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Dead Man’s Hand Review

Developer: Human Head Publisher: Atari
Release Date: March 2, 2004 Also On: None

In Dead Man’s Hand (DMH), you’re a member of “The Nine�, a gang of thugs that pillage towns, killing women and children. Your character, El Tejon, will confront the leader, Tennessee Vic, demanding an end to the senseless murders that have been taking place under his watch. You wind up shot, in custody of the law, and seeking revenge while stuck in prison. A prison break out will allow you to escape through the underground.

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Once out, you are free to find and kill the members of “The Nine�, along with your newfound adversary, Tennessee Vic. During your time at the Holiday Inn (i.e. prison), your buddy Vic became a member of the territorial senate. Throughout the game, the story will unravel through cut scenes in black and white.

DMH plays like an arcade shooter, without being stationary (i.e. Time Crisis) and without laser guns. Enemies hide behind tables and knock furniture over to use it as cover. El Tejon can choose from three different pistols, rifles, and shotguns at the beginning of each level.

Levels are located in many regions, including the southwest, Rocky Mountains, and Midwest. Level locations include saloons, ghost towns, riverboats, forests, graveyards, and more. Some levels are solely on horseback, which only requires you to shoot people on foot, along with bandits chasing you on horseback.

Chain hits will result in a green bar on the bottom left hand of the screen. Using the left trigger, a rapid fire is allowed until your bar runs out. The game also rewards points for kills and special bonus shots, such as knocking off the hat of an enemy. I still haven’t figured out what your score amounts to, other than a reminder of how well you did at any given time.

Red icons pop on screen when you are being fired upon. It gives the direction of the shots, along with distance, determined by the color. Health is displayed with a deck of cards. Speaking of cards, a poker hand is played before each level.

Let’s talk gameplay a little more deeply now. The game itself is full of Western clichés, which is where the game’s character comes from. However, in a not-so-positive way, the game has first-person shooter clichés up the Yazoo. Sure, it is fun to play against some of the more colorful bosses, and sure, it is fun to use mounted machine guns/canons, but the rest of the game is absolutely nothing new. In total, there are 24 single-player missions and 3 bonus missions. If you include the three difficulty levels, you can get more replay value out of that.

Time for Xbox Live talk; you are allowed to pick from quick match, optimatch, create match, and content download. Unfortunately, the game menus lag extremely badly and make it difficult to swap through the different categories. Game modes available for online play are death match, team death match, bounty, and posse. All of them are self-explanatory by now, except for posse. In this game type, you basically fend off the computer. Swarms of enemies will pile into your room and fire upon you. Some game modes allow for optional CPU inclusion, along with difficulty settings.

DMH suffers from serious technical problems. First, we should discuss the frame-rate, which significantly drops when weapons are swapped and fired, when large amounts of enemies are on-screen, and when you die. Instead of a “you died� animation, or something of the sort, the screen will cut from the level, turn black, and then ask you to restart the level. For your information, there are no save points, but it doesn’t amount to much, since the levels are fairly short, easy, and well equipped with ammo and health.

Technical hiccups aside, DMH is still a game that suffers from lack of originality. The Western environments are varied and moderately detailed for the specific era, including your weaponry, but again, the game is inundated with routine first-person shooter gameplay. The single player missions might last you five to eight hours at most, but Xbox Live gameplay is enjoyable and worthy of time investment.

Graphics: 4.5
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 7.5
Creativity: 3.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 6.5
Final: 5.4
Written by Kyle Review Guide