The original Dead to Rights was a synthesis of elements inspired from other successful titles, from Max Payne's bullet time to Final Fight style fisticuffs, with the addition of a bulletproof pooch and a selection of mandatory mini-games that not even a game developer's mother could love. DTR2 drops the latter, tweaks the former a bit, tosses in a thin storyline to string the assorted levels together, adds the worst background music heard since the 8-bit era, and calls it a day. They really should have kept working until the dead of night.
DTR2 follows the recent fad of game prequels. A civic-minded judge about to expose the seedy goings on in the upper reaches of government has gotten himself kidnapped, and being a personal friend, Jack Slate rushes in for a vigilante-style rescue. Our crash-crazy hero obviously isn't a friend of the local coroner as he quickly racks up a lock-on assisted body count that would even turn Agent 47 paler than normal.
Jack has got plenty of tricks in his deck. The most highly touted is the slow motion dive. There's something uniquely satisfying about diving out from behind cover, blasting a nearby foe with a shotgun, and before his body hits the ground, switching to .45s to take out a barrel that sends more distant enemies flying, then picking off any stragglers while they're still reeling from the blast. Grabbing one of their buddies to use him as a human shield or icing his comrades with his own weapon before putting a bullet in his brain is a nice alternative when cover is scarce, as is pulling off a quick disarm when your ammo is running low.
Even with all of these abilities, sometimes enemies can still be intimidating, especially when they start tossing molotov's like an arsonist in Alaska. That's when the man-killing canine Shadow comes in, who is able to take down enemies and collect scattered weapons with such ease, you're bound to wonder if Jack really needs to be there at all, other than spouting cringe-inducing one-liners. Though his teeth must be made of antimantium, Shadow's AI is only slightly better than the local goon squad, so he sometimes has pathfinding troubles, and enemies out of reach on balconies or rooftops are immune to his bite.
All of these special attacks use up adrenaline, but since there's no time limit it's normally easy find cover and fill up. This is probably the best approach to the game as a whole -- when a group of thugs can rip through your armor and lifebar in minutes, though powerups and frequent checkpoints keep this from becoming too frustrating. You'll be far more annoyed by the way the moltovs and grenades you try to toss always land at your feet, or the poor clipping that sometimes allows enemies to shoot right through the walls.
The melee fighting that appears once per area is competent without being compelling. Stylish disarms and turning a thug into dogfood is fun at first, but for the most part, it'll be bash, bash, bash until all the enemies fall down. Even the various melee weapons conversely lead to your foes dying a little faster.
The developers promised a number of innovations to the series when Dead to Rights II was first announced. Somehow, all of that fell by the wayside, and what remains is essentially a marginally refined mirror of the original. While this would make it a worthwhile budget title for fans of the first, full price is asking a lot when offering so little improvement.