Platform: Nintendo Wii
Category: First Person Shooter
Wii-mote and Nunchuk Compatible
Red Steel is a game that has been on the radar since Nintendo let all the details out of the bag on its next entry into the videogame console wars. With the promise of wii-mote specific control for a FPS this game has been somewhat anticipated. Now that the Wii is in the hands of excited gamers, and Red Steel is on the shelves, I can say that the final product, although not as good as hoped, it is a positive sign of things to come.
The onscreen visuals in Red Steel are a hit and miss affair. Overall they are not that bad looking, but it seems as though there was some issues getting what they wanted to out of the Wii hardware. The game runs at a pretty good framerate, but there were more then a few times when the framerate took quite a hit and the game started to stutter. Also, some of the textures seem somewhat bland as there are certain parts of the game that just don’t jump out and grab you. There are some pretty nice looking environments (e.g. Japanese Dojos and neon lit streets) though and that is a positive. As the Wii is approximately 2x the power of the GameCube it is capable of good looking games, and Red Steel does show some hints of this ability. There is some good use of lighting and particle effects during gameplay and the explosions looks pretty darn good too. Overall the game is pretty clean even given some of the negatives mentioned here. For those techies out there Red Steel supports both 16x9 widescreen as well as the Wii's maximum resolution of 480p. Overall the game isn't a disaster visually speaking, as there are some nice touches to it.
I found that one of Red Steel's strengths actually lies within its audio. The soundtrack in the game really adds to the action you get involved in. From what I assume is J-Pop, to some solid rock, the music adds to the suspense of the game as it seems context specific as it changes from when you are just exploring to when a gun battle breaks out. This is kind of neat as the change in music adds to the change in overall atmosphere of each part of the game. As for the weapon sounds, they are all pretty solid too. Many of the guns have their own distinct sound and during the various sword fights the sound of metal clanging off of each other is quite convincing. The rest of the sound package, from glass breaking to the various explosions, all seem to wrap the whole audio package in a nice neat bundle.
There is voice acting in Red Steel, and I found that it was somewhat cheesy. Much of the voice acting seems devoid of any emotion and it actually sounds like some of the voice actors were making up some sort of Japanese accent when talking. I do not know if this was intentional or not, but I actually found it somewhat laughable at the quality of the various voice actors. This was a minor annoyance for me but it could have "sealed the deal" should have the voice acting been more then it actually was.
Red Steel's story has you taking the role of Scott, who is happily engaged and about to meet his future father-in-law. As this is about to occur a group of shady looking people start to shoot up that place. Your future father-in-law is killed and your fiancé is kidnapped. You learn that your fiancés father is a high ranking yakuza (Japanese mob) boss and he has a lot of people who don't like him too much. Now you have to traverse through various levels in various locales to save your kidnapped love.
Ubisoft made a big deal about Red Steel's control scheme during the development of the game. They touted the fact that it was being designed from the ground up to take advantage of the Wii's unique controller. They stated that the design would not only be an FPS with guns, but that there would be sword fighting too that would use the nunchuk and wii-mote in innovative ways. After my time with it I would have to say that they made a very valiant effort to use the new controller, but it did not all pan out as well as it should have.
You use the wii-mote to aim the gun you have equipped. Interestingly enough, the onscreen gun will also resemble how you are holding the wii-mote (e.g. at an angle or sideways). If you press and hold the 'A' button this brings your weapon to eye level and somewhat slows your speed in an effort to enable you to have better aim. You then use the 'B' button to fire your gun. To move around you will be using the nunchuk in your other hand. The analog stick allows you to move in different directions (the wii-mote allows you to turn in conjunction with it). It is also used to reload your weapon (by swinging it), open doors and even hide behind tables that you flip over with it.
This method of gunplay is somewhat successful, but I found that it was hurt by its overall implementation. When I really needed to turn quickly the use of the Wii-mote to do so actually hampered my as it was somewhat slow and clunky. This would cause me to take more bullets and damage then I would have liked too as I tried to turn. That being said, I was still able to aim quite accurately once I found my target as the ability to point with the Wii-mote on my various targets was quite intuitive and the auto-aim assist helped me out.
As I mentioned earlier on, Ubisoft promised swordplay in Red Steel. To do this you use the Wii-mote to swing your sword while the nunchuk is used to move and block your enemy's attacks. Although this sounds great, the execution of such was quite disappointing. The actual number of different sword attacks is quite small and the onscreen action of such seems somewhat delayed in comparison to when you actually do the action with the wii-mote. As well, some of the limited moves do not seem to work at all even though I found the enemy AI had no problems doing them. The actual sword fights in the game have to occur as there is no way to get around them. This means you have go through the motions of doing the sword battles even if you don't want to. Hell, you can't even shoot the swordsman you are fighting, and this would seem to be a great way to defeat them. Alas, you have to do it to get through it, and I think that the developers should have given you the option of whether or not to actually engage in swordplay or just shoot the guy and move on.
The learning curve in Red Steel is somewhat balanced. I found that as I progressed through the game that it became somewhat harder towards the end, which I somewhat expected. I found a few areas now and then that I really had to buckle down and fight like mad to get through but these areas were not impassable. The overall challenge that the computer AI puts forth is something I also found to be somewhat strange. In an era when developers know that gamers want a challenge you would think that all the time with the various hardware out there they could manage to get something like this under control. However with Red Steel the AI is a hit and miss affair. Sometimes the onscreen baddies put up a good fight and actually have some sort of intelligence as they take cover from your attacks, but then there are other baddies who stand in the wide open no matter what you do and don't make the slightest effort to get out of your way. The fact that there was no congruence to their actions was somewhat frustrating.
Ubisoft added multiplayer features to Red Steel, but they are split screen only as Nintendo has yet to solidify its online plan. Although the addition of 4 player split screen multiplayer is somewhat commendable, it is also somewhat archaic as box Xbox and Sony offer anywhere from a paltry 8 player online to the usual 16 player online. Sony even amps this up with their 40 player online Resistance: Fall of Man online features. So, with Ubisoft's 4 player split screen, there just seems to be something missing, although it is not Ubisoft's fault Nintendo has not solidified their online plans.
A major part of my problem with the overall feel of Red Steel is that it had too many bugs and glitches to feel like a finished game. In my playtime with it I noticed control glitches (e.g. reticule moved for no apparent reason even when I did not move the wii-mote) and graphics glitches (e.g. the aforementioned framerate problems or frozen characters) that should not be evident with a high profile game like this. It was as though Ubisoft could have used a bit more time in the shop to iron out all these issues, but the rush to have the game released during the launch window, especially with all the hype, was most likely a deciding factor to do so. And unfortunately there is now way to "update" the game to fix these anomalies like a developer can do on the Xbox 360 or PS3 given that these systems have hard drives in them. With all that being said if Ubisoft does a sequel to Red Steel on the Wii, or another game with the same engine and control scheme, they should be able to improve on the foundation they already have.
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