Take on the role of El Tejn, a gunfighter hell bent on revenge for the men who left you for dead in this latest first person shooter. Nine outlaws with targets on their backs will fall one-by-one at your hands. But dont think it is going to be an easy hunt. Since the double cross the nine have gone their separate ways and have formed new gangs stretching all over the land. So when you come a riding into town or travel through the barren wastelands, be ready for waves of outlaws looking to take you out before you can get anywhere near any member of the nine. Armed with a pistol, a rifle and a shotgun, you set out to collect the price on the nine members heads and get some payback for the life they nearly took away.
So why should you take all the time to pull of these trick shots? Aside from just being cool ways to take out the enemy, it creates shot chains. When taking out the bad guys, you are awarded a number. That number is a shot chain number and as long as the chain is filled, the more points you score for the kill. In addition to awarding you more points, the chain also builds up how many powershots you are allowed. Powershots give you more fire power using the secondary fire button. Examples of powershots include scope aiming with certain rifles, blasting two barrels at a time with the shotgun, and firing bursts with your pistol. The powershots come in real handy when dealing with boss fights and multiple enemies at once.
But why the title Dead Mans Hand, you maybe asking yourself. Besides being a really cool name, the game involves poker as well as shooting bad guys. Before the start of each level, you will be dealt five cards with the intention of playing some five card draw poker. Like standard video poker rules, you need to get at least a pair here if you want to win. Whats at stake? Ammo and powershots are the prizes on the line. After each hand, you will have the option to begin the new level, or you can put what youve won on the line for even more ammo and powershots. But should you lose a hand, then you begin the mission with the standard issue amount of ammo and no powershots built up. Of course, you also run the risk of drawing into the Dead Mans Hand, which causes you to start with only 50% health and very little ammo (I wont spoil what hand is the Dead Mans Hand for the sake of those not familiar with poker terms). Remember, it is called gambling for a reason.
In addition to being a fantastic single player game, you can take Dead Mans Hand to Live play and take on the world in one of three different games. In Deathmatch, it is every man and woman for themselves in this all out fight that makes the gunfight at the O.K. Coral look like another Saturday night at the local tavern. You can also have Team Deathmatch if you feel like having some friends to back you up. Want something more then just kill everything that moves? Then collect cash for killing your friends on Live in Bounty mode. Or ride into town with your boys and take on another crew until only one side is left standing in Posse mode (very similar to Team Deathmatch, but with a bit more structure to it). In addition to multiplayer mode, content downloading is available. In the works are more levels and weapons to be used in multiplayer Live mode.
Normally when dealing with sound, I break it up into two sections: sound effects and soundtrack. This will not be the case here because there is little to no music present here. The only music occurs during cut scenes and times you enter taverns where there are shows going on. As far as the sound effects go, everything sounds great. The gun shots and explosions not only sound like the real deal, but you can even judge the direction from which they are coming from, which really helps out in areas where enemies could be hiding behind a number of different obstructions (if you have surround sound, the effects have real distance to them). Footsteps, glass breaking, doors opening, animal sounds, and elemental sounds (wind, rain, thunder) all sound true to life. Even the voice talent, which seems clich at first, sounds perfect and just the way it does in western movies. Major ups to the sound effects team on this one.
Bottom line, Dead Mans Hand is anything but a dead title for the Xbox. The story of revenge and bounty hunting will keep players on the trail of all nine of the men who wronged you. Their first mistake was trying to kill you, and the second was not getting the job done. Arm yourself with the weapons of the Old West and hunt your way through ghost towns, the sun scorched wastelands, the mountain woods and all locations in-between in search of your goal. The graphics and sounds will only keep the spirit of the Old West alive as you take out hundreds of outlaws with a few pulls of a trigger. Add addictive multiplayer modes and a low price tag of $29.99, Dead Mans Hand is easily the best buy so far of 2004. Now deal the cards and see how your hand comes out.