JUDGE DREDD: DREDD VS DEATH / Rebellion / PC
Between the intentional humor, the unintentional silliness of the "budget" engine, and Dredd's constant macho one-liners, the critically panned Dredd v.s. Death actually starts out quite enjoyable. It's like the long-forgotten sequel to Duke Nukem 3D - just a lot of big, dumb, weapons-blasting fun with corny machismo and reckless disregard for others in a series of linear FPS levels.
Dredd begins the game just doing his daily routine of cracking hippie skulls and hassling the homeless, but pretty soon the Four Judges of the Apocalypse are introduced and inflict a vampire/zombie plague on the city. What's interesting about Dredd is how it starts out as a commentary on corporatism, consumerism and fascism, but then when it got popular I guess they felt they had to make Dredd an actual hero with actual adventures and such, but the way it's done (at least here) is to simply put him up against spectral entities that want to wipe out mankind. I guess it takes armaggedon to make fascist police state dystopia look great by comparison.
Anyway, I understand the graphics on the console ports were no great shakes. On the PC the character models still look horribly dated and often weird, but the backgrounds are actually quite nice. The Mega City One settings are impressive and there's vibrant and interesting use of color. The music is just Generic Techno Beatz but it's not bad and suits the cyberpunkish sort of setting, and the sound work is alright. It's interesting how they kept Dredd's voice so consistent between all these different games released by different publishers for different platforms.
Dredd is also one of those games where the "budget" programming actually works to its advantage by being silly and charming. See the below video for examples.
The game was panned largely due to having old-school progression, when everyone wanted Halo and Half-Life 2 style complex objectives and scripted in-game story events. But if you have any appreciation for kill-em-all 1990s shooters, Dredd is really a fairly well-executed one (that just happened to come out in 2003.)
The needlessly confusing level design eventually kills the single-player experience though. I quit on level 6 or 7, when the indicator that you use to find the next objective always pointed to an area that had nothing but walls in the way. There's no map of the levels, and it can get immensely frustrating poking your way around.
Timesplitters 2 was clearly a heavy influence here, but the stand-alone "Arcade" challenges aren't as well designed. There's also deathmatch, for which you unlock characters and levels by doing well in the single-player campaign, but good luck finding anyone online to actually play these days.
The game is normally $8 on Steam. It's not worth that, but it's EASILY worth the 0.75 to 1.50 it goes for during the big annual sales, just for the laughs if nothing else.
* Playable Demo
* Gameplay Video