The collection grows ever larger…
Dead Man’s Hand was released right around the same time as the excellent Red Dead Revolver, and the two games are similar enough that they’re bound to draw some comparisons. They’re both western-themed shooters with a revenge-based story, and both integrate poker into the gameplay — Red Dead Revolver has a poker-themed multiplayer mode, while Dead Man’s Hand allows the gamer to play hands of poker prior to each mission in the story mode to gain extra ammunition.
Poker gimmick aside, both games are fairly standard shooters. Dead Man’s Hand uses the first-person viewpoint, while Red Dead Revolver employs a third-person viewpoint, meaning you are essentially following the main character, Red, through the adventure. This allows for some interesting “cover” mechanics, which allows Red to effectively hide behind obstacles during a shootout. Tejon, the main character in Dead Man’s Hand, is able to crouch, but the notion of “cover” (including what can and cannot be shot through) is a little weak. This can be very frustrating, especially when trying to shoot a bad guy through the gap in a fence and finding that he is able to fill you full of lead, but you can’t return the favor.
Also frustrating in Dead Man’s Hand is the the level design. Areas that should be accessible aren’t, and there is at least one point where Tejon becomes stuck after simply walking through a doorway. No amount of jumping, crouching, shooting or wiggling can extricate him from the predicament, and the only option is to restart the level.
Both games offer a cooperative multiplayer mode, though neither is based on the game story. Instead, the players are pitted against computer-controlled “bots” in an arena. This is all well and good, but multiplayer co-op that proceeds through the story is much more satisfying.
The single player story in Dead Man’s Hand follows former outlaw Tejon as he tracks down the members of his old gang, The Nine, who shot him in the back and left him for dead. Each chapter is broken into two parts: first Tejon shoots his way through a slew of lackeys and lickspittles, then he faces off against his former compadre. Tejon finds Sanchez in the classic Old West town, which leads to a showdown in the saloon. Next up is Flat Iron, who is hiding in the canyons. The face off occurs in and around a group of adobe buildings, and Flat Iron — an expert knife-thrower — weaves in and out of the alleys, nooks and crannies, and proves to be rather tricky to bag. After Flat Iron, Tejon tracks down… well, I don’t know. I haven’t managed to get Flat Iron to hold still long enough so I can retire him.
Dead Man’s Hand doesn’t bring anything new or exciting to the FPS table, and it has its share of flaws, but so far nothing severe enough to make me quit playing. On the whole, I think Red Dead Revolver is far superior, but I enjoy the Old West theme enough that I’ll play ’em both.