Part Sunset Riders, part 60s/70s cop movie, Limited Run Games and Monster Bath’s Deathwish Enforcers packs in a six-shooter of fun.
Do you feel lucky?
Okay, first, how much do you like 60s/70s cop movies? And no, I don’t mean the award-winners. I mean the ones that people actually liked, the ones that reveled in an age before the high-tech of modernity. The ones coated in grit and grime, and maybe a few gratuitous scenes of assorted natures. Those.
Personally, I am a massive fan of the Dirty Harry flicks (yes, all of them) and a couple of Charles Bronson’s best too (Deathwish 3 anyone?). That’s a particularly fortunate thing in the case of this particular review.
Deathwish Enforcers is a mishmash of both of those actors’ classic films, with some additional elements and tributes tossed in. It’s also a callback to the golden age of video gaming action, molded in the arcade style of the 90s. Deathwish Enforcers is meant to be a spiritual successor to Sunset Riders, and it holds that ideal pretty well.
If Sunset is an ode to the spaghetti western, then Deathwish is most definitely that (and a little more) for classic cop films.
16bits of action
Deathwish Enforcers is likely meant to be a followup to the arcade version of Sunset Riders, but I couldn’t help feeling like I was playing a Super Nintendo game. That’s no knock by the way, as Nintendo’s 16bit console is one of the greatest of all time for a reason. Though, to be fair, I’m pretty sure Deathwish Enforcers couldn’t run on one. There’s a ton happening in this game at any given time, with plenty of special effects and set pieces.
We’ll get into all of that in a few paragraphs, but first let’s talk plot. Yes, there is one, and it’s actually both completely insane and makes perfect sense given the subject matter.
DE follows a four-pack of cops, Larry, Chuck, Diana, and Cleo. Each one of them is, uh, loosely based on a famed movie-cop (or reasonable facsimile), and all are out for justice on the mean streets of San Francisco (natch’), in the year 1969.
Their target is the generically-named, pseudo-businessman (I think) and gangster Big Boss X. BBX has amassed a massive criminal army that includes scores of street toughs, an Arnold look (and sound) alike, an electrically-charged supervillain, and a demonic cult.
As a side-note there, I’m actually not a fan of how far into the supernatural stuff this game gets. It amps it up quite a bit the deeper it goes, and while I can’t say there weren’t cool moments (’cause there were), I felt like it deviated from the core themes too much.
So yes, the plot moves around and shifts into some odd places. But it’s also loads of fun, especially for genre buffs who should have a great time spotting all the tributes sprinkled throughout. And hey, at least there is a plot.
Timing is everything in Deathwish Enforcers’ controls, and plotting out your maneuvers so you don’t catch a big glowing bullet (one hit and you’re dead, by the way) is a part of the action. Not that there isn’t plenty to do otherwise. Shooting bad guys and socking robbers in the face is plentiful, but that’s on top of shimmying along overhead cables, dodging falling billboards, and leaping up and down from the raised portions of some stages.
Your heroes can also use special abilities, like calling in massive screen-clearing bomb strikes, and they have a slide ability that’s key for avoiding damage. One thing about the abilities before we move on though, is that you’ll have to find and collect them throughout the stages. And yes, you lose ’em when you die. So if you get one, don’t get killed without burning it.
There’s also a really neat level of interactivity in this game. Not only can you smash crates for bonus items, and throw back dynamite before it blows, but you can hit up brothels and bars/liquor stores too. Man is that in keeping with the theme.
Looking and sounding great
While I kind of talked about the visuals already, they’re worth digging into a bit more. And again, if you remember the era of the SNES and Genesis, you’ll feel right at home with Deathwish Enforcers.
Though the action is framed against a kinda/sorta San Francisco cityscape, it’s still well varied. The game might begin on the streets, but it quickly moves on from that to fast-moving highways, the open ocean, deep dark jungles, and the aforementioned demonic cult’s graveyard (which is filled with zombies).
All of that is super colorful, and loaded with detail. Also as mentioned above, there are a ton of nods to movies of all stripes in Deathwish Enforcers. That includes the spoofed films that are directly referenced, but plenty more too, including the likes of Evil Dead 2, The Terminator, The Shining, and more.
Along with the levels themselves, the enemies and especially the playable heroes are great looking. All of them resemble the actors they’re mimicking, and sound phenomenal. Seriously, the voice work is almost half the fun here. That’s especially of note given that DE is a side-scrolling action title, but really for any game it’d be great.
Limited Run Games made the point of singling out Gryzor87 as the composer behind the game’s tunes as well, and that’s with good reason. The music is terrific, moving everything along and once again keeping with the theme very well.
Oh, one note. Deathwish Enforcers isn’t really for kids. I don’t mean just the action either, as the game has some 16bit nudity in a quick scene that’s an incredible callback to the first Dirty Harry film. Yes, it’s silly and pixely and not at all realistic, but it’s still there. Just food for thought.
It’s hard to find much wrong with Deathwish Enforcers. Limited Run Games and developer Monster Bath have produced a retro action title that’s both a great time, and has oodles of personality.
If you love movie series’ like Dirty Harry and Deathwish, or enjoyed Sunset Riders, definitely give it a look.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for this review
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PS4, PS5
Publisher: Limited Run Games
Developer: Monster Bath Studios
MSRP: $22.99 USD
Premise - 75%
Gameplay - 92%
Presentation - 80%
That's a deep cut
Iconic 60sand 70s era cop films collide with classic side-scrolling action gameplay in the great looking (and sounding) Deathwish Enforcers. If you remember the days of arcade or 16bit side-scrollers you'll feel right at home with this game's spot-on gameplay and shoot 'em up action.