Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death, PC

First released in 2003 by Sierra, Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death is a first-person shooter developed by Rebellion that is based on the famous British comic character who rose to prominence in 2000AD comic during the ’70s and ’80s. In fact: Dredd vs. Death is arguably the only decent Judge Dredd game that’s been made, to date.

Dredd vs. Death has a single-player story mode, plus an arcade mode, a cooperative multiplayer mode, and also a multiplayer versus mode. The story follows Judge Dredd as he patrols Mega City One, arresting “perps” for committing crimes, and also encountering a rising number of athletic super vampires whose existence in the city is being linked to the Dark Judges, who are incarcerated in The Nixon Penitentiary. The Dark Judges – if you’re not familiar with the Judge Dredd stories – are four undead lawmakers from another dimension who see life as a crime and therefore want to eradicate it. Upon arriving at the penitentiary Dredd discovers that the place is on fire and The Dark Judges have escaped. Thus begins Dredd‘s mission to confront them.

Dredd can carry two weapons and can switch between them. He has his trusty Lawgiver pistol as his primary weapon which utilises six different types of ammunition, which you can scroll through using the mouse wheel. There are standard bullets, ricochet bullets (that can bounced off surfaces), high explosive bullets, armour-piercing bullets, incendiary, and heat seeker bullets. The Lawgiver can also zoom in to give you a sniper view. Secondary weapons are usually found on corpses and can be picked up and exchanged by pressing the action button. There are shotguns, pistols, laser rifles, machine guns, and grenade launchers to find as you progress and Dredd‘s secondary weapon is re-set at the start of each level. Dredd can also throw grenades if he acquires any.

Mega City One is detailed and well-constructed, with monorails zooming by overhead, lots of people milling around, and weather effects adding to the gloom. Lighting effects are good throughout, adding to the atmosphere. Many of the missions make good reference to the original stories, but in general the gameplay is fairly standard shooter fare. The game can be played at three difficulty levels and enemies are challenging on normal. Progress is usually made by completing a number of objectives, which can be viewed by pressing Tab. Rag doll physics are primitive and often hilarious, as can be seen when blasting opponents (they often go flying when they die).

By the fourth level, when you reach the Mega Mall, the game hots up somewhat with a full-on zombie invasion. Burning zombies and vampires, running towards you, will really get the heart racing. Headshots count and are satisfying, as well as saving you ammo. In fact: ammunition is relatively scarce at times so it pays to be efficient.

One important aspect of the gameplay is the ‘lawmeter’, a gauge that is shown on the HUD and which measures your worthiness as a judge. If you shoot innocent civilians, or blast enemies without verbally challenging them (or waiting for them to shoot first), then your lawmeter rating will go down. If you challenge and arrest criminals properly then your lawmeter rating will go up. And if your lawmeter rating reaches zero then the game will end. So you have to be careful not to be too gung-ho with your approach. Dredd will even get told off if he kills people unnecessarily. You can shoot the arms, legs and weapons of opponents who are shooting at you to try to get them to surrender. If they get on their knees you can then cuff them and arrest them, adding to your worthiness as a judge. Some opponents will never surrender, though, no matter how many times you ask them to, so the only solution is to kill them. You soon learn who will and won’t surrender by watching what happens when you shoot the weapon out of their hands. If they pick the weapon back up again, then it’s time for headshots. Enemies like vampires and zombies won’t listen to reason and will relentlessly attack you, so must be taken out with extreme prejudice. Vampires in particular can be difficult to kill if they’re swarming and leaping toward you.

There are lots of nice touches in Dredd vs. Death, like burning bodies being reduced to skeletons as the flames die out, huge spaceships taking off, escorting civilians to safety, melee attacks using the butt of your weapons, medical judges who heal you, and even dancing zombies in the nightclub.

Completing story missions or arcade mode levels unlocks various goodies including multiplayer character models, cheat codes, and new arcade and battle mode missions and maps.

Overall Dredd vs. Death is a fun game and manages to capture the spirit of the comic quite well (unlike every other Judge Dredd game that came before it), and it’s also a decent survival horror shooter in its own right. It’s not perfect, though. There were a few bugs I encountered while trying to escort citizens to safety (preventing you from completing an objective, unless you kill them), and I hated the fact that left-clicking ‘yes’ when re-loading a game sometimes caused the gun to fire, blowing myself up or killing an NPC that I was facing. I also thought that the story mode was a bit short, and the ending a bit weak, but I enjoyed playing through most of the levels. I thought that arcade mode was good too. I wasn’t too enthralled by multiplayer mode, although playing against bots is okay.

Considering that Dredd vs. Death was released almost twenty years ago, it’s still a decent game, in spite of what some people think about it (reviews were mixed at the time of release). Dredd vs. Death was also released on PlayStation 2, XBox and GameCube, but I prefer the PC version as you can use mouse and keyboard for the controls (I don’t like playing first-person shooters on a gamepad).

If you spot this game going cheap in a sale and haven’t played it before, then you might get some mileage out of it.

See also: 2000AD Special.

More: Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death on Wikipedia
Steam: Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death on Steam
GOG: Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death on GOG.com

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