Red Steel Review
Red Steel introduces a promising control scheme for shooting thugs and for slashing them with samurai swords, but wraps it in a buggy, thoroughly unimpressive game.
- Interesting take on first-person shooter controls
- Nice explosions and destructible environments.
- Clunky sword-fighting sequences slapped into the middle of all the shooting
- Inane story chock-full of painful dialogue and voice acting
- Numerous noticeable bugs and glitches.
Red Steel is like a typical PG-13-rated, straight-to-DVD action movie: It can be fun for a while, but it's probably going to leave a bad taste in your mouth. The analogy runs deeper than that. In the game, which is rife with bad dialogue and generic shoot-outs, you're an American bodyguard who must learn the way of the samurai so that he can defeat the Japanese gangsters who've kidnapped his girlfriend. Of course, you'll be spending much more time gunning down yakuza thugs than engaging in any swordplay, and unfortunately, neither aspect of the game is particularly good. Nor is the game's presentation, which looks dated and downright ugly in spots. Red Steel basically proves that the Wii Remote, in spite of its unconventional design, can do at least an adequate job of letting you control a first-person action game. And to some extent, the controls do feel novel, enough to help make a mediocre shooter seem at least somewhat special.
The story is shallow and sometimes goes as far as to get in the way of the action, such as when you're stuck replaying a tough action sequence with a tedious, unskippable cutscene in it. You play as a guy named Scott, though he doesn't speak and is given no personality since you view the game entirely from a first-person viewpoint. He's about to meet the father of his pretty Japanese fiancée when all hell breaks loose and a bunch of dudes start shooting up the place. It turns out that Dad's a high-ranking yakuza boss and he's got enemies. Anyway, the girl is captured, so you go after her. Along the way, you pick up a sword. Eventually you find yourself in Japan, getting in good with a rival family and doing jobs for its lieutenants so that they help you out. You keep on shooting lots of goons with guns, sometimes stopping for a sword fight.
There's no reason to care much about Scott, his girl, his yakuza friends, or the bad guys. Some of the dialogue is just rotten, while some of it is unintentionally funny. Many of the characters you'll meet speak with thick Japanese accents, but apart from that, Red Steel doesn't come across as authentic in any way. There's nothing exotic about running and gunning through factories and high-rises. There's one crazy level in a deranged amusement park, which, while not terribly original in itself, is probably the one noteworthy departure from the predictable, linear environments you'll be trudging through. In between missions, you'll sometimes get graphic-novel-style cutscenes, reminiscent of Max Payne or Sin City, except they look like storyboards rather than completed images. The entire game carries the half-baked look and feel of these cutscenes.
At best, Red Steel's controls are novel, and they have the potential to be a good fit for a better game. You use the Wii Remote to aim the gun you have equipped, though you might be put off by how your own wrist movements are awkwardly emulated by the onscreen hand-holding-a-gun. Pressing and holding the A button brings your weapon up to eye level, slowing your turning speed so you can more easily draw a bead on a bad guy. There's a rather generous auto-aim window to help you shoot people down. One of the stranger aspects of the shooting is how you can zoom in for a closer look at your foes by moving the Wii Remote toward the screen. When using a sniper rifle, this doesn't seem like an intuitive way of adjusting the scope to a higher magnification, but it works.
Meanwhile, you'll be holding the Nunchuk attachment in your off hand, and a quick swing of it makes you reload your gun, open doors, and so on. You can even tip over some tables to make cover, though this isn't necessary. Of course, the Nunchuk's analog stick is used to make you run in different directions, while the remote controls your turning as well as your aiming. As you shoot, the sounds of your weapon reloading and a few other effects come crunching through the Wii Remote's tinny little speaker, which can be distracting, though you can turn the volume down if you want. You can carry only two guns at a time, but during the course of the game you'll get to wield a nice-enough, predictable variety of pistols, automatics, and shotguns. Overall, the shooting controls definitely take getting used to and don't wind up feeling particularly immersive, let alone superior to the conventional first-person shooter controls found on other consoles or the PC. But at least they're different and, while this admittedly is not much of a compliment, functional.
You'll be shooting lots of near-brain-dead thugs throughout the game, who sometimes use cover pretty well but at other times will run right past you for no reason. They can be reasonably fun to shoot sometimes, especially since the game does a pretty good job of having destructible environments that get all torn up by errant gunfire. At other times, though, you'll be getting sniped by foes you can barely even see, which can be maddening. However, ducking behind cover to avoid taking any more damage for a couple of seconds causes all of your health to quickly regenerate, which, along with the lackluster artificial intelligence, makes most shoot-outs a breeze. There's one other twist to the gunplay--your focus mode, which is an ability you gain that lets you stop time altogether so you can carefully line up some cheap shots. Using this ability, you can shoot the guns right out of the bad guys' hands, then force them to surrender by waving the Wii Remote around. Later on in the game, this becomes the easiest way to defeat groups of enemies quickly. It's nonsensical but it at least affords a change of pace from the rinse-and-repeat nature of most of the shooting.