Red Steel Review

I remember seeing the Red Steel display at E3 this past May. The GamerNode staff had their plates full with meeting various industry contacts, visiting as many game kiosks as possible and getting interviews with game developers, but one of the biggest stories to come out of the convention was the Wii. The lines to see it were outrageously long. Red Steel was advertised as one of the launch titles, and I was interested to see how the game would turn out. Now, six months later, Red Steel is a reality. We’ve got our katana swords sharpened and will slice into Red Steel to see if the heart of this game is just a gimmick, or a bona fide video game.

Red Steel is an adventure-action-shooter. The storyline begins in Japan where a very powerful and respected Yakuza leader and his daughter are attacked and kidnapped by a rival crime gang. The daughter, Miyu Sato, also happens to be the fiancée of the main character you play, and you are hot on the trail of the abductors. You’ll have an arsenal of swords and guns at your disposal to rescue her and to avenge the murder of the oyabun or "Godfather" of the Sato clan.

In the first half hour of the game, you’ll experience a lot of déjà vu and wonder just where you’ve played this game before. The answer to the question is most likely "everywhere." Red Steel borrows from the ideas and genres of many shooters and incorporates them all into one title. You’ll see elements of games such as XIII, Time Crisis, House of the Dead, Yakuza and even the old school classic, Duck Hunt. But this game uses the new controller interface of the Wii, and this turns the game into a new experience despite the shared elements.

When I first setup the game, it was pretty straightforward and simple. I connected the Wiimote with the nunchuk controller, did a few calibrations within the game’s storyline, was good to go. The game takes you into the action pretty quickly, and this helps you to get familiar with the controls of the game. The Wiimote handles the weapons side of things such as aiming, zooming in on enemies for a sniper kill and switching out weapons; the nunchuk takes care of walking, picking up items, reloading and other functions. The two controllers act in tandem and allow you to wield swords, defend against sword attacks, throw grenades and perform special moves.

The beginning two levels of RS will either frustrate the stuffing out of you, or have you mesmerized at this new way of interacting with a video game. While the action is definitely there, the game lags as you go from room to room in search of an item or the solution to a puzzle within the missions. This isn’t necessarily bad, but the time it takes in completing these objectives takes longer than it really should. Other parts of the game become tiresome as the expected always happens: open door, search room, bad guys shoot at you, you shoot back, repeat.

Controls for aiming and shooting aren’t bad, and the sensitivity of the controllers can be adjusted though the game menu at any time. It takes a little time getting used to the control scheme, but after you complete the first mission you should feel right at home with the controls.

The AI isn’t particularly smart, and anyone with half-decent gaming skills should have no trouble in completing even the more difficult parts of the game. Since the AI is a little slow, the game tries to compensate for this by having hordes of attackers come at you instead. At these stages of the game, it isn’t using strategy so much as it is in being able to shoot as many of the bad guys as you can to finish your goals. Think of Time Crisis with 3D freedom of movement and this is how Red Steel basically plays.

There are lots of weapons to choose from and they’re made available as pickup items throughout the game. Depending on what your objectives are, this determines what the best weapon to use is. In one level of the game taking place in a warehouse, I found that using my Uzi or .44 revolver wasn’t enough to beat back the baddies. I found a shotgun lying against some crates, switched weapons, and had no real problem in dispatching the gangsters to that Big Sushi Party in the Sky.

The game is basically about shooting, but breaks up the fighting action with interludes of one-on-one sword fights. Blocking your opponent’s slashing is accomplished by waving the nunchuk with the proper moment, while moving and waving your Wiimote offers overhead, side, and upper cut sword attacks. There is some lag between your Wiimote movement and what your character does on the screen, and this brings down the realism of the sword fights substantially.

The storyline of Red Steel is about par for the course, and tries to keep the interest going as you meet seedy characters, go on shooting rampages and go up against some master swordsman. One thing that can be said about the storyline of Red Steel is that it’s inconsistent in nature. Some levels are snail slow and somewhat uninteresting, while other levels are jam-packed with action and good plot structure. The whole game seems unbalanced because of this, and the up-and-down nature of the game can lead you to a certain amount of irritation; you can enjoy the game during one playing session and hate it in the very next. If this game were a person, it would need some professional counseling.

There are no hard save points during the missions, but plenty of checkpoints. This is a good and bad thing as you’ll always have only a short way to go back to a checkpoint if you’re killed or fail a mission objective. On the flip side, if you quit before the level is completed you won’t start from the last checkpoint, but from the beginning of the mission. If you start any level in Red Steel, make sure that you plan your available gaming time wisely because you only have one official save point per level.

Shooting locations are varied and offer a nice variety of backgrounds for firefights and sword battles. Your health is rejuvenated automatically if you can find a safe haven for a few seconds to rest up. This tactic is great when your health meter is almost on empty and all you need to do is to hide behind some cover until your health gets restored. It’s no longer necessary to hunt down health packs and hoard them, because there aren’t any. I can’t say that this is necessarily an improvement in this sort of action game, but it does save a lot of unnecessary searching for health packs.

Graphics for the game are in a very stylized comic book/cel-shaded form. The cutscenes are done entirely in freeze frames with camera movements and objects moving across the screen. The characters during these sequences don’t really move, but are shown in various stop-action stages of movement. Any of you who have played the game XIII will understand and recognize the techniques used here. As for the in-game action, think of it as anime meets the 3D world.

The way the environment was presented is simple, but eye-pleasing. Everything looks 3D but with just a hint of surrealness that makes everything in the game look like a living comic book. You can shoot just about everything in Red Steel, but not everything is destructible. You can shoot crates, cars, and various objects in the game, and some of this demolition will provide some satisfying damage. Vehicles, drum containers full of explosives and other volatile objects are particularly good targets as a few shots at them will result in some pretty big fireworks. You may not be able to snipe the gangster hiding behind the forklift, but shooting the forklift will make it explode, and voila, you win.

As the game progresses, some of the characters start to converse in Japanese. While the meaning of the dialogue is shrouded to non-speakers of the language, the intent and meaning of the conversation is usually explained by one of the English speaking characters. The voice acting is ok, but it’s pretty apparent that some of the voice talent is pretty weak in their Japanese accents during their speaking parts. It isn’t really all that bad, but probably noticeable enough to have the game production team replace them for the next possible installment of Red Steel.

The music track is filled with good high energy music with the addition of Asian sounding pieces. The music score of the film fits nicely with the action and different scenes in the game. The sound effects of weapons loading come through the speaker of the Wiimote, and are quite convincing as you hear the "snik, snik" sound of reloading a shotgun shell or a clip into your Uzi.

Red Steel, if not for the unique controls of the Wii, would probably be considered a below average shooter. However, RS does incorporate the new style Wii controls and this facet of the game definitely helps to make this game an interesting title to play. Using the Wiimote and nunchuk draws you into the gameplay, and is definitely worth at least a try. But problems regarding the inconsistent nature of gameplay, the weak AI and sometimes plodding story may bring the enjoyment of this new experience down for some gamers.

Red Steel is a good first try for Ubisoft in the arena of Wii shooting games, and the new, unique experience of actually being physically involved with the in-game action may be all that is needed to overcome some of the weaker aspects of the title for some gamers.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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