key review info
- Game: Red Steel
- Platform: Wii
- Gamepad support: N/a
- Reviewed on:
- Show system requirements
Red Steel was available at the Wii's launch, so it had a bit of an upper hand when compared to the other titles. It showed what the Wiimote and Nunchuck can do, complementing the demonstration given by Wii Sports. Ubisoft manages to delivers lots of first person shooting action and swordplay wrapped up in a pretty neat package, but with bad controls. Of course, the game has its ups and downs, but we've seen and played this a million times: enraged ninja shooter fights the Yakuza in order to save his fiance. The only question that remains is: "Where's Jet Li?".
You play as Scott Monroe, the typical bodyguard that has to deal with the bad Yakuza boys that kidnapped his fiance. Being engaged to the daughter of an important Asian mobster is something that we've heard a couple of times before. This and fighting the Yakuza make Red Steel's plot something that we would see on a weekend Action Movie night. Back to Scott, I must say that he's one unlucky fellow, because just when he was about to meet his girl's dad, things go berserk and everyone starts shooting. Before realizing what's happening Scott gets KO-ed and he'll have to chase the Yakuza boys in order to save his father in law and fiance. Things get pretty nasty as Red Steel's main character has to bring the Giri katana to the kidnappers in order to get his beloved one back in one piece.
Ubisoft tried to create a typical Asian story, failing a bit to deliver the atmosphere that we were waiting for. After all, we're talking about an European producer trying to re-create the standard modern Japanese tale. The game's story is told through some sort of comics and still images, complemented by a couple of cutscenes that are all but impressive. All in all we're dealing with some sort of a hybrid between the comics sequences of Sin City and the almost antique PSX title Fear Effect.
For many this was their first title that they played on the Nintendo Wii console. I can say that I feel sorry for them, because of the title's clunky controls and the initial frustration it can cause. I consider myself lucky having played Zelda as my first title on the Wii. Also, after all that Wii Sports I should be quite good when it comes to wielding the Nunchuck and Wiimote. Or not? Every gamer that played Red Steel complained about it controls and it's true that it takes a while to get used to them. The game starts with a pretty original tutorial, that will have you pointing the Wiimote towards fishes inside a huge tank. Once you've got the hang of it, you'll start performing more complicated tasks, like shooting, ducking, zooming in on the targets of sword fighting. The first mission is basically a tutorial, but it will only feel like one in the first seconds, since the action gets pretty fast paced once Scott's fiance and her father get kidnapped.
As I was playing the game for the first time, my greatest desire was to reach the sword fighting sequences, as I was already drooling at the trailers that showed them. You can divide Red Steel into two segments: first person shooter and first person swordplay action game. The first one is more suited to the title, since you'll be playing with the sword for about 10 percent of the game. As for the rest it's all gunning and running with machine guns, Uzis, snipers and grenades. You'll also be able to gain new abilities, like slowing down time, that allows you to select multiple targets and pick the body part of the enemy that you want to pop with lead.
Since we're gentlemen and we're using swords to settle our differences, Scott has the option of letting his foes live after a sword fighting sequence. I keep mentioning the word "sequence" because drawing the sword is not something available at any point of the game. Sadly, such actions are pre-defined, so there will be no pistol-sword duel. This can become rather silly, specially when I enter a room, see an armed guy and load my Uzi to blast him away, but wait, no, I have to use my sword to kill him. Kind of weird to kill someone with a sword, when the Uzi's waiting for blood in the other hand, isn't it? Speaking of weapons, it's important to mention that you can only carry 2 weapons at a time and you'll swap them with the direction pad. That's kind of limited, but it didn't spoil the fun of shooting almost all of the enemies with the shotgun.
Also, similar to health recovering system present in Call of Duty 3 and Medal of Honor: Vanguard, you'll be able to regain health, by taking cover. A couple of seconds of dodging the enemy fire and your life meter is once again filled. Also it won't get depleted that easily, so the game can be considered fairly easy to play. Controls are incredibly tough to master, even if you've played Red Steel for hours and the swordplay is not as good as I expected it to be. The AI is unpredictable and still pretty dumb, but he'll slice you up a few times. There are 8 basic moves to be done with the sword, including parry moves, vertical and horizontal slices. I loved one thing about the combat sequences that involved the use of katana blades: the blow deflections. If you anticipated your enemy's blow right, you could deflect his hit and unbalance him. Such an action would make him extremely vulnerable and I could catch the foe of-guard after the unbalacing.
When taking on a Yakuza guy armed with a sword, you'll notice that beside his health meter, there's also a meter of the weapon's strength. Oh, and in case you didn't know, the swords can break and Scott uses a broken blade to parry the enemy's hits. Our favorite bodyguard will be taken to locations all over the world and he'll show skills in varied locations, ranging from the narrow city streets to a large valley and back to the city, inside a strip joint. Ubisoft did a great job by implementing a top notch environmental interactivity. Basically, you can shoot everything around you and fill chairs, tables and walls with holes, break glasses, make gas tanks explode and break tables and chairs.
At some time in the game, you'll be able to let your foe live, after a fight and thanks to that you'll gain new abilities, so stay wise. Red Steel promised a lot and gave us too little and I'm talking about the swordplay, quantity and quality. Also, still in the katana duels department, it disappointed me to find out that there's no free roaming during the sword fights. It's a left-right, up-down affair and a couple more parry moves, but that's all. Just move the Nunchuck to parry and the Wiimote to slice and you've got the basics of Red Steel's swordplay.
If you got used to the complicated control system, still you'll be frustrated by the fact that you can't turn around as quickly as you'd like too. That can equal a "Game Over" screen, if there are enemies coming from behind you. Goes to show that consoles will always have a problem with camera angles coupled with control systems. Since you're not Rambo and can't take a hundred bullets without blinking, you'll have to take cover every now and then. If you can't find it you can create it, by pushing tables or all sorts of objects, big enough to protect you from Yakuza boys' bullets. The Nunchuck does it all, pushes tables, opens doors and also it's useful when picking up ammo from the floor. At first I used to get my ammo, but as I progressed through the game I noticed that Scott can get his ammo just by walking past it.
Anyway, back to the covering part, be careful and don't take forever to reload, since the enemies can break the table that offers you protection. Such environmental interaction can become delicious specially when you're shooting an enemy that falls on a glass door breaking it. It's also pretty cool to shoot an enemy from behind a windows, carefully aiming for his head. Does this mean that the AI is dumb? Yes, it is, mostly because they don't know the meaning of "cover" and they'll get out in the open taking a lot of bullets because of their stupidity. Most of the gun fights in Red Steel take place in the distance, so there's no close range shooting. That's why you'll find the weapon aim zooming extremely useful. Just thrust the Wiimote towards the TV screen and you'll zoom in on the target that you choose by holding the A button.
Foes might not be good in the defensive compartment but they have a damn good aim, so there's lot of damage to be taken. Also, they're a bit coward and come in groups of three or four, so if you see an enemy that's walking alone, he's either a boss or the others are hidden close by. Since it's a party and most of the Yakuza members are invited, you'll feel right at home using "candies" , stuff like grenades, that will please the eye with superb explosions. They can be thrown with the Nunchuck, just like you did when you were playing baseball in Wii Sports and had to throw the ball. If you'd like to surprise the Yakuza family, you have the option of rolling grenades on the ground, and that can be done in away similar to that in the bowling game included in Wii Sports.
The sensitivity didn't feel right for one second while playing Red Steel, even after I had set it on low from the options menu. I noticed that if you hold the weapon (and Wiimote) in a horizontal position, the sensitivity decreases and you'll aim better. Now, you'll be busting caps in style, like a "homie" robber with that weird gun point position. Using the shotgun remains my favorite pass-time while playing Red Steel, because it blows the opposition to smitherines and blasts them away. Don't expect to see blown heads like in Resident Evil, instead you'll feel that your hands are slowly going numb because of the zooming that you'll do while trying to lock on targets.
Guess what? There's also a sniper riffle to toy with and the bad news is that it's pretty jumpy when it comes to zooming in or out. Believe it or not there are puzzles to be done in Red Steel and they'll be introduced by a pretty freaky robotic rabbit. Putting Ubisoft and "rabbit" in the same context reminds us of Rayman Raving Rabbids and there's a surprise for the fans of that game. While doing the puzzles I mentioned earlier, you can hear the trademark Rayman Raving Rabbids scream... How cool is that?
The environments look particularly good in Red Steel and they're varied also, displaying the consequences of your violent actions: holes in the wall, broken windows and flaming furniture. The characters are nothing special, though, just the average second-hand actor faces we see in cheesy action movies. It's OK to have great lighting effects, but Ubisoft tends to exaggerate a bit making the character too shiny if you compare them with the background color. Also they seem to be made out of carton, because they're all thin and they act like they had very little weight. There's no point in talking about the problems with the camera angle, since this goes hand in hand with the control system problems that I described before. It's not only the characters that glitter, but also the environments, the objects or the pickups. You know what this means, don't you? Poorly rendered graphics (in some places) covered by shiny pixels. As a fun fact, you'll notice that the enemies die in the most bizarre positions. Their contorted bodies look like something that we would see in a circus, during the freak show.
The soundtrack really saves the day in Red Steel, as the good drumming will keep you tense and enjoying the fast-paced action. The effect can get canceled by the bad dialogs, filled with boring lines, cliches, "I will cut you till you die!" and many other bla-bla-s. Sound effects are top notch, much like the game's music and you'll hear the sound of the shotgun loading from the Wiimote's speaker. Really makes you feel that you're holding a real shotgun and reloading it. Other than that, there are good audio effects during the sword fights, the firing guns make sounds that fit each weapon and the glasses break just like they should. Between a couple of explosions, you might want to check out some good Japanese pop songs, as we're really discovering some nice new tunes here.
In case you got bored of the single player mode, or the AI is not a real challenge for you, there's always the fun multiplayer mode. It includes the standard Deathmatch, the Team Deatmatch and the innovative Killer mode. In the first two modes, all you have to do is kill as many enemies as possible, being part of a team or on your own. In Killer, things get tougher and the play's based on rounds. At the beginning of each round, the player receives a secret objective, that will be communicated through the Wiimote's speaker and the other players shouldn't hear it. 4 players can take part in this challenge and your aim is getting the needed points in order to win.
The split-screen is enabled, making the multiplayer mode a tad less exciting, unless you have a big screen TV.
Red Steel has no LAN or online support and that's just sad and things get even worse when you find out that there are only 4 maps available to play on in the multiplayer mode: dojo, restaurant, games and docs. While playing, you can trigger bonuses, if you've killed enough people to fill your bonus gauge and they are award basic stuff like more damage, more life or unlimited ammunition. Those bonuses are chosen right before you start playing a certain level.
Red Steel is an average game and it's a pity that such a good title can be pulled down to the side of mediocrity by its controls and camera angles. Without those flaws, Ubisoft's latest first person shooter would have shined brighter, getting more credit from critics and gamers. Still, there are people who adore such controls and love this game, so Red Steel can be considered a title that's aiming for the top and with a sequel coming up, it might as well reach it.