Before Batman: Arkham Asylum came around, comic book games had a bad name. What, with Superman 64 and Batman: Dark Tomorrow out, it's very easy to see why. However, one comic book title that has been sadly overlooked by many is Judge Dredd: Dredd vs Death, a first person shooter focusing on the iconic super cop taking on the dark judges. It's great fun, and the fact that it's so unknown is downright criminal.
Locations are quite varied, including shopping malls overrun by zombies, prisons in the middle of a massive riot, and the alternate dimension of the Dark Judges. Each level is lengthy enough to make you appreciate the scenery without the novelty wearing off, and I never spent too much time confused on where to go. Enemy variety is also decent enough, consisting of thugs, vampires, zombies, and more. Each enemy behaves differently, although it is annoying that by late game you're basically only going to be seeing melee enemies.
Like Timesplitters, you unlock a lot of multiplayer content from playing the main story. Character, maps, and arcade missions can all be unlocked by beating levels, giving the multiplayer mode a great sense of progression. Overall, the game does feel a lot like Timesplitters, which is hardly a bad thing. The shame is that the multiplayer mode is dead, but it can be great fun if you can rope two or three friends into picking up the game with you.
The weapons are fairly simple and are about what you would expect from a Judge Dredd game. You always have the LawGiver at the ready, with all six of it iconic firing modes. Nearly all of them are useful, sans HotShot and Ricotchet, with the former being useless if you can line up a shot and the latter being too unpredictable to properly aim. However, I have to give Rebellion props for making the LawGiver accurate, as any time an enemy picks one up from the ground and tries to fire, they will find their hand exploding in a torrent of giblets.
Alternate weapons include Dredd's Arbitrator shotguns, pistols, heavy machine guns, a rifle, and laser guns, with very few of them actually being any more useful than the LawGiver's default fire. The heavy machine gun is great, but it's very rare compared to the pistols which can be seen being wielded by nearly every human enemy in the game.
The game is quite gory, which makes the shooting very fun and satisfying. Incendiary rounds will melt an enemy to the bone, High-Ex sends ragdolls flying through the air, and the Arbitrator can pop heads open with just a single shot. You can also shoot enemies in legs, arms, chest, or even blow the gun out of their hand and then arrest the perps for extra score.
The story of Dredd vs Death is fairly simple, the Dark Judges have broken out of their cells and are causing mayhem across Mega City One, and it's up to Dredd to stop them. Of course, there are some twists and turns along the way, but there's nothing mindblowing in the game. The writing however, is top notch, with plenty of segments that made me laugh out loud. It's a very self aware game, which is perfect considering the comic book it's based on.
However, Dredd vs Death has one glaring flaw. It's short. No, I don't mean 'short' in the same way South Park: The Stick of Truth just breezed by when it came to length, I mean the game is roughly three to four hours total. For such a great game, this is a real shame, and I wish I could've spent more time in the campaign. Sure, there's an arcade mode based on classic Judge Dredd moments, but that's really not enough to keep players hooked.
The game also looks downright awful. sure, one level set in a rain-coated dock looks nice enough with the effects, but the overall graphics are awful. Everything looks like plastic, and to think that the amazing-looking Painkiller would release just the year after is completely inexcusable.
Judge Dredd: Dredd vs Death is a wonderful, wonderful shooter that's sadly held back by its short length. However, thanks to it dirt-cheap price on Steam, it's a very easy game to recommend. Next time you have eight dollars to spend and have no idea what to get, Dredd vs Death is a very worthy investment.