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Red Steel Review

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Developer: Ubisoft Paris Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: November 19, 2006 Also On: None

Back at E3 2005 and 2006, Nintendo was hard at work trying to convince us that the Wii’s controller was the way of the future. They showed us videos of people playing, but it’s not hard to understand that the Wii’s revolutionary controller design baffled some gamers as well as some developers. One of the ways Nintendo was able to get people excited about the idea was by showing clips of Red Steel in action. They showed us beautiful sword fights and fluidly controlled gunfights mixed in with a modern anime-style story, making the Wii controller really seem like an extension of the player. I eagerly reserved it with my Wii, as I’m a big fan of first-person action games as it is.

It was also the first game to go into my console, even before Wii Sports or Zelda. Initially, I was very skeptical about how natural the controls would be. I wasn’t impressed. Even with sensitivity lowered, it was hard to keep my character looking forward. If you move too far to any corner of the screen, the whole viewpoint shifts dramatically in that direction, often leaving me staring up at the sky or the ground, running in circles while I’m being shot at and cursing my Wiimote. Unlike most modern FPS games, in Red Steel, your entire arm is extended into the screen, which I assume was a tactic used to make you feel like you’re in the game, but it really ends up feeling awkward, and only sometimes “cool”. Swordplay in Red Steel is very basic, as simple as “slash to attack”, “slash to block”, “move to dodge”. I had expected, from the awesome E3 videos that it would have been more advanced.

The AI can be a bit “kindergartenish” at times, like if an enemy is hiding behind a couch and you run behind it as well, he’ll likely continue to hide for a few seconds until you shoot at him. In addition, the game is quite linear, normally having only one unlocked door per room, so any deviation from this path throws the AI off easily. In one particular instance, I ran past a group of enemies in a hallway and exited through the back door, and continued on. I returned later to find that the same group of enemies were still crouched behind the barricades where I had left them, never flinching. Speaking of flinching, there are a few bugs I noticed as well. For instance, in the physics system. On multiple occasions I’d kill someone, only to find their body floating in mid-air as if it were on the ground and bouncing around trying to fall (or having a seizure). The engine itself is nicely designed with good graphics, ragdoll physics, and nice lighting and explosion effects.

As far as utilization of the console goes, Red Steel really pushes it to the limit. It uses the Wiimote’s speaker for sounds like reloading (and other “close-up” sounds), and they base a lot of commands in-game on movement gestures, like “nunchuck down” to reload, “nunchuck up” to open doors, as well as functions like moving the remote inward towards your chest and outward towards the screen to zoom in and out. There is a multi-player mode to put all of this to good use in, although it is rather basic. Up to four players in split-screen, with a disappointingly small amount of modes and maps; and of course no network or online play at all. No swordplay, no co-op.

Sound-wise, what is there is fairly quality stuff; the voiceovers are decent, and the environment sounds and music are well done. The only real gripe I have about the audio is the constant repetition of enemy sound clips, like “what the hell!”, “you bastard!” and “you’ll pay for that!” You’ll hear those a lot. This really seems more like an arcade shooting game than a console one, with levels consisting of enemies ducking behind barriers and popping out to shoot you, and you pressing forward on a totally linear path. It honestly wouldn’t surprise me a bit to see an incarnation of Red Steel in a Time Crisis-type cabinet at the arcade. Fact is, it’s too ridiculous to be taken very seriously. For instance, if you’re in the middle of a firefight with dozens of thugs and some guy starts running at you with a sword, you’d probably shoot him. In Red Steel, you drop your gun and grab your sword as your foes patiently wait their turn or if you’re low on health, step out of the room while you regain health, they’ll wait.

The story is generic with some frills added. Basically you’re saving a kidnapped girl from a bunch of thugs, but Ubisoft added in little tidbits like trying to get married to her and family history, etc. Sadly, though, the game is nothing more than “cutscene, level, cutscene, level, cutscene, level”, and they aren’t very well done to begin with. All in all, Red Steel may be a good game to bring Japanese gamers to FPS games, but as far as US gamers go, there’s not much to like. No good multiplayer, totally linear and predictable story, buggy and frustrating engine, and only a few redeeming points. Call of Duty 3 brings a much better FPS experience to the Wii, even though it’s on the other next-gen consoles as well.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 4
Creativity: 4
Replay Value/Game Length: 6
Final: 6
Written by Dave Review Guide