Review by NDS_Master
"Welcome to the World of Thugs"
When the Wii first came out, most people expected it to follow in the footsteps of its predecessors, offering only games with content suitable for all ages. But then, something happened. Ubisoft announced the first official Wii game, and it was a first person shooter, set in the darkest parts of Los Angeles and Japan. It was Red Steel.
Red Steel is your standard first person shooter game, where you must travel from one area to the next shooting down enemies and trying to stay alive. And in an attempt to provide some reasoning behind the chaos, Red Steel offers an incredibly basic and bland storyline: your fiancée is kidnapped by an evil gang, and you have to rescue her. Supposedly there's some gang that has issues with the girl's father, but you don't learn much about the scenario. There is virtually no character development, and other than occasional cutscenes that typically show your fiancée being dragged further away, the mid-game story is basically nonexistent. Even modern day Mario games have more in-depth storylines than this!
Fortunately the gameplay is better than the storyline, but not by much. As you wield your gun and cautiously traverse the thug-infested locations, you will have to gun down any enemies that stand in your way. Although there are many opponents, most of them fight the exact same way and are easy to destroy; their artificial intelligence is noticeably on the lacking side. Their deficit in skill is alleviated by their numbers, so the game isn't inanely easy. You still will have somewhat of a challenge gunning down the hordes of menaces that assault you as you journey through the game's many stages.
Each level is disappointingly very similar to the ones before it. Sure, there's some variety as you travel from one area to the next, but not much. Some semi-memorable fight situations occur as you progress, such as the time you shoot gang members as you ride in the back of a truck moving on a conveyor belt or travel through a waste disposal plant. However, these situations are few and far between and not all that exciting. It's mainly one dark room filled with attackers after another all the way through the game's ten or so hours of gameplay.
One aspect of Red Steel that Ubisoft highly advertised prior to the game's release was the ability to fight with katana swords against special fighters using the Wii remote. This was a sweet concept; unfortunately, it wasn't executed well. Occasionally, in the midst of a level, you will encounter a sword fighter, and it will be your duty to dispose of the foe. In these situations, the game will automatically draw your sword for you, preventing you from blowing your opponent to pieces with your pistol.
Usually the battles consist of aimlessly swinging the controller until the challenger dies, as there's little need to strategically make hits. Only rarely do you actually have to use the nunchuk to dodge or block, making the fights simple but still time consuming. After a few missions the intermittent sword fights start to feel as nothing more than an extra chore.
Thankfully, the game does have some redeeming aspects, and the destructible parts of the environment are one of them. Nearly all of the vacant vehicles will explode with a few well-placed shots, obliterating any enemies that are unfortunate enough to be standing nearby. Other breakable objects, including computer screens and detonating barrels, add to the fun.
To control all of the action, you get to use the Wii remote and the nunchuk. The analog stick on the nunchuk controls your movement, and you can aim your weapon and turn by moving the Wii remote. Concept wise, the controls brilliantly take advantage of the Wii's motion sensing abilities. Some moves -- like being able to tilt the gun sideways by twisting your wrist holding the Wii remote -- add much needed freshness and variety to the game. Unfortunately, not all the controls work so well, and many are terribly ineffective.
Occasionally you will have the trouble pointing the Wii remote in a way that the game recognizes, resulting in frustrating attempts to aim, poor turning abilities, or excessive spinning cycles you can't stop. These are overall fairly rare, but they are troublesome when you encounter them. And some other moves, although well designed, were also terribly developed. One stinging example is grenade throwing, accomplished by thrusting the nunchuk forward. It's a good idea, but it was programmed so poorly that it is way easier to accidentally hit yourself with a grenade than it is to hit an enemy.
Since there's little incentive to replay the game once you complete it (you can try to improve your level grades, but few will want to suffer through the game more than once), multiplayer is about the only thing giving Red Steel replay value. The multiplayer has the same controls as the main game, and players will have to go around maps trying to find and shoot each other. Just like in single player, there are different guns they can pick up, and they can also try to locate body armor for defense.
Other than that, though, it's all about finding your opponent and being quick on the draw. Obviously, you'll need some strategy to thrive against your adversaries, but it's nowhere as sophisticated as many of the other first person shooter games on the market. It might be fun to try out the novelty of the Wii control while blasting your friends to smithereens, though soon you will want to switch to a higher quality game for a better multiplayer experience.
Sadly, the graphics don't help out the gameplay much, either. First and foremost, they aren't that well done. Yes, they are okay, but they feel more like they belong on the GameCube instead of the Wii. The characters seem blocky, and many of the levels contain only mediocre-looking obstacles and features.
On top of that, several long portions of this game are dark and difficult to see in. It's understandable that Ubisoft was going for the dark alleyway style for much of the game, but in many instances it was poorly executed. In those instances, the style goes from being cool to being an utter annoyance. Throughout the entire game the graphics are unremarkable; it's obvious that this game was rushed so Ubisoft could secure Red Steel's position as a launch title.
Red Steel's sound is one of its brighter areas, though admittedly it still falls short. The sound effects of raging gunfire and clashing swords are quite gratifying, as is the noise from exploding cars. Also, the collection of music isn't half bad, and the songs -- while not memorable in any way -- add a lot to the game's suspenseful mood and its action sequences. Other than the lame voice acting that occurs throughout the story, Red Steel actually delivers a reasonable audio experience.
Despite the immense hype leading up to its release, Red Steel just isn't that great of a game. Everything from its gameplay to its graphics is unexceptional. Don't expect it to be a quality made game. To its credit, it is rather fun to play, and the Wii remote adds a level of entertainment to an otherwise mundane game. If you have a craving for a shoot em up game on the Wii, you'll find an incredible amount of amusement in Red Steel. Just don't go out and buy it; rent it instead. The amusement won't last long, and when you're done you'll be glad you still have money leftover for a worthwhile gaming title.
Rent or Buy: Rent
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 05/30/07
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