A few days ago, I was crushing beers at Shenanigans, a restaurant-cum-watering-hole in Sewanee, Tennessee, home of my alma mater, The University of the South. Specifically, I was talking with my friend Reed about videogames, and I mentioned that I was playing the new Dead to Rights -- less a sequel to the original, and more a reimagining, perhaps in the vein of Prince of Persia: the characters and the setting might be the same, but there shouldn’t be any expectation of narrative continuity.
I mentioned that after three levels, I still hadn’t managed to get the protagonist, Jack Slate, or his canine partner, Shadow, killed. “Yeah, the first one wasn’t very hard, either,” replied Reed.
“You’ll survive as long as you don’t play like an asshole,” I said.
And that seems to be a relatively foolproof rubric by which to judge most mainstream games. Games that provide internal logic and consistency are probably, in the very basic sense, competent. Truly great games of course exceed our increasingly low expectations, but games whose win states can be figured out with a touch of critical thinking ought to be considered the baseline of acceptable game design in 2010.
By and large, this is the case with Dead to Rights: Retribution, even if the game doesn't always play to its strengths.