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Red Steel
Review by muddasheep, January 06th 2007, 02:23:37
Nintendo releases a new console that apparently revolutionizes gaming and Ubisoft hops on the train and ships a first person shooter right at the birth of - what's it called? Wii. You can imagine the expactations, right? Sword fighting and shooting combined in one game, with intuitive and immersive controls - that's what you're promised. Is it a promise fulfilled?

--- Reinventing the wheel.

With a new control mechanism at hand Ubisoft basically had to start from scratch. How is this new device used to immerse the player into the game? For starters, there's sword fighting from time to time. At the beginning you can utilize basic moves such as horizontal and vertical slicing (using the motions of your wiimote) and blocking with a horizontal gesture of the nunchuk. And when, for example, your sword blocks the enemy's strike you hear a loud clanking noise out of the wiimote's speaker. Later you learn a few more sophisticated moves, so for example you can dodge an attack and hit the enemy's weapon to break it, or move both the nunchuk and the wiimote down to inflict more damage.

So far, so good. Now what about the shooter part in 'FPS'? First of all, to look around you target at the screen and the closer you move the pointer to the edge you turn into that direction. You can move forward, backward and strafe with the nunchuk's analogue stick. To fire the gun and shoot at where your pointer aims you simple trigger the B button at the bottom of the wiimote, which imitates a gun's trigger. When you start playing it feels a bit loose, but the more you play the more accurate you become - to the point where quick headshots while turning around are common practice. In the middle of the game you get ninja skills (no, I'm not kidding) with which it is possible to concentrate and "stop the time" for a short amount of time. During this phase you can pre-hit enemies and even decide wether you want to disarm them by shooting at their weapons. If you do the latter you can gesture "down" with your wiimote and your enemies will kneel down and you get "Respect Points". Want to throw a grenade? Simple tap "up" on the directional pad of the wiimote and make a throwing gesture with the nunchuck. Need to change the currently equipped gun with that one lying on the ground? Go above it and gesture "down" with your nunchuk to grab it - the wiimote speaker lets you hear that you have it in your hand now. And while we're at it, the wiimote speaker also makes reloading sounds, which is extremely immersive when for example you're firing with a shotgun and after every shot you hear the reloading sound out of the wiimote.

--- Locked and loaded.

The controls are set, now what to do with it? Put in some storyline about a man who's got a japanese girlfriend whose father is some powerful godfather, let the girlfriend get kidnapped and make the player visit a variety of japanese-themed places in order to get her back. Throw in some more or less professional voice overs and comic-style cutscenes to make it look trashy and people might consider it being different, thusly cult. Or trashy. Oh yeah, don't forget to let the NPCs actually speak Japanese every now and then. To not make the game too linear add in some simple "get-keycard-or-push-button-to-open-door"-elements. Plus, all those different areas have different enemies as well and they're equipped with a variety of guns, all of which can be used by the player if desired.

--- Done and done.

Now we take a step back and look at the finished piece.

Let's start with the AI. It is true what the developers say: The enemies have some sort of AI. The 'I' is the one that looks a bit suspicious though. Those enemies do seek cover and look out to shoot at you from time to time. Problem is, when they seek cover they're sometimes not covered at all, meaning you can still see half of their bodies, making it a rather easy kill for the player. They also seem to be blind and deaf when you're approaching them from the left (!) and they keep looking down the bridge they're standing on until you shoot them in their heads from right next to them. In other scenes you can try to approach a pack of enemies through the dark and they see you anyway.

Next, the graphics. They might be beautiful to look at most of the time, but I once shot at a car until it exploded and to my surprise the front light textures still remained hovering in the air. And why can't I destroy a simple table lamp when I can shoot other requisites and parts of certain walls to pieces?

Furthermore, the enemies are nicely modeled, but the animations are a bit "blocky", and when they drop their weapons after dying those weapons sometimes hover above their dead bodies as if to say: "There is no gravity." The scripting of a few sequences later in the game also seems to have issues as once I waited for an NPC to lead the way but it kept on cowering in the corner until I reloaded the last checkpoint.

--- What else?

The ninja slow motion skill to shoot at more enemies at once is powerful, but I didn't find myself using it a lot. Neither did I use more than just the basic sword moves, most advanced moves you learn later in the game aren't really needed. Anyway, all that nitpicking aside, when you get a call on your cellphone and you hear the ringtone out of the wiimote and feel it vibrating it's just like you'd be holding a real cellphone in your hand - player immersion at best. And even if I got stuck in a stone once, the general atmosphere, the music and the controls kept me interested enough until the end. I even tried out multiplayer with two friends, but when the screen gets split it also kind of splits the fun. There's also no sword fighting in multiplayer, which probably has been left out due to the pressure of releasing the game at launch of Wii.

--- That's the end of it.

After all the hype Red Steel falls flat on the critics front. In average the game scores about 65% in all magazines. I say it's because of the new control scheme and the steep learning curve that it takes to get used to, and of course all those little glitches (which could've been ironed out with another 3-6 months development time - Red Steel 2 is rumoured to be in the making). But even if I had problems with the controls initially as well, after the ten hours this game requires to play through it felt really, really good and I'd say it comes this close to FPS on PC. Even if you're accustomed to Half-Life 2 graphics (which you won't get here), I can still recommend this game if you can overlook a few minor glitches and want to experience a really immersive gaming experience.
Some nice surroundings.

You can tilt the wiimote to hold guns gangsta style, yo. Word.

You even get to fight the evil Power Rangers!

Sword fighting - Bring it on!

Where you learn to master your Katana techniques.

Links:
>Red Steel - The Website
>Red Steel - On Wiki
Rating:
How readers rate this Review: 9.33/10 (3 votes)
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