowering land values and things like that, but no explanations are given. In fact, that entire aspect of the plot (the wholly unmotivated actions of villains a hundred years ago just to allow their descendants to have an evil plan a hundred years later aspect) is glossed over by the game in one of Jack's trademarked Jumps to Conclusion. Actually, this one is such a large, unfounded Jump that I'm just going to let you hear it:

Okay, now, overlooking the non-ironic use of the word "mitts", this statement of Jack's raises a whole lot of questions. First off, does he actually know what a legend is? Up until this point there has never been any kind of a suggestion that there was gold left in Grant City—in fact, Jack is completely surprised by it. This isn't like the lost dutchman mine or something. This comes out of the blue. Then there's the question of why Jack thinks that they "had no way of getting to it" back then. What exactly is he basing this on? He's just seeing some liquid gold in a bunch of smelting vats. Jack's got no idea where the gold is coming from—so how can he assume it's from a place that wasn't accessible a hundred years ago? More to the point, how on earth could the gold have not been accessible? Mining technology isn't a whole lot more advanced now than it was then. Mostly it just amounts to drilling and blowing things up. Why they didn't just do that a hundred years ago is beyond me.

Jack starts to leave the building, but he's attacked in the main room of the warehouse by Tattoo and a few other convicts. After Jack has killed them, he takes an elevator down into the tunnels. Now, it's kind of confusing why exactly Jack chooses to do this—there's no suggestion that there are plenty of guards outside the warehouse (if there were, why wouldn't they just run in after all the gunfire?), so Jack could theoretically walk out, or, heck, drive a truck right back out to safety. No, instead Jack elects to go back down into the tunnels, where we discover that Tattoo's appearance was no coincidence—in fact, many prisoners are being used to work the mines. After shooting a whole lot of them to death, Jack hops on an elevator, which brings him back to...

Chapter 10: Full Circle

Building new maps is hard.

The construction site. Yes, we're back at the beginning of the game. Hence the clever chapter title. In another helpful expository Voice Over, Jack explains everything that he's figured out so far. Of course, as is his style, Jack vacillates between being completely wrong, and making correct conclusions that there's no way he could have come to given the information he has.

According to Jack, the Mayor's entire subway plan is a scam. He's actually using the city's money to dig up gold for himself. Sounds like quite a scam, doesn't it? And he's also using prison labour to do the mining, because, as Jack says, "Who better to get prisoners working slave labour than the Mayor?" Gosh, I don't know, off the top of my head—the Warden of the prison? The Governor of the State? Anyone who has something to do with running the corrections system? Almost anyone but the Mayor?

But here's the real problem. Jack suggests a bizarre compound theory about how the gold is being taken out of the mine—that it's part of a fake subway project, and that the prisoners are secretly being used as slave labour. Now, if you give either of these ideas more than a moment's thought they stop making any kind of logical sense—maybe, just maybe, it's possible that the Mayor could get the city to pay for his secret mining activities—but if he did that, why would he then secretly use slave prison labour? I mean, you want to pay your own construction company to "build the subway"—fine, but how exactly is it that nobody notices that absolutely no one is working on the project? And why on earth would anyone think that using prisoners is a good idea? They're not exactly known for their ability to keep a secret, after all—especially when significant amounts of money (that they're not getting paid) are involved. And here's the biggest question of them all—if you're going to use prisoners as slave labour on your secret criminal mining project, but still expect them to go back to their cells at the end of the day, why do you give guns to every single one of them?

So naturally, based on his rather tenuous conclusions, Jack decides that he has to track the Mayor down and kill him. Which might be difficult, considering that Jack doesn't have ny guns.

What's that you say? Wasn't Jack just involved in a number of gunfights? Yes, yes he was. What's fascinating here is that in three out of the four previous fistfights sequences there was at least some kind of reason (tenuous though it may have been) that Jack had to fight with his fists, either because he was captured, or in prison. Here, it feels like the game's creators just said "Hey, let's make the gamers suffer through another tedious fighting sequence!" and decided to tack one for no discernible reason. So no matter how much heat Jack was packing at the end of Chapter Nine when he got onto that elevator, once he gets off, he's mysteriously unarmed. As are all the construction workers until halfway through the level. Unfortunately for Jack, though, once he picks up guns, so does everyone else.

Because Jack Slate is a man who appreciates subtlety.

Why does Jack use silenced pistols? Okay, admittedly, it doesn't happen much in the game, really just in the two construction yard sequences—but it doesn't make any sense at all. At no point in the game does Jack have any opportunity to sneak up on anyone, nor to perform any kind of a "silent kill" without alerting other enemies. So why the silencers? Wouldn't taking them off just make Jack's Berrettas more accurate and powerful? Or is Jack just extremely fond of that 'Thwippp" sound?

After shooting dozens of union construction workers and mafia hitmen, Jack finds himself facing an attack helicopter unloading wave after killers into the site. Really, you can just stand there watching as the helicopter unloads a seemingly endless series of guys. At some point in the development cycle the decision was made to not set any kind of limit on this, leading the player to wonder just how many greasy thugs you can cram into a Blackhawk. Once Jack gets tired of killing them, it's simply a matter of picking up a conveniently placed and endlessly respawning rocket launcher and putting an end to the helicopter.

Chapter 11: Post Riot Syndrome

As an atmospheric opening shot of the prison plays, Jack explains what's going on, which isn't much help—after he's reached the end of the cinema, more questions have been raised than are answered. Apparently Jack has followed the Mayor to the now-abandoned Iron Point prison. According to Jack, the prison has been closed since his "now-legendary" escape and the riots that followed.

Again, Jack's misunderstanding of the meaning of the word "Legend" is made painfully obvious. How exactly could the breakout be legendary if it only happened—at most—three days earlier? Would a riot even be totally quellable within that short a period of time? How could you even find another prison to take thousands of prisoners within three days, let alone actually accomplish the transfer? More to the point, Jack states that although the prisoners have been transferred to different prisons, Mayor Pinnacle still has them working in the goldmines. Huh? Let's say there was another maximum security prison within a reasonable driving distance—which isn't especially likely, but let's just say there is. How is the Mayor of some random city going to justify taking hundreds of prisoners on a mysterious field trip every single day?

Oh, and as the wonderful capper, Jack wonders why the Mayor would go to the prison personally a (never-answered) question that Jack refers to as the "20 thousand dollar question." Where did that number come from? It's seeming more and more like Jack was dropped on the head for a good portion of his childhood, isn't it?

So Jack infiltrates the abandoned prison, searching for the Mayor. At least that's what he claims to be doing. Really, it ends up seeming like he's just randomly walking from room to room, killing everyone he meets. Of course, there's no moral problem with this, as they're all criminals, and they always fire first. Jack picks up all the necessary key cards and works his way to the warden's office area. This area is protected by a metal detector. Why that is, exactly, I'm not sure, but there you go. A metal detector that, despite the overall decrepitude of the rest of the prison, is still functional. It really just serves the purpose of informing two guards that he's there and ready to be shot. Once everyone in the office area is dead, Jack finds the electronic locks that open up his final destination—the place that he's been killing a whole lot of people in an effort to reach: The gas chamber.

Yeah, you heard me. The gas chamber.

Did they need to execute an Orca?

Just before opening fire, Jack hears someone say that the Mayor is checking out the gas chamber, and decides that he'd better go striding in there to have a look for the villain. Not that he had to, mind you—if he'd just taken a single step into the room and looked around, clearing the area with his gun (a basic skill taught to every police officer) Jack could have avoided yet another tedious boss fight.

Real cops don't turn their heads.

Proving once again that his lack of stature in the police department isn't due to some kind of elaborate conspiracy, Jack strides into the seemingly empty gas chamber, allowing Rafshoon Diggs to sneak up behind him and knock the gun out of his hands. That's right. It's the return of Rafshoon. The former boxer turns on the gas chamber, and puts on a gas mask. Okay, although the prison has been decommissioned, they just left a whole lot of toxic gas tanks lying around. That's just a great idea, isn't it? Can't imagine how that could go wrong...

The fight is quick and brutal, and in the only innovative twist on the whole boss fistfight thing, it boils down to a tug of war fight over the only gasmask in the room. Whoever doesn't have the gasmask has to hold their breath, and once they're out of air, they start losing health. Sure, there's a few things that could have been done better—such as making subsequent hits after the loss of a gas mask cause characters to lose their breath faster, but overall it's a fun twist on one of the game's worst sections. Although it would have been a much more fun twist if the gas did any measurable amount of damage to Rafshoon—if Jack runs out of air his health begins to drain away as if a plug had been pulled. If Rafshoon loses the mask for long enough to run out of air he doesn't lose any health at all.

I'm sure he's a tough guy, but I'm equally sure that the speed Cyanide gas works on you is largely unrelated to your fitness level.

One thing I must question, though, is the design of the gas chamber itself. There isn't a chair of any kind, nothing to strap anyone to—and the room itself is incredibly huge. Seriously, it's like 30' x 30' x 15'. Which, if my rusty math skills are serving me correctly, means you'd have to pump 13,500 cubic feet of poison gas before there isn't any air left to breathe. Seems like a fairly large waste of resources, doesn't it? Really, it seems like this room was designed to gas tens, even hundreds of people at once. Was I wrong earlier? Is this some kind of subtle suggestion that GAC has actually been using "nazi-style" tactics? Is there some ethnic group in Grant City currently being cleansed?

That is some firm smoke.

With Rafshoon safely suffering from post-mortem spasms on the floor of the gas chamber (safely for Jack, that is), Jack walks back into the office area of the prison and finds, at long last, Mayor Pinnacle. Jack prepares to shoot Pinnacle, but the Mayor quickly talks his way out of a bullet, promising to reveal the actual killer of Frank Slate. The Mayor claims that while he's corrupt and greedy, he's no killer, and he didn't hire anyone to off Frank. Now, Jack seems to accept this alibi awfully quickly, considering the fact that he's spent the last hour or so gunfighting with underlings, and the Mayor's head bodyguard just tried to beat him to death in the gas chamber. Really, at what point to you have to start accepting responsibility for the actions of your employees? Isn't this the kind of scapegoating and mismanagement that led to the recent (insert topical company name here) financial scandals?

The Mayor tells Jack that Hennessey is the real villain. Jack refuses to believe it at first, saying that "I knew he was an asshole, but..." Who exactly did Jack think ordered GAC to murder noted feminist Gloria Exner? Elves? Asshole seems to be a bit of an understatement. More to the point though, the biggest tip-off that Hennessy was going to be evil wasn't all of the incredibly bad plotting—no, it's the fact that he's named Richard. Wow, am I sick of this. When are we going to grow up as a society enough so that writers of fiction will stop naming villainous characters Richard just so that they can have their heroes swear at them without technically swearing? Of course, the Mayor doesn't use this as evidence. How does he back up his accusation? When discussing the night of the murder, the Mayor points out that Hennessey was the first cop on the scene—"A bit off his beat, wasn't he?" Since when do lieutenants in charge of entire divisions of stormtroopers have a "beat?" And wouldn't he be pretty much able to show up at whatever crime scene he wanted?

If you're looking for a suspect based on proximity to the crime scene, wasn't Jack the absolute first person there? Isn't that incredibly suspicious?

Jack, of course, believes Pinnacle right away, and even jumps to the conclusion that his showing up at the scene of the crime threw Hennessy's plans "out of whack", leading Hennessy to frame him—which makes the entire frameup even more implausible, since, as was mentioned back in Chapter 2, Hennessy would have had to be psychic, and possibly the Flash, to get everything arranged. It turns out that Hennessy has a file of blackmail information on everyone with power, making him untouchable. While investigating Pinnacle's fake subway, Frank found out that some of the gold was going to Hennessy as kickbacks. Once Hennessy found out that Frank was onto him, there was only one option left—and it wasn't paying Frank off. Unless you count paying him off in lead. Which is what he did.

Pinnacle proposes a truce. He'll phone Hennessy and say Jack is at the prison—the idea being that Hennessy and his GAC troops will rush to the prison to finish off Jack once and for all, leaving a skeleton crew at the police station. Jack will then shoot his way into the cop shop and steal the file. Pinnacle says that if Jack brings him the file, he'll be able to get rid of Hennessey. Once again confusing his role with that of a Governor, Pinnacle even offers Jack a pardon if he gets the file.

Jack, not bothering to ask whether the pardon would cover just his conviction, or also his more recent 400 murders (many of them police officers), agrees to the plan.

Chapter 12: The Stash

So Jack runs into the police station, guns blazing.

Since this chapter amounts to little more than Jack running through four rooms and two hallways while gunning down dozens of cops, I'm going to use this space to once again address the issue of the game's morality.

The question here is—how many corrupt cops could there possibly be? Let's look at it this way. During the graveyard sequence, Jack kills about seventy GAC troops. Add another fifty for the hotel sequence, and thirty in this chapter—you get a hundred and fifty dead cops. While all hundred and fifty cops couldn't have been vicious murderers, one can safely assume that the first hundred and twenty, based on their actions (as ridiculous and unmotivated as they may have been—see above) in your first two encounters, definitely had murder on their minds. In this sequence though, there's no reason to believe that the GAC boys know that they're doing anything wrong. In fact, it's quite reasonable to believe that, considering their diminished numbers, Hennessy would have brought all of his "evil" cops along with him, leaving only regular, non-evil GAC troops guarding the base. Now take a look at their situation. Wanted criminal Jack Slate runs into the building, guns at the ready. Wouldn't trying to kill him be the only sane reaction? If you were a basically honest, if somewhat brutal cop, what would you do?

Of course, Jack doesn't have to deal with the whole moral questions, because all GAC officers look alike to him. Good thing for Jack that the police station is manned entirely by GAC personnel—seriously, there isn't even a clerk working the file room. Not only that, but all the GAC troops are just hanging around the office wearing full combat outfits. While I understand them rushing to put on body armour and helmets, why do they bother with the goggles and gas masks? They neither use tear gas nor turn out the lights—so wouldn't that stuff just make fighting harder?

Okay, those are a little creepy.

Once most of the cops are dead at Jack's feet, he strides into the evidence room. He finds a couple of clown masks, and jumps to the conclusion that he's revealed the true identity of the mercenaries. Now, despite the fact that he's completely accurate this time, I'm going to have to call him on his reasoning. He was just recently involved in a gunfight with dozens of people at a graveyard. Now, we all know that those were the GAC boys, who were wearing clown masks for no reason of any kind.

Let's consider, for a second, the relative plausibility of two different explanations:

Explanation 1: Cops discovered seventy mask-wearing corpses in the graveyard. Their personal belongings were taken in as evidence. As a result, there are clown masks in the evidence room.

Explanation 2: GAC stormtroopers sometimes dress up as clowns for absolutely no reason, but they store their clown masks in the back of the evidence room, where it would be a ridiculous hassle to get to them at a moment's notice.

Which of those two is the more likely option?

Also helpfully just lying around in a filing cabinet is the blackmail file. How did Hennessy become so successful if he runs his operation like this? You've really got to be willing to put a lot of trust in your subordinates if you're going to just leave the source of all your power well within reach. Considering that Hennessey's troops have been portrayed as little more than murderous thugs, this decision becomes even more questionable. Are small file safes really that expensive?

What's worse is that we actually get a look at the files in question-

I need to know what he has on Jack. Other than the mass murder, of course.

-and discover that Henessey only seems to have blackmail information against characters who actually appear in the game. Convenient, right? Even more ridiculous than that? One of the names on the file is "P. Jones." So not only does Hennessey have blackmail information on that random prisoner who was a friend of Frank's, but he lists the file under the guy's nickname, "Preacherman Jones."

Yikes.

So anyhow, Jack takes the file and heads back into the night... But who should he give the file to? That question will find its answer in...

Chapter 13: Greed

There's something you've got to know about Jack Slate.

He doesn't understand how blackmail works.

At all.

You see, when someone is blackmailing someone else, an implied contract is made. So long as money is paid or favour is curried, certain pieces of information are never revealed to the public. The Blackmailer only has power over the blackmailee as long as the information is kept secret. The secret file contains enough information to bring down every powerful figure in Grant City—so what does Jack want to do with it? Does he want to blackmail the powerful people? No, he doesn't.

In fact, Jack wants to take down Pinnacle and everyone else at the same time. So what does he elect to do? That's right. Offer the file to Gloria Exner. Now, although this might make a little bit of sense to Jack, it makes no sense to anyone else. In theory, she could use this to ensure her election. Although it's also possible, and very likely, that someone would just try to kill her and steal the file.

Now, had Jack just released the file to the press, wouldn't the same rough outcome have been achieved? Despite there being a tab for her in the file, there's no real dirt on Exner inside (if there were, they wouldn't have had to put a hit out on her), so wouldn't a massive corruption scandal in local government ensure her election as Mayor? I mean, sure, DC re-elected Marion Barry, but not while he was actually under indictment.

The other interesting thing about blackmail information is that it's only controllable so long as there are limited copies of it that are easy for the blackmailer to track—preferrably a single main copy and one backup held by an impartial third party, with instructions to alert the authorities if anything happens to the blackmailer. Has Jack never heard of Kinko's? Can't he just saunter on down to the local copy shop, run off a hundred copies, and then mail them off to every major news outlet across the county? Seems like the press could get everything sorted out in a few days or so, with no further bloodshed. And I'm sure, once again, that the FBI would be very, very interested in some of the information.

I knew feminists were evil.

Of course, he doesn't do this. Hence the midnight rendezvous with Exner. Jack hands the file over to her, telling her to do with it what she will. After she gets the file, Exner starts acting squirrely and talking about how her life's in danger. Jack asks her what's going on, and then, giving feminists the world over a bad name, Exner reveals that she's holding a gun on him. They go through the obvious "wait—don't..." dance, with Jack seeming genuinely terrified. Once again, Cut Scene Jack is a much bigger sissy than game Jack. By this point we've seen him take hundreds of bullets without slowing down, and he's afraid of some feminist with a .38? Please, Jack, is that any way for a CotEWiNoLo to behave?

Jack's body armour isn't put to the test, though, as Exner is shot in the back by Hilde, who grabs Henessey's file and turns her gun on Jack. Jack is (not at all) understandably confused. Hilde reveals that she's been hired by Fahook to bring him Henessey's file. Jack says that he'd hoped that they could get together after the whole fiasco was over. Hilde finds this (understandably) laughable. In fact, this is one of the game's best plot moments.

Hilde points out, quite correctly, that there is no relationship between the two of them outside of Jack's mind. She's just an acquaintance that helped him out twice. Once when his father got shot, another time when he did. Hilde threatens to shoot Jack if he tries to follow her.

Of course, Jack does follow her, and while the chase is on, it's important to question exactly when Hilde was hired to obtain the file. The implication is clearly made that it happened when she was grabbed by Fahook one day earlier. Here's the question—why on earth would anyone think that Hilde would be in a position to get the file? Does she have any connection to Hennessy? No. Is she a gun-toting kill dispenser? No. In fact, the only advantage she has is that she's one of the few people who Jack wouldn't shoot on sight. Of course, Fahook, when he hired her, had no idea that Jack was going to steal the files—in fact, he thought that Jack would soon be very dead. It's possible that Hilde was sicced on Jack after he stole the file, but how did she find her within the hour or so between him grabbing the file and meeting with Exner?

Jack hops into a hearse and follows Hilde at a discreet distance. While driving through the rain, Jack engages in some of his trademark psychotic tough-guy interior monologue, which is helpfully just as deranged as all the rest of it.

Here's the questionable section in its entirety:

You're, uh, kind of all over the map there, Jack. So, did Fahook do something to her, or was she always evil and you just didn't notice it? And look how Jack uses the phrase "and I wasn't buying it" to suggest that he had some active part in figuring her out. But he didn't. He thought she was all sunshine and roses up until she came out and announced that she was evil. Jack, refusing to believe someone after they've told you they're a liar doesn't mean you're tough, it just means you're awake.

Jack follows Hilde to a decommissioned Military base, which leads to perhaps the fastest continuity error in the history of fiction:

That's right, within the course of three seconds, a guy goes from professing that he doesn't know who Hilde is, to bragging about the fact that he's seen her strip. Huh. How did this one slip through? Didn't the voice actors notice? The writers, the editors, the playtesters… anyone? It was about this time I started to break under the sheer weight of all the terrible writing I'd witnessed.

The abandonned militray base is absolutely crawling with mercenaries in yellow and green rain slickers—although I'm not really sure what Pinnacle is doing there that he'd need to have a hundred and fifty armed thugs just haning around. Perhaps he's going to overthrow the state government and nab that Governorship he's had his eyes on?

Jack tries to sneak inside, but finds himself confronted with that video game specialty, the shotgun, assault rifle, and grenade-proof door. Not one of those serious Tron-style doors, either, just a regular, everyday, magic door. Looks like it's detour time. In order to get to the detour, though, Jack has to re-establish his CotEWiNoLo cred by opening up a gate with someone's voice prints. This is one of the two times in the game that the "hostage taking" is actually part of the plot, so pay close attention: Jack grabs the guy and pulls him over to the voicebox. And once the guy has helped Jack out, what's his reward? You guessed it, a bullet in the back of the head. So Jack has to take the long way around the building, and destroy another helicopter down by the docks. Really, why do these thugs keep leaving Stingers just lying around?

The rickety wooden dock's freight elevator turns out to lead right down into the military base, allowing Jack to easily infiltrate it and find the keycards necessary to fight his way up to the helicopter pad for the big showdown. Since this a relatively painless level from a story standpoint (in that there is so little of it in the middle), this is probably a good time to mention something about the game's firearms system. As I mentioned in my Eternal Darkness review , I'm something of a reloading-animation fetishist. The makers of Dead to Rights decided to get around this for the most part by just having Jack throw away the majority of the guns he uses once they run out of ammo. Nothing to complain about there, obviously, it's a stylistic choice, and it works for the game. What's a little confusing, though, are a couple of minor details. First, when you fire the game's guns, the shell casings just kind of fall out of them. Now, this wouldn't be such a big deal, but when you're doing a heroic dive and time slows down, you fire a whole lot of bullets all at once. And once time starts up again, the shell casings all kind of drop straight down to the floor in a pile.

Phsyics? I don't need no stinking physics!

It's a strange thing to watch. Also, there's a double-barreled shotgun, which uses two shotgun rounds every time the trigger is pulled—but when Jack cracks it open, only one shell flies out. Huh. The last thing worth mentioning is that while every other gun lets you collect a reasonable amount of extra ammunition, the revolver only lets you carry a total of Eight extra rounds. I could understand six, or twelve—but why eight? One and a third loads?

Anyway, once Jack makes it to the Helicopter pad, he finds the opulent office at the top of the military base. Peeking through the window, he observes the big villain meeting, featuring Pinnacle, Fahook, and first-round draft pick Hilde. Now, it's important to note that while all of the villains probably have guns, and big ones at that, none of them are carrying the guns out in the open. This means that, in all likelihood, Jack could just walk into the room, guns raised, and there isn't a damn thing anyone could do. Of course, he doesn't do this, rather he decides to just let the scene play out on its own.

Hilde demands payment for turning over the file. Fahook offers her three gold ingots, but Hilde dismisses them, desperate for cash. Now, while I understand that the gold bars might be a little hard to turn into money, she's awfully quick to shove them aside, considering that three gold ingots are worth (assuming gold is 225 an ounce) something in the neighbourhood of a quarter of a million dollars. Hilde, forgetting that she's in a room full of murderers (herself included), gives Fahook a really hard time about the money. Pinnacle pulls a gun and shoots her in the back.

Now, since Jack's been standing around the entire time, he could have easily done something about this before it happened. He didn't, though, and Hilde crashes through the window next to Jack, lying half out of the room, covered in broken glass. Pinnacle turns to Fahook and tells him to "make sure that she's tied to Exner's murder." Which shouldn't be all that hard to do, considering the fact that Hilde actually did murder Exner. Then Pinnacle walks over to Hilde's body to make sure she's dead. Jack reaches through the broken window, grabs him by the tie, and yanks him face-first onto the tarmac.

It's all about leverage.

Now, this should be Jack's big moment. His great big CotEWiNoLo moment. He's just witnessed Pinnacle murder someone. The Mayor is lying on the ground, unarmed and helpless. So, does Jack take this opportunity to shoot the Mayor in the head? Twenty or thirty times? No. He decides to toss his guns aside for another one of the game's patented Tedio-vision two-fisted boss battles. I want to take a moment to stress that just ten chapters ago Jack murdered a man for menacing a dog. Jack regularly executes hostages. Yet, for some reason, he can't bring himself to just blow away the source of all that's rotten in Grant City.

So we're treated to an incredibly bad fight sequence. You see, the only way to kill Pinnacle is to stand around and let him punch at you until he runs out of breath. Then Jack has to hop on his back and choke him until he's dead. Of course, since all of Pinnacle's attacks are unblockable, the fight goes on way longer than it should. Then there's the fact that you have to do the choking thing (which has the exact same animation each time) about ten times to kill him. Really, it's just sad.

On a side note, in the background of the arena you can see the broken window Hilde fell through.

I hope she was already dead.

For some reason, though, Hilde's body is nowhere to be seen.

Seriously, where is she?

Honestly, the game felt like it was so badly put-together by this point that I honestly couldn't tell if it was just a mistake or if they were trying to suggest she'd be back for the next game. Making the situation even worse, though, is the fact that once Jack is done with the Mayor, there's an FMV of him walking over to the broken window, looking down at where Hildy isn't, and sadly saying her name. Huh?

Once Jack has broken Pinnacle's extremely fleshy neck, he finds some plastic explosives in the office, and then runs after Fahook, right into-

Chapter 14: Heavy Cargo

Jack finds his way down into a hanger. He fills it with explosives to keep Fahook from sneaking any more gold out of the country—wait, wasn't he loading the gold onto a boat? If not, why were those trucks full o'gold down at the docks? It's not like Jack foiled any kind of a boat-based smuggling operation at any point in this game.

The one in the tank top secretly thinks her sister looks slutty.

Anyhow, before he can make good his pursuit he's confronted by Fahook's twin Razielettes. This gun-intensive boss fight actually serves to illustrate why the game's creators thought that they needed the fist-fighting boss battles. It's really easy. Actually, all the gun-fighting boss battles are. While that seems like a bad thing, it's quite realistic. With the exception of Fahook, who proves to be irritatingly bulletproof, all the other shooting bosses aren't significantly stronger than Jack or the tougher villains. When compared to something like Max Payne, a supposedly realistic game which featured bosses capable of withstanding a dozen shotgun blasts to the head, this is actually a rather nice way to go with the game's design. Although, based on the amount of times you have to beat villains to death with your fists, someone over at Namco wasn't especially proud of the innovation.

With the girls dead and the hanger about to explode, Jack hops onto a motorcycle and chases after Fahook's plane, which is taxiing down the runway:

Let's consider that action sequence, shall we?

Also punishable by death? Bike maintenance.

Who is this guy? Why is he calmly working on a motorcycle while a gun battle is going on in the building nearby? Didn't a helicopter just explode within earshot like ten minutes ago? And just now, inside the hangar he's directly beside, an assassin chick was firing a grenade launcher at Jack.

Whoever he was, I hope he was a bad guy, because Jack sure as hell murdered him with that wrench.

I'm not sure how fast a 767 has to go in order to break the bonds of gravity, but I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that it's well above the top speed of any motorcycle. Also, why does the plan lower its boarding ramp at all? How could the gunmen on the plane possibly even know Jack was behind them on a bike—and if they did, why would they care? This isn't like Die Hard 2, where McClane was actually preventing them from taking off. There's absolutely nothing he could do to stop them from back there.

Damnit. Who called Street Hawk?

And who the hell was that motorcyclist? Was he trying to kill Jack? If so, what did he hope to gain by voluntarily driving off a cliff?

From this angle-

Pleasepleaseplease...

It's abundantly clear that Jack's not going to make it anywhere near the ramp, but from the next angle-

Ouch. Just ouch.

He safely lands inside the plane. Not often you see continuity errors in video game cinematics, is it? Just another thing Dead to Rights has going for it. Or against it. By this point I've lost my ability to differentiate pros from cons.

Jack quickly works his way through the plane, shooting up a few dozen hitmen, none of whom have ever seen Goldfinger, apparently. We get another glimpse into Jack's racism as well, when he walks up to the observation desk and finds three white women there dressed in silks and veils.

White slaves? No, we're just a harem of assassins.

Once again, Jack jumps to the conclusion that these are more of the white slaves (you know, the white slaves? The ones that only exist in his head?) and offers to rescue them. Of course, they turn out to be more bodyguards, and Jack beats them to death.

When it becomes clear that the jig is indeed up, Fahook runs to the cockpit and fires off a bunch of shots, then runs down to the cargo bay. Jack chases him down, and they have two quick gunfights. Now, with the exception of the Mayor's Kingpin-homage physique, none of the bosses up until this point have demonstrated any kind of superpowers. Fahook, however, is able to drink from a magic healing liquor bottle and then breathe fire.

I swear he's supposed to be Karnov.

It suddenly occurred to me that this might have been a reference to Karnov, but a quick bit of research reveals that that was a Data East game, so never mind. Although, while we're on the subject, where is our new Bad Dudes game? Ironic internet hipsters unite! Let's get a letter-writing campaign or something going on!

Once Jack has shot the bottle with the requisite four shots it takes to destroy it, Fahook isn't hard to kill at all. Once he's dead, though, Jack doesn't do the obvious thing. No, he doesn't search for the parachute that Fahook was obviously down here looking for. Instead he runs up to the cockpit to discover that, despite all the gunfire, the pilot is still just a little bit alive. Apparently aiming at a man less than three feet away wasn't one of Fahook's strong suits. So Jack has to disarm some bombs to give the pilot back the controls. The pilot tells Jack to strap in, because it's going to be a rough landing. Instead of doing that Jack walks back to the airphone and dials the Reporter, promising him...

Chapter 15: The Story of the Century

No, it's not Die Hard 2. Why do you keep asking?

So the plane makes its bumpy landing, and Jack escapes in the confusion as fire trucks rush out to douse the minor fires on the almost-completely intact plane. The TV van pulls up and Jack hops in. He hands the file over the reporter, promising him a Pulitzer—on one condition. "I died in the crash." The Reporter agrees to Jack's request in the most dismissive way possible, which is probably the best possible reaction. What kind of power does Jack think reporters have? Does he not think there's going to be some kind of a crash investigation? Besides that, it's not like the plane exploded or anything. Sure, there's going to be dozens of bodies on board, but it's not like the police don't have Jack's fingerprints and DNA. They'll know he wasn't on the plane in a few days, tops.

Jack also asks to be dropped off somewhere. He's got a little business to take care of.

But before we get there, it's time for the final installment of "Where is Shadow Preposterously Teleporting to Now?"

When we last saw Shadow he was in an airplane hangar with Jack, helping him fight some hot chicks with heavy weapons. Then Jack hopped on a motorcycle, and using all its speed, was barely able to get out of the way of the exploding airbase-

Driving like demon that drives your dreams!

So Jack left Shadow to be blown up next to a warehouse, then got on a plane alone, then crash-landed the plane. Which means Shadow must have outrun an explosion that a motorcycle barely managed to escape (and Dogs are slower than Bikes, as I understand it), figured out where Jack was going to land the plane, and then somehow magically managed to meet him there afterwards.

Now, this last bit is just so screwed up it almost hurts to relate it. Not because it's so crazy, or unusual, or even bad. It's just like the game's creators completely ran out of ideas and had no idea how to end the game. You see, Jack wants to have his final showdown with Hennessey. So where do you think that Jack would go to find Hennessy? The police station? City Hall? His house? A porno theatre? Try none of the above. For reasons known only to god and the Namco DTR staff, Jack heads back to the apartment/hotel that Auggie Blatz lived in. Why Jack thinks he'll find Hennessy there is anyone's guess, but apparently Hennessy also thought he'd find Jack there, so he set up a rather elaborate trap involving all his remaining GAC troops and an attack helicopter.

Opulence!

Once all the stormtroopers are dead, Hennessy finally reveals himself and taunts Jack. Jack returns a few taunts of his own, and since he's talking to Lieutenant Richard Hennessy, I'll leave the substance of those comments to your imagination. Now, throughout this sequence it's never made clear how either of them found one another, so I'm just going to give up on that little question, consigning it to the stack of loose threads I've got next to the keybard. Seriously, it's so big that if I wasn't allergic to wool I'd use it to make myself some mittens. Or possibly booties.

Hennessy demands the file back, offering Jack some kind of a corrupt cop deal. Now this seems like the ultimate in empty promises, given that, even if Hennessy did get all the files and his power back, could he really cover up for all of Jack's actions? By this point, Jack's killed 200+ cops. Ain't enough money in the world to make that go away.

Jack reveals that the threats and promises are moot, since the news is currently doing a story on Hennessy's evil schemes. This infuriates Hennessy, who then does the only logical thing, and attacks Jack with a bulletproof electro-shield. O-kay. Since Jack isn't allowed to just pull a Solid Snake and shoot Hennessy in the legs, he has to spend a few minutes dodging Hennessy's charges, tricking him into running into a fountain a dozen times until the shield shorts out. Really, after the first six or seven times he got a severe electrical shock, you'd think Hennessy would tweak to what Jack was playing at, but he doesn't, and once the shield is gone, Hennessy flees. Not the hotel, though, he flees deeper into the building, down into the furnace room.

Of course, at this point, Jack could just call the real cops, and let them sort everything out. But what kind of a CotEWiNoLo would he be then? Jack follows Hennessy into the furnace room, and they have a brutal fistfight. Halfway through it, Hennessy does one of the only interesting things in all of these boss fights—he opens up the main furnace and sets his hands on fire.

No, not that kind of fireman.

You know, I don't care how tough you think you are, if the guy you're fighting sticks his gloved hands into a furnace and then pulls them out—now a pair of flaming gauntlets—while laughing maniacally, it's time to rethink your career choice (whatever career it was that got you there). Of course, this open furnace allows you to kill Hennessy in the most dramatic way possible, by tossing him headfirst into it. Just like in "Death Warrant", though, Hennessy comes striding back out of the furnace. His second wind is fairly short-lived, though, and a few simple punches or another trip back to the sauna will put him down for good.

With Hennessy (and most everyone else) dead, Jack decides it's time to skip town before the authorities figure out that he isn't actually dead. A quick epilogue during the credits shows everyone's favorite black prison stereotype receiving a package in the mail-

Gold care package

You're not seeing things, that's a row of gold bars lining the bottom of the package. Which means the prison authorities found nothing suspicious about a hundred and fifty pound package being sent to prison, and didn't bother X-raying or searching it before delivering it to Preacherman.

Hey, where did Jack get this gold? He didn't seem to take any off the plane, there's no reason to believe that the gold is still lying around the docks a few days later, and I'm sure all of the gunfire (and crashing helicopter) must have tipped the authorities off to the mine by now, right?

Also inside the package is Hennessey's blackmail file on "Preacherman Jones"—I'm not sure why he'd be sending this to prison. Preacherman doesn't need to blackmail himself, after all—and if there's some manner of exonerating evidence contained within it, wouldn't it be better off in the hands of the media, rather than with a prisoner who has no guaranteed ability to tell anyone about it?

In addition to the presposterous amount of money and utterly useless file, Jack included a postcard in the package, one telling Preacher to "keep the faith." Suggesting, I suppose, that the sequel might very well feature Jack staging a bloody prison break to free his pal.

Keep hope alive, Jack Slate.

So that's the story of Jack Slate, Cop on the Edge With Nothing to Lose. Basically, looking just at its gameplay elements, Dead to Rights is a well-crafted gunfighting game with a really bad fighting game crudely tacked on. As a story though, it becomes something greater, a nonsensical rambling mess—one that appears to have been cobbled together from a pile of ripped-off plots and half-finished ideas. A plot that might have started off with a good idea, but then quickly spiraled out of control until finally, without realizing it, Namco ended up releasing a game about a racist murderer with detective skills so deficient that they border on helmet-wearing territory.

P.S.—You know, it's really refreshing to see a hard-boiled cop game that isn't set in New York or Chicago. Sure, Grant City is fictional, but they make it clear that it's a gold rush boomtown, near an Ocean, which places it somewhere in NoCal or possibly even Washington State or Oregon. It's a small detail, but something we just don't see enough of.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Xbox   PS2   GameCube  
Developer(s): Namco  
Series: Dead to Rights  
Genre(s): Shooting  
Articles: Editorials  
Topic(s): Humor  

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Not as good as Halo then?

Not as good as Halo then? That is one long review, indeed.

I know that story in games is usually the weak point, but I can't remember ever playing a game with a plot as nonsensical as that.

The take off speed of a 767 is approximately 180 to 210 mph, depending on wind etc. (the 777 I flew last with took off at about 210). The fastest production bikes reach about 180 to 190 mph, so he could match the speed of the plane, but in no way catch it. Driving beside, not behind, of course. Otherwise the exhaust from the jet engines would reconfigure Jacks hairstyle.

when will someone end the

when will someone end the torment

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