Review by SilverMelee
"About as entertaining as Hara-Kiri."
If my memory serves me correctly, Red Steel was one of the first games to debut on the Nintendo Wii and the first Wii title to offer screenshots of the game in action. Our French pals at Ubisoft listened to various groups on how to make this game and no doubt tried to make the best of the Wii controls from gunplay to swordplay, Red Steel was no doubt a game that was initially meant to bring the gamer into the action like no other FPS. Sadly, what may have been a decent game was marred by an overly cliche storyline, horrible controls, and so-so visuals.
The storyline itself is overly cliche, as I said. Basically, you play as an average Joe (technically, his name is Scott) and you recently proposed to a Japanese woman you've been dating for some time, but before you set a wedding date, she wants you to meet her father, who happens to be a very rich man. However, it turns out her old man is also the head of a Yakuza clan, and a rival Yakuza clan hits the restaurant, killing the old man's henchmen and injuring the old guy himself, with the girl being rushed to safety. So with this said, Scott the average Joe, out of seemingly nowhere, becomes what seems like Jet Li, and starts taking down all these Yakuza fiends with whatever guns you find, occasionally engaging in a swordfight with your nifty katana. Eventually, as you escape the chaos, your girl gets kidnapped and after rushing her father to safety, you gotta find out where she is and rescue her. You start off in Los Angeles, California, but later make your way to Tokyo, Japan in your adventure of submachine guns and katanas.
Basically, it's a save-the-girl scenario and a cookie cutter plot for most action films. There was little originality with the story here, and most of the events are usually told in-game through dialogue between characters and the occasional comic book-esque cutscene using the game's rendered visuals. There's little information detailing who you (Scott) are and how you've come to be the gun-toting, sword-swinging badass you are here and the game's storyline is otherwise most predictable. Don't expect any surprises with the story but the gameplay is a whole different story.
If you were to give this game conventional controls, it would be nothing more than any other FPS title with some additional swordfights (the sword can only be used in these swordfights, which seems kind of pointless - why not just shoot the guy?) however, Ubisoft must have been hoping to spice things up by implementing the Wii Remote controls to no end. Reading the manual, players will be quickly confused by all the motions the can do for reloading, tossing items, and so on Here's my favorite: If you want to focus your gun so you can more easily get a bead on some random baddie in the distance, you have to hold A to lock onto him and then move your Wii Remote towards the screen in order to zoom in. But that's not the best part, since due to the sometimes unresponsive controls, you may have to move that remote so close, you're going to have to get up from your chair and even take a step or two sounds fun, right?
Oh, and the aiming? It's downright horrible. In order to aim, you simply move the Wii Remote to aim your reticule and press B to fire. Moving the reticule to the edge of the screen turns your character in that direction. On paper, it sounds fine, but the problem? The response time is awful; there are only three modes of sensitivity, and all of them are either to sensitive or too unresponsive, meaning either the aiming reticule is either going to be zipping across the screen wildly, or it isn't going to move fast enough to catch up with that guy who is strafing to the side. And when you do decide to lock onto an enemy and zoom in, sometimes you won't even be able to see your target because the gun is blocking your view. This is a first for me, since usually when I aim a gun in a game, my character uses the gun's iron sights (or the scope if there is one), or in the very least the camera zooms in a little with the gun still visible, but at least out of the way. It's a major problem with larger weapons, since this bizarre aiming issue makes them almost unusable.
Swordfights aren't much better, especially since half the time the game doesn't even register your swings as attacks, and more often than not I find myself just trying to parry attacks rather than dodging them. Upon winning a swordfight, you either have the option of finishing them via a final swing, or sparing their lives and earning their respect (you gain "respect points"). I have yet to know what exactly this respect gets you, as I haven't received any messages signaling unlockables and such, but it feels like it does absolutely nothing. Of course, since I'm usually a merciful guy nevertheless, I often find myself sparing them maybe it's because I have pity on their low AI and their easily predictable attacks. The gunners are just as bad, as it sometimes seems like most of them are just sitting in the rooms waiting for you to come in. They'll sometimes kick a table down for protection, but they're still pretty easy to kill at least once the controls function properly. They aren't smart enough to pose a severe threat on their own, nor do the shootouts contain enough of these henchmen to really overwhelm you There's no real satisfaction to killing them, save relief once you finally end your mediocre shoot-out.
And mediocre is exactly how you can describe most of the graphics here. The explosions and sparks look pretty, sure, but most everything else wasn't exactly awe-inspiring. There was nothing in the game that really wowed me the destructible environments were nice, but there really isn't a great deal to destroy, and it's not like you get any bonuses for doing so. Just about everything in this game, from the enemies to the environments, felt rather generic and uninteresting. There's little here that I haven't already seen in most video games.
But if there was one thing I'd have to say about this game that's actually good, it'd be the music. The music itself is usually rather ambient when you're just exploring, but the tempo increases once you encounter enemies, and what plays from here ranges from either rock to J-pop. Even the main menu has a decent melody, reminiscent of a bleak oriental avenue. While it's not exactly great, it's good enough to pass on its own. The other sound effects seem to match well to their environment, although the voicework isn't exactly the best. It almost felt like Ubisoft suffered from a lack of voice actors here, as most of the enemies, regardless of nationality and race, seem to spurt out the same things in the same voices. Oriental? Black? White? It doesn't matter here, since they all have the same voicework and rarely have variety to them with the exception of the sword fights (where the characters look different from other generic baddies you see, although the differences aren't major ).
Red Steel showed promise, but failed to deliver in almost every way. This is a game I can't imagine playing again, be it with myself or with friends. Don't buy it, don't play it, don't even touch it. This has little of interest save the fancy Wii controls, and those aren't even that great. If you're looking for a fun experience with Ubisoft on the Wii, give No More Heroes a try, instead. Or consider checking out their games on the competing XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 (Assassin's Creed, Prince of Persia, etc.). The controls are the biggest flaw, but even if this game did use conventional controls, Red Steel would be a mediocre game at best, since there are a plethora of other flaws from bland visuals, uninteresting story, or the otherwise boring shootouts. There is just little this game has going for it and it's hard to recommend to anyone at all.
Reviewer's Rating: 1.5 - Bad
Originally Posted: 04/07/08, Updated 05/19/10
Game Release: Red Steel (US, 11/19/06)
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