Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Release Date: October 24, 2006
I was surprised to learn that there was a game based on Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" on the market. It slipped beneath my radar — and everyone else's — in 2006, so I was surprised at how well the finished product turned out. The film has action to it, but for the most part, it's a dialogue-heavy affair inside of a warehouse where the on-screen criminals are trying to figure out who is or isn't a traitor among them. While you might know that the Reservoir Dogs game is a third-person shooter, you might not be aware of how that comes to be, at least within the context of the film.
Basically, the way the developers managed to get around the non-action aspects of the film is by detailing the events leading up the central bank heist and also relating to a few of the characters who take noticeable hiatus later on, like Steve Buscemi's Mr. Pink.
The developers also put some work into making the game feel faithful to the film by at least getting one of the original actors to lend his likeness and voice to the game: Michael Madsen of later "Kill Bill" fame, AKA Mr. Blonde. While the other characters might not be modeled to fit their on-screen counterparts, the sound-alikes have varying degrees of success at imitating the voices.
As a fan of Tarantino's dialogue, the game comes off as a cheap imitation of his writing style during the cut scenes. I understand the need to keep the script as close in theme and style to the original film, but it often tries too hard to mimic the quirkiness of Tarantino's style, and more often than not, it falls flat. There's not a heavy approach to the story, so there's more action and gameplay than plot, so thankfully, you don't have to put up with it too often.
The actual gameplay is quite a bit of fun, and while the standard third-person shooting stuff is all average and expected, little gameplay twists help Reservoir Dogs stand out from the pack. For instance, there's a big element in the game that involves threatening people, usually by pressing Y to subdue random civilians, which keeps them from alerting the cops or trying anything rash. Your character will just wave his gun in the air, and anyone close enough who doesn't have an equipped weapon will cower in fear.
When you encounter armed characters, such as security guards or cops, it becomes a bit trickier. You'll need to take a hostage and then threaten to shoot that hostage in an attempt to subdue everyone who's aiming at you. With security guards, this is pretty simple; they'll instantly drop their weapons, at which you point you can target them with the left trigger and force them to walk away, lie on the ground, or put their faces up against a wall to take them out of play. With the cops and SWAT members, however, you need to be a bit more coercive and rough up your captive a bit, either by butting him with the gun or slamming him into nearby objects. Once you've properly scared the police into not acting against you, you'll typically have a shot at the objective you're trying to achieve.
If scare tactics aren't quite your thing, you can opt to go the standard run-and-gun route. Reservoir Dogs boasts a simple cover system that allows you to duck behind nearby objects for cover, and you can peek out from the cover to take potshots at nearby enemies. These enemies will often do the same, and while the AI isn't spectacular when compared to modern shooters, it's enough to provide a challenge when they come at you in large numbers.
There's also a "bullet time" effect that you can achieve once you rack up enough kills, and when you enter this mode, time will slow to a crawl so you can target multiple individuals, and when the meter runs out, you'll be able to see each of them blown away in the order in which you fired at them. It's a complete clone of other bullet slow-down modes, but it's still occasionally fun to watch. You don't need to constantly use it, though, and while it strips some of the challenge out of harder encounters, it's certainly cinematic in the execution.
Rounding out the gameplay of Reservoir Dogs are some simple chase sequences that have you evading the police while racing from point A to point B. There's not a whole lot to these races other than breaking up the standard on-foot segments of the title, but they're frequent and short enough to keep from being boring, and there's even a small reward system that gives you a limited boost, depending on your performance.
One other nice addition is the inclusion of the film soundtrack film, which really fits the gameplay surprisingly well. It's a great soundtrack to begin with, and I'm glad to see that they were able to bring it over to the game intact. While the sound effects and voice-over work aren't anything to get excited about, at least you get some decent tunes to listen to while you create mayhem.
Overall, the gameplay excels more than the story, and while it doesn't quite mirror the style and form of the film on which it's based, Reservoir Dogs is still far better than I would have expected it to be. Really, the only thing in Tarantino's repertoire that I could see translating well to games would be "Kill Bill," so I give kudos to the developers for tackling a property that doesn't exactly scream to be made into game material. The shooting aspects are solid and work well, there are no real control issues to speak of, and even the driving sequences play out surprisingly well. The bigger issues mostly have to do with the story; it doesn't exactly sound like something that Tarantino would write, instead feeling like a cheap imitation of the real deal.
Reservoir Dogs for the Xbox doesn't stack up all that well to the next-gen stuff out there, and even after just two years, it's starting to show its age. If you haven't had a chance to play it, you can probably pick it up on the cheap, and it's worth seeing if only for the interesting use of hostages and scare tactics when it comes to dealing with enemies. I'd definitely be interested to see others pick up a few ideas from this title and incorporate it into a new offering.
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