Find out why we think Judge Dredd: Dredd vs Death gives Halo and run for its money…
We look back at Judge Dredd: Dredd vs Death, covering gameplay, story, level design and more to find out why it’s a game that deserves more love.
Hey how’s it going guys, this is Tom from UDS and welcome to the latest edition of our series where we look at games that critics hated, but in actual fact, we enjoyed a whole bunch. Whether they’re so bad they’re good, or genuinely under-appreciated hidden gems, we think it’s about time they get the spotlight they deserve.
Based on aggregate review scores, we’re going to throw ourselves directly onto the controversy bonfire, and tell you what you really missed out on if you listened to the critics of yesteryear. Lastly before we start, don’t forget to like, hit the bell and subscribe for plenty more video game content every single week and let me know what your favourite underrated games are in the comments below.
Right, this one hurts. Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death was released by Rebellion back in 2004, and a while back, I included it in our list of The Best Licensed Video Games, which is why it was particularly painful to find out it only has 55/100 on Metacritic.
Despite being 18 years old, it remains the franchise’s most recent video game release. I distinctly remember reading the manual, complete with plot synopsis and character profiles, to death as a kid. It was my first real exposure to the character of Judge Dredd, and led me to become a lifelong fan. And yes, I do like the Stallone film unironically, don’t even @ me.
So what happens in Dredd vs. Death? Well naturally, you play the role of Dredd himself, starting off as he would on any normal day, by arresting anyone and everyone he comes across. And yes, I do mean everyone – even for owning a hamster without a licence.
But before long, the Psi Judges sense that a plague is approaching the sprawling metropolis of Mega City One, and the incarcerated Dark Judges are the prime suspects. If you’ve never heard of the Dark Judges, they’re basically a group of undead beings from an alternate timeline, hailing from the planet Deadworld. Now if that weren’t edgy enough for you, their leader Judge Death views life itself as a sin, punishable by death. As I said, Luckily at this point in the game, they’re all in the clink and there’s no way they’re going to cause problems.
Only, that obviously isn’t true, and before long not only will you have to contend with the Dark Judges and the cult members who worship them, but also Dr. Dick Icarus, and no Kid Icarus didn’t grow up to get his doctorate, although I now wish Pit was called Dick, that’d be funny.
Anywho, Dr. Icarus is dead set on finding not only the secret to immortality, but also resurrecting the dead. Naturally, this leads to an infestation of zombies and vampires that you’ll have to mow down. Of course, being the big chinned, helmeted hero that you are, you do this, take on each of the Dark Judges and ultimately save the day. Leaving the citizens of Mega City One to live in their dystopian police state paradise.
So that was a pretty whistle stop tour of everything that happens, but I hope it gives you a vibe for how batplop insane the story is. It totally captures the grungy, late 80s/early 90s tone of the source material, and features plenty of Easter eggs and nods to give long time fans a giddy thrill. And even if you’ve never heard of Judge Dredd before, you don’t really need to. It’s very good at showing you the world without tedious lore dumps or exposition. It hooked me on the franchise, so it must’ve done something right!
In an era of fairly generic FPS games, Dredd vs. Death made a real effort to innovate. Expansive maps allowed you to tackle combat from various angles, and the fact you could arrest almost all NPCs for crimes ranging from murder to, and I’ll stress again, owning a hamster without a license made the world feel lived in and organic.
Enemies are varied and require some real strategy to defeat too. You’ve got your standard perps who will keep their distance and fire from behind cover, to the frantic attacks of the vampires who will pursue you mercilessly until you’re their soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside dinner.
That’s why it’s handy that Dredd’s Lawgiver pistol has to be one of the best weapons in video game history. With ammo types ranging from explosive, bouncing, person-seeking, armour piercing and highly explosive, it’s the closest we’ll ever be to actually being a Street Judge.
People have been waxing lyrical about Halo for 2 decades, but if you haven’t tried its grungier, more violent and arguably superior counterpart, you’re missing out.
But what did you think of Dredd vs. Death? Did you play it back in the day, or are you going to check it out now? Please let me know in the comments below, I’d love to read your thoughts. And while you’re down there, don’t forget to subscribe for more videos every single week, and visit upsidedownshark.com to read the article that inspired this series. I’ll put a link in the description
But until then my name is Tom, this has been UDS and we’ll see you next time.