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SummaryHe is The Law!!! And this a great game!
The GoodI've been a fan of good ol' scarface Joe "I am the law!!!" Dredd since I was a youngster! Living in the U.K. for some years helped me building quite a pile of 2002AD comic books and Dredd special editions. Always ahead of times his stories were something else. Sometimes quite difficult to understand (depending on who wrote the scenario) but surely you should develop a devotion and read a lot of material before you could grasp what's lurking behind the big man and Megacity One, and that's where the Stallone movie lost the whole point. Nobody from the production team seemed to have been a devoted Dredd fan, or at least, had the dignity to sit down and study what the movie is about, instead it turned out to be a huge fiasco, a movie just to kill 2 hours of your life eating pop-corn, a good movie to watch while you're waiting for your friends to come and pick you up for a night out, nothing more... Joe Dredd is not Rambo Mr. Sly!!! He doesn't just kick ass, he's the Law!!!
Anyways, I could go on writing about Dredd endless pages of html but let's go into the game. First of all I recall that there were some other Dredd games around since the days of the good ol'Amiga A500! I had the game (but ofcourse!) for the Amiga, but it was a huge disappointment to be honest. I think there were a few more games but nothing matched Dredd's superiority in his graphics novels... Until Rebellion got their codes running and released Judge Dredd vs Death. Now this game seems to have a right approach on the scene. Basically, here we are talking about a first person shooter that the player incarnates Judge Joe Dredd with the task to capture the souls of Judge Death and his other three chums: Mortis, Fire and Fear
First of all the scenery is simply authentically... Megacity One! Right on the spot! Not too complicated (I've seen better level modeling in other games) but I think that the design here serves well the cause! I think that if you've studied some later stories of Dredd, you'll instantly realize that the scenery in the game resembles the comic! Very well done I think! The game menu soundtrack is absolutely brilliant! An atmospheric and imposing orchestration that plunges your soul in doom and prepares you to wander and restore the order in the chaotic World of Judge Dredd with the help of your mkII Lawgiver. Talking of mkII, the whole of the game is based on the later series of Dredd comics, even Dredd's jaw (the only real characteristic you can see from Dredd, and thankfully this time he keeps his helmet on!) is textured full of scars and creases, typical depiction of Dredd in the later series in the comic's history.
I liked the approach the game begins; It's an everyday, any day, you're in the Judges HQ chatting with Andersson about how you should tolerate crime and stuff, police blahblahblah and then you're off to your first mission where you've got to stop a demonstration situated at the HQ's entrance and arrest some graffiti artists who "make a mess" on the Megacity One's buildings walls. Who dares to protest against the law these days? "You're doing some time in the cubes creep!" You can either play it a considerate judge and do some arrests, sending the offenders to the cubes (which is the jail complex of Megacity One), or, play it a tough nut and send them to the other world, it's up to you to judge, since you're the judge hehe!, BUT, if you spend your ammo unwisely you're not doing a good job as a judge and the justice department is gonna send some good boys after you to calm you down a bit! Remember what I said earlier on? Judge Dredd is not Rambo, so you must not kill everything that moves in this game. Arresting is not an easy thing to do, nowadays people tend to either run away (as if they can escape the LAW! hehe!), or fight back, in that case try to aim at their weapons, if it falls from their hands and you go on killing them that's not the proper way of giving justice, plus the justice meter on you HUD will go down, and you don't want that to happen.
As the plot unveils to you, you realize that something's not right about it... It's a good time to say DROKK!!! Vampires and Zombies attack everyone in the city... Hmmmm, Judge Death and his friends have paid us a visit once more and they're all about their jibbery wibbery about conquering Megacity One and restoring their kind of law and order by killing every living entity. Fair enough, they're looking for trouble here, they'll get it! So, basically the game is about capturing the sinful souls of every one of Death's loyal officers: Judge Mortis, Judge Fire and Judge Death. In between you have a level devoted to killing Necrus, who's Judge Death's most loyal living follower, a priest of some kind, or an executioner more like. Apart from the main - 'kill the end level boss' type of levels, you have the in between levels where you must clear out various crime incidents in the city, all or most of them, linked to the Judge Death phenomenon and finally restore order. As you progress far deeper in the plot the game becomes more 'hunt Judge Death' orientated and escalates to the final level which is none other than the Judge Death's world, where he drains energy from the souls of four Judges, including Andersson, and finally incarnates in a monster's body ready for the final fight. Uhhh! We're gonna need a lot of meat wagons for this boy!
Talking about meat wagons, I should elaborate a bit more on the tools that will help you fill meat wagons, therefore: weaponry! The trusty "Lawgiver" (mkII) is here and it is the basic and more useful of all the weapons you'll find in the game. The Lawgiver has available a number of different ammo settings, ie: standard (bursts of simple bullets), armor piercing, incendiary, bouncing bullets, etc. to name a few. Basically, only a few of them are useful in the whole of the game. As it was mentioned in an other review of the game, the player's weapons system is based on the Halo concept; (unfortunately) you can only carry two different types of weapon at a time. Therefore a bit of strategy and combat management should be developed here.
Which leads me to another fact in the game that is worth mentioning: ammunition is not as abundant as you might expect from a shooter game. So don't go blasting your way around being trigger happy. Conserve and plan your ammo otherwise you'll end up trying to arrest the zombies as their food. Apart from the Lawgiver there's a limited selection of other weapons available including 2 types of machineguns, a shotgun, grenade launcher etc. but I guess that emphasis is given on the use of the Lawgiver throughout most of the game. I mean, what is Dredd without his trusty Lawgiver?
Generally as I said earlier on the whole game resembles the comic, either in look, action, or more importantly, in feel. It captures the great Dredd and Megacity One's atmosphere (these two are one really, you can't have one without the other!) quite well. Not only the level design helps that, but every little detail that sources from the comic series. For instance, every time you arrest someone and the moments before Dredd shouts lines that come straight from the comic. The whole cosmos where you'll be digitally incarnating Dredd, is having bits and pieces referencing from the comic. I think that the Rebellion guys did a great job here in their research about the subject of the game, and this is showing very much indeed throughout every of it's levels! That is why the game is the closest interpretation to the Dredd illustrations.
On the sound front the game performs equally well. Here we have an abundant use of punch lines straight from the comic series, something that adds up very much to the consistency of the atmosphere. One thing that I found extremely funny was in the level where you have to defeat Judge Fire (in the Smoker Club), he shouts "Heeeeeyyy Dreeeedd! Welcome to the party ooooooold frieeeeeend!" using a voice similar to the vocals that some black metal singers use in their music (fans of bands like "Immortal", "Mayhem" etc. will know what I'm on about here), but this sounded really funny to my ears. Regarding the soundtracks, I already mentioned the superior menu orchestral tune. The other action accompanying tracks are equally well done. Now we couldn't possibly have references to what the soundtrack of the real Judge Dredd would sound like, cause it's just a paper depiction, so the music here does the job really well, if not getting a tiny bit too repetitive at times, but I think I'll let it go cause it's not a problem here after all!
The BadWell, the main drawback of the game is that sometimes the difficulty level gets ridiculously high. For instance, defeating Judge Fear is a reason for partying when you're done with him!!! Whereas defeating Death is fairly easy compared to Fear!!! In fact, the whole final level "The deadworld" where Judge Death is situated, seems like it's been done in a rush to get the game released. So here you will see an averagely done level that ends such a great game... It's a bit disappointing really. At least, I've been expecting throughout the game to fight with Mr. uglyteeth and "garden fence for helmet visor" (aka. Judge Death) himself face to face, not him incarnated to some bully monster!!!
Regarding the defeating of the the evil Judges, nobody gives you a clue what to do in order to weaken their entities and capture their souls... And you're supposed to have support from the Psy department!!! Hmmm... For instance, after wandering for hours in the rooms of the Smoker Club listening to the black metal singer that speaks for Judge Fire, accidentally I stumbled upon a switch that would turn on the water showers for fire extinguishing, thus leading Judge Fire to escape from it (he hates water! lol!) and get trapped to the upper level of the Club where you could defeat him after wasting some serious quantities of ammo. And as I said before, Fear is another long story... He seems unbeatable, but he's not! Just pack a few dozens of rockets or grenades on his head and you're done, as long as you know how to teleport yourself from one spot to another, cause he's all over the place!
The Bottom LineWell, as one can expect, a game cannot possibly cover in full the context and depth of a character that's been illustrated in various adventures for almost two decades now! That would have been impossible and quite naive to be expected from this game. I believe that Judge Dredd vs Death takes one of the most crucial challenges in Dredd's career and portrays it as an enjoying gaming experience for all of us who've been reading and liked the comic series. I also believe that it's still a good shooter game, even if one doesn't know who the Drokk Dredd is!
Finally, I could say two things about Judge Dredd vs Death, one is that if you're a Judge Dredd fan get it now if you haven't done so far, no questions asked - no questions answered, he is the law!
On the other hand if you're one of those unlucky guys (or gals!) that haven't got a clue who Judge Joe Dredd is, I can tell you a few things: first, he doesn't fly or defeat one dozen baddies with just one punch, he's not afraid of cryptonite, he doesn't climb on walls or buildings and he doesn't ride a batmobile, generally he doesn't do any kind of super-stuff! And if that still doesn't gives you a clue about Dredd, there's always this great series of comics which comes way back a few decades now, that you should check out sometime. Regarding the game now, it's a very good cyber-punk themed shooter situated in a futuristic metropolis, in the lines of Halo, only more interesting and not as boring and repeating as Halo. Give it a try, It's good fun guaranteed!
Finally, I sincerely must apologize cause I've used a bit of terminology from the comic series, that many people are unfamiliar with. I'm terribly sorry but I couldn't avoid it! :)