Welcome to a new form of content on my site. I mention on my twitter that I’m an avid collector. I am indeed. My collection is over 700 titles, ranging from the four generations of Xbox, to the N64, to the PSP. In the retro reviews, I will take a game from my massive collection and talk about it, though it will not be getting a traditional verdict. These retro reviews will be media heavy, with screenshots and video, and longer than the typical Switch review. My first Retro Review will be my favorite game of all time, the 2002 OG Xbox flop Deathrow!
Deathrow is indeed my favorite game of all time, even more than something like Needy Streamer Overload. If I had to chose between Needy Streamer Overload and Deathrow, I would choose the latter every single time. But if I love it so much and will spend the rest of the review gushing about it, why did it flop? Well half the reason is the awful box art:
The Deathrow box art is a crime. It tells you absolutely nothing about the game. This does not scream futuristic sports game. Anyone looking at that in a Game Stop is just going to pass on by. It’s a shame because the game is amazing.
What is Deathrow?
Deathrow is a futuristic sports game called Blitz where you throw a disk around an arena, into a goal, while kicking the stuffing out of the opposing team. You have 18 teams, thirteen regular and 5 special. You have space miners, cultists, marines, robots and aquatic women. Each regular team has 10 players, split between three ranks, 4 tier one, 4 tier 2 and 2 tier 3. Four players are on the field at any one time, and injured players can be substituted in and out. The special teams are just four players but can be very powerful and hard to beat.
These are the Protectors who specialize in disk play. Other team, like the genetically modified ninjas known as the Black Dragon, specialize in kicking the shit out of you. There are in fact two ways to win a match, either score more points, or knock out all the players. Each game is divided into four rounds, and between each round, you can heal the players for one thousand credits, which you get scoring or injuring your opponent.
It is now time for a three minute video, starting with the pre-match intro to the end of the first round. This go around, I haven’t added in any voice over or caption, though I will in future retro reviews. I want you to pay attention to how the game plays. I will will explain some of what you’re watching after:
As you can see there’s a lot going on in a match. A lot of disk handling and attacking. Probably the most important part of the screen is the lower right icon. The refers to the team orders, either full defensive, half-defensive, neutral, half attack, full attack. This affects how your teams mates will function and having the right orders for the right situation is critical.
Also, you might have seen me holding the disk until it turns green. That is a Deathrow, any opposing player touching it while its green will be knocked over when touching it. It can be useful for last second scoring.
The heart of the game is Conquest Mode. Where you pick a team and play through the teams until you get to championship match against the First Blitzers, who are great at everything except team play, which you will need to exploit in order to win.
Now there are two 2 modes of play in Deathrow. Action view, as you saw in the video, and sports view. Action takes place is specialized arenas that fit the teams, Sports takes place in generic arenas and is played from over head.
Action puts you in the action up close and personal. Sports view gives you a overview of the field for better planning. Note that the special team matches are played in action view, which is weird.
Which ever you team you choose, you start out with four tier one players and will recruit the other eight through the Deathrow campaign. You can also upgrade player stats as well. Between each match, there are random events that will happen that affect your credits you use to spend on players:
Once you beat the First Blitzers, you win and are given your total remaining credits, which are used to unlock teams for conquest and single match play, as well as the players in the teams for single matches.
Deathrow’s Unfortunate Fate
Is Deathrow a perfect game? Well, no, its not. It takes forever to unlock everything, which sucks if you have friends over. Sports view is really under-cooked and while its functional, just isn’t as good as Action view. Plus, the game slid in before Xbox Live. There is a couch multiplayer for up to four players, but if it had online play, it would have been on fire. I sort of feel the game was a first draft. If the game got a sequel, the game would have been taken to another level.
Still, I happen to think Deathrow is one of the best games on the OG Xbox. The game play has not aged at all and i find it as fun to play today as I did back in 2003. Too bad it sold under 50k copies and got no sequel. In addition, It is not sought out on the collector’s market because so few people have heard of it. No big retro Youtuber has made a viral video on it as far as I know. As such, you can pick it up for a cheap price and enjoy this forgotten classic. Please do! I don’t want to be the only one who knows about it.