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Red Steel Review

Red Steel pack shot
Developer:UbiSoft
Publisher:UbiSoft
Genre:First Person Shooter
Platform:Wii
Official Site:http://www.redsteelgame.com/
Release Date:December 8th, 2006 (UK)
Reviewer:James Barlow (Malis)

With the arrival of the Wii, the collective gaming world has been awaiting Red Steel, the first game shown for Nintendo's new console, and indeed the first title to show off the potential of the FPS genre and the Wii remote. Have we as a gaming collective been expecting too much? Can the Wii really produce an accurate console FPS experience with it's revolutionary controls - and should it even bother? The answer is yes, the Wii is absolutely suited for the FPS crowd - even if Red Steel is, in the end, a shadow of the game we all feverishly hoped for.

Upon playing through Ubisoft's new shooter, one thing becomes quite clear - there's no scarier way to start a game than being asked to meet your fictional fiancée's father, who also just also happens to be a Yakuza godfather. Red Steel throws you into this emotional minefield (with a shaky plot revolving around the rescue of your lover), then asks you to navigate your way out using a completely new style of control. It's certainly a baptism of fire, and one that forces you to quickly come to terms with both your environment and the Wii remote.

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Shoe-horned from one location to the next, constantly bombarded with new information and tips, it's no surprise that for the first few fast-paced hours of Red Steel, you will struggle to adjust to using the Wii's intensely different approach to control. Here is a game that asks you to simply point at an enemy and pull the trigger - surely it couldn't be simpler? While it's undoubtedly satisfying when you sit up, extend your arms and pick an enemy off, play this slouched in the couch and you'll be in for an uncomfortable experience. Like many Wii games so far, the more you put in, the more you get out of the experience. Aiming is relatively simple, but tiring on the arms if you play with arms outstretched the whole time. As such, I naturally dropped into a 'from the hip' approach to aiming, bringing the remote up to eye level for those crucial shots. Does it feel natural? Yes absolutely, and what's more it's a marked improvement over using twin analogue sticks.

Yet despite how good it actually feels, an array of quirks and annoyances prevent the user from ever fully embracing Red Steel's Wii roots. The aiming reticule can, at times, completely flip out and jump an inch or so aross the screen, whilst turning on the spot just feels a fraction too slow and clunky. Just when you've fallen in love with Red Steel, up pop these annoyances and drag you back to reality. While thrusting your arm forward towards the screen sounds like an acceptable way to zoom, it cab become tiresome and indeed, leaves you prone to falling off the sofa. However, once you've gathered some semblance of control over the Wii remote (and for the record throwing grenades is good fun on the Wii), you can start to take in the sights and sounds of Red Steel's world.

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Much has been made of the Wii and it's graphical abilities, and Red Steel doesn't seem to answer any questions. Flitting between gorgeous high and well, low-texture lows, this is a game that you're never quite sure what to expect. The Wii blasts out some impressive lighting tricks and particle effects (the training dojo level in particular looks gorgeous), which really do impress, yet uses a texture set that seems jarringly ugly in places. While one minute you can be admiring beams of light cascading through Japanese blinds, the next can be spent stuck against a jaggy and uninspired wall texture. Certainly it never consistently meets the standards Resident Evil 4 set on the Gamecube in 2005. Whether this is down to hardware deficiencies, or the time pressure of being a launch title remains unclear, and it will be several generations of game before we see the true power of the Wii.

Despite the somewhat mixed graphical approach to the game, as a cohesive visual whole Red Steel impresses. Levels are decidedly linear, but reasonably well constructed around real-world locations - by which I mean you'll spend your time fighting in massage parlours and streets as opposed to endless corridors. Although this leads to backtracking in some cases, it achieves a suitable level of realism and is varied enough to keep you playing through to the end. While the levels aren't really that interactive, most things can be shot up in satisfying fashion - with good-looking explosions - and there's a welcome abundance of cover to duck behind as you blast the kimono off some hired muscle. Checkpoints are fairly forgiving, but each is accompanied by a frustrating loading pause that really does jolt you out of the action.

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Of course, in any FPS, it's the action where you'll get your kicks, and luckily Red Steel's gunfights are fun and at times quite tense. Like Halo and most console FPS since then, Red Steel uses a recharging health bar. With enemies being quite powerful, this is a game that encourages taking cover and gloriously shooting up the place, only stopping when every single glass is destroyed and your Uzi clip is empty. Weapons rarely tread from familiar Hollywood territory, but each feels different enough to force the player into crucial choices as only two can be carried at one time. Whilst using guns is all well and good (the sniper rifle is fantastic), it's a shame you can't choose to whip out your sword and run around chopping people up. Instead, your ultra-cool katana is relegated to set-piece fights and a close-range combat attack.

Much was made of Red Steel's sword fights, but in truth they merely serve as a clumsy distraction to the pace of a level. At certain points, and enemy will walk out wielding a sword or a baseball bat, and you'll enter the sword-fight fixed camera mode . There's a ton of moves here (and you unlock more as the game goes on), but it all just feels a little too cheap. The game doesn't really mimic your slashes (and certainly not the speed with which you issue them) and most fights end up as glorified circle-strafe button mashing - only now button mashing becomes waving your arms in frenzied kamikaze fashion.

Once you've played through Red Steel's single-player, there is the split-screen multiplayer to keep you going. It doesn't come anywhere near the TV sharing joy that is Goldeneye or Perfect Dark, but does offer some novel ideas; Killer mode for example, sees you receive secret orders through your Wiimote's speaker which can lead to some chaos filled games. One feature I did like was just how easy it is to control despite having four people sat around the TV, as long as you don't hit anyone with your arms there seems to be no issue for the Wii confusing movements on different screens. Ultimately though, with only a few maps and little depth, it's clear that multiplayer is an area that can definitely be expanded and improved upon for the franchise.

Summary

Red Steel is a difficult game to judge. When you're in the swing of things and blasting away enemies with ease, it's easy to forgive the game's technical faults and simply enjoy what is a fun little title. In an age when gamers demand the most from their games, it's obvious that Red Steel will come under criticism for it's flawed control and average graphics. But stick with it past the clumsy opening hours and you'll be rewarded with a fun FPS that feels very fresh despite its linear roots. As it stands, this is a fun but flawed launch title, but one that gives me great hope for the Wii. It's obvious that the ingredients are there for a revolutionary console FPS experience - roll on Red Steel 2.

The bottom line
7.0 / 10

Good stuff

  • Wii controls are accurate and quick
  • Blows life into a stale genre, environments are good
  • Lighting can be great in places
  • Ultimately fun

Not so good stuff

  • Much touted swords are underused
  • Mastering Wii controls takes time and tolerance
  • Takes time to appreciate and warm to
  • Graphics not as good as we all hoped
  • Multiplayer mode a bit light
  • Long loading times


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