Matt Bassos
10 Sep, 2004

Dead Man's Hand Review

Xbox Review | PALGN braces the Wild West to give you the verdict on the first-person shooter: Dead Man's Hand.
The Wild West, it’s symbolic with showdowns, horse riding, the law, and being a tough guy. Sounds like a great environment for a video game doesn’t it? Surprisingly though, there’s not too many games held within this genre. This should make a game like Dead Man’s Hand stand out from the mediocre pack of first-person shooters right? Well unfortunately for this Western-themed shooter standing out is the least of its problems.

The story for revenge…again

The story starts with your character, El Tejon joining an infamous, outlaw gang which call themselves THE NINE. Promised fame and fortune but receiving nothing but a bounty on his head, Tejon soon realizes that THE NINE are nothing more than murdering scum, and when Tennessee Vic, the boss of the group, starts executing women and children, Tejon like any torn hero stands up against him. As you would expect, Tennessee shoots Tejon and leaves him for dead, but some how against the odds Tejon survives and is found by the local law enforcement which patch him up and throw him in the slammer for his past affiliation with the gang. The tale of revenge ensures, with Tejon vowing to hunt down his former gang one by one, until the final showdown against Tennessee, the man that double-crossed him.

You can run but you can't hide.

You can run but you can't hide.
Dead Man’s Hand is played in the first-person perspective, and the controls prominently play as they would in other first-person shooting games such as, Halo and the Medal of Honor series. The first level, the prison is your basic tutorial session, which explains the controls of the game and how to apply them to help Tejon escape. Dead Man’s Hand does introduce some fresh features into its gameplay, one being the inclusion of shot chains. By shooting targets, such as crates, bottles and most importantly enemies, in rapid succession, you will build a shot chain meter, and as long as you keep hitting targets this meter will keep rising and add bonus points to your end of level score. This score is received at the end of every level cleared, but is only for bragging rights, so the incentive to shot chain quickly losses it appeal. Another way to increase your score is by doing trick shots. By shooting enemy’s hats off, and the like, bonus points will be rewarded to your score, but like shot chains there’s really no point in trying to do these fancy maneuvers, unless you’re trying to impress a friend.

At the beginning of each level you will have the opportunity to choose which weapons Tejon takes into combat. You’re restricted into bringing one pistol, one shotgun and one rifle so in the end you’re just choosing different models of those three weapons. Secondary weapons are also integrated in the game, and range from your trusty Bowie knife to exploding dynamite. As you kill your adversaries, a power meter will slowly fill up. This meter allows you to use your weapon’s secondary fire, often firing the gun faster or producing more powerful shots, but be careful, as using these functions will drain your meter rapidly.

One significant problem with Dead Man’s Hand is its hit detection on enemies. While it’s extremely easy to fire and hit someone in the centre of your screen, some enemies in the corner or behind cover manage to deflect your shots even if your aiming reticule is perfectly lined up, and in a first-person shooter this causes all sorts of problems.

You should be glad I hit your hat and not your head.

You should be glad I hit your hat and not your head.
Teaching the kids to gamble

Dead Man’s Hand offers you the chance at the start of each level to play a quick game of Poker. This gives you the opportunity to win some extra ammo or start with a percentage of your power meter conveniently filled. You can keep playing as long as you have a wining hand, but if you loss, everything you’ve won up till then will be gone, so it’s important to know when to walk away. Don’t worry though if you do loss, as you really don’t need that extra ammo. Levels follow the same structure as you would find in an early first-person shooter game like Doom, all those years ago. Plenty of ammo and health are scattered all over the place and are there for the taking. Level design is very linear and dull. You will simply go into each area and clear out enemies before progressing into the next part of the stage.

Most levels will have you fight a member of your former gang at the end, but this doesn’t add anything to the challenge as these “boss” type enemies are easily defeated. A nice addition is that some levels take place on horseback and the game essential becomes a shooter on rails. This helps break up the gameplay, but you’ll still find the same problems that plague the standard levels in these unique sequences.

The enemy A.I is moronic at the best of times. Sure, they can fire while behind cover and retreat if necessary but seeing them run straight pass you or stand directly in your firing range is laughable. Not only is the A.I inadequate but the damage model on some enemies is ludicrous. Some die with a direct shot to the chest, while others can take a point blank shotgun shell to the head and still live. In fact, the only thing that makes the A.I challenging at all, is its ability to camouflage itself in the desolate environment. You will often be fired upon without having any idea where it’s coming from.

That's one powerful revolver.

That's one powerful revolver.
An Ugly Wild West

One of the greatest let downs of Dead Man’s Hand are its visuals. Dull, blurry and unimaginative springs to mind when playing through the game. Character models leave a lot to be desired for and the frame rate drops significantly at times, especially if you die. The only positive thing that can be said is the game does support a nice range of various psychics. Dead enemies are sent flying backwards or slump in a heap on the ground. Chairs and crates can be blasted about, while barrels bounce all over the place.

The sound is fitting to the games genre. Music follows the Western-theme and the weapon fire in the game is of a satisfactory quality. Something must be said about Tejon’s voice acting in the game though. The Mexican accent which he uses is often sub-par at best, and at times borders on annoying. This is made worse by the fact that through out the game, Tejon will offload cheesy one-liners which will make you cringe.

The game includes multiplayer support for up to eight players over Xbox Live and system link. There is no cooperate play or split-screen action which is unbelievable. What is truly amazing is the inclusion of multiplayer bots in system link and Xbox Live, yet no way of playing against them in a split-screen mode or even a single player mode. Multiplayer modes include deathmatch, team deathmatch, Bounty (everyone after one player) and Posse (you and others must defend yourselves against progressively harder A.I)

Riding into the sunset

Dead Man’s Hand does have its moments but they are rare and far between. It fails in most areas due to its ordinary graphics, stupid A.I, and boring level design. In an untapped genre Dead Man’s Hand just does not deliver anything special and falls into the category of an ordinary, average first-person shooter.
The Score
A standard first-person shooter set in the Wild West, with many problems that overshadow most good points the game has going for it.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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9 years ago
pity, i used to really like Outlaw by lucasarts all them years ago...
9 years ago
this review sounds good but the fact that i dont like this genre is a different story.
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  Human Head Studios

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