Dredd Versus Death (Sierra) Review | Official Xbox Magazine - Everygamegoing

Future Publishing

Dredd Versus Death
By Sierra
Xbox (EU Version)

Published in Official Xbox Magazine #21

A Dredd-full state, or sex in the Mega-City?

Dredd Versus Death (Sierra)

Rebellion, the developer of this futuristic shooter, liked the Dredd licence so much that it bought his comic book vehicle, 2000AD. It's strange and disappointing then, that the new owners fell so short in doing their favourite son the justice that he should deserve, and as the universe's harshest Judge, would demand from the barrel of his Lawgiver pistol.

Actually Judge Dredd is not the harshest Judge in the universe. That draconian award would have to go to Judge Death, whose policy on life being a crime punishable by death lies just a dead cat's whisker short of Thatcherite. And dead cats feature significantly in this game's story. Yes they do. With Death escaped from his Iso-Cube after a system failure and riot, a death cult has sprung up who are using Pet Re-gen (a dodgy vet's treatment that revives recently departed fluffies) to populate Mega-City One with Death-serving vampires and zombie horrors. 'Populate', unfortunately, is a very big word in this instance. While the game engine succeeds brilliantly in portraying the neon wonders, glass shields, walkways, skyways, haloed heights and decrepit depths of the sprawling metropolis, it's patently unable to fill the urban spaces with a convincing throng. By mistake this is emphasised right from the opening scene, asking Dredd to disperse/arrest protesters on the steps of the Justice Department. The sight is thoroughly underwhelming, with less than a dozen feebly chanting perps - and the problem persists through the game.

On top of this there's some appalling AI to the city's natives, with pedestrians frequently stuck on and walking directly into walls, and enemies often taking your punishment with stoic refusal to move an inch from the path of your lead justice. Which all makes for a totally unconvincing living environment, not aided by repetitive dialogue and physics for dead bodies that Dredd should punish for crimes against the laws of gravity. Like incompetent caretaker gods, Rebellion has fashioned a beautiful world from its game code clay, but the spark of life stutters and is extinguished almost before it's had a chance to catch. Glitches with pedestrians sticking on walls extend to Dredd too, and on at least two occasions during this review, game-ending bugs occurred after getting lodged in a lift wall and a sewer duct necessitated a suicide restart. A few missing skybox textures also failed to impress this Judge.

Level design is equally disappointing, with undisguised linearity and tired conceits that no longer cut it in the modern shooter. It's just no fun to hide mission objectives in obscure rooms and have you search for them by recovering every inch of a mostly empty level. While Halo-style pointers direct you to the more linear objectives that you'd find anyway, there's no radar to help find the two objective-dependent perps, for example, who have been deliberately hidden away in a boxroom. There's also the nightmare relay of switch A opens area B, reveals switch B opens area C, repeat until quickly bored. On the journey, meet enemy groups more agile than yourself (varieties are woefully limited, mainly vampires and zombies) and back out through doorways dispatching from a distance as you retreat. It's been done to Death and fills us with Dredd. Later, you do get to battle Judges leading up to a final confrontation with Death, but the arcade arenas are poorly balanced and one of them again contains a potentially game-ending bug.

Levels do gradually improve and occasionally allow the unique 2000AD humour to shine through - the zombie disco is not to be missed. The comic book style is captured perfectly by the engine, with decent lighting, smoke, flame and outstanding rain effects - splashes for every raindrop and droplets on your visor if you angle skywards. But that's not enough, especially from a developer that proved its mettle with the outstandingly atmospheric PC shooter Aliens Versus Predator.

In the language of Mega-City One, we're afraid that while not total Stomm, Dredd Versus Death is verging on Drokk and this FutsiePerson will Grud on a Greenie if it's not more of a Jimp than a Helmet.

Good Points

  1. Authentic comic book style
  2. Chunky weapons
  3. Great rain
  4. Disco zombies

Bad Points

  1. Poor, buggy AI
  2. Tired level design
  3. Thin population


Some moderately slow load times, smooth city rendering, but few characters on screen.

Perfect look for the Mega-City of the comic books, but atmosphere lost in play.

Too evidently linear and too much switch-finding to be consistently absorbing.

You'll never want to replay the early missions, but bot multiplayer and split-screen help.

Looks far better than it plays, with obvious faults and boring level design stealing defeat from the jaws of victory.

Steve Brown

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