Red Steel (Wii) review
"It's funny. Here I am considering getting rid of my Wii because I hardly play it, and yet one of the few games I keep returning to is this launch title that was lambasted by the critics. "
It's funny. Here I am considering getting rid of my Wii because I hardly play it, and yet one of the few games I keep returning to is this launch title that was lambasted by the critics.
Considering all the things the game does well, I was disappointed to see how many people ranted against it. Since I'm an egotistical kind of guy, I've decided it's time to repost my positive review of this game, highlighting why it is worth your time. And then maybe when I sell my Wii, you'll be willing to buy this game off me.
The first step to understanding why Red Steel is a good game is to understand what it's trying to do. This is not a game that is trying to deliver an indepth storyline with great dialogue and memorable characters. A look at the story itself should be enough to show this. It's the basic plot of "my girlfriend has been kidnapped by gangsters, now it is up to me to stop them!"
This plot got popularized by River City Ransom and then never went away. But I digress.
I was saying that the point of this game is not plot whatsoever. This is true. The entire point of this game is to put a big gun in your hand and then throw a thousand Yakuza at you. This is Chop-suey Gangster action at its most pure, and the game does a great job of making you feel it. The environments are stunningly attractive and nicely textured, with lots of things to break with stray bullets. I've seen far worse graphics since this game, and few on the Wii that approach it.
The AI does quite nicely inside this environment, taking cover, rushing forward to push you out of your cover, and working together to flank you. Thus, the action provides a lot of chances for strategy. In addition to classic FPS tactics, you also have the occasional ability to freeze time and take careful aim at enemies. Using this, you can knock their guns out of their hands and force them to surrender. Some rooms have leaders, and if they surrender, everyone else in the room follows suit. You gain respect for such actions, which is used to teach you new sword moves throughout the game.
If disarming them doesn't appeal, you're always free to plant one in between their eyes and watch them die. And they look good while doing it, too. All the movements in this game are fluid, and the character models have a natural gravity. Their death animations are based off a style of the “doll” effect that's been so popular these days, only it modifies it so that you don't get bizarre unworldly S and M death positions.
The other thing that really serves to put you in the world (and is the highlight of the game) is the Wii Mote. Any game on the Wii should take advantage of its major selling point, and Red Steel certainly does that. At first, this seems like a failure. You will have trouble in your first mission just getting the basic aiming down. But this is not, as some frustrated gamers claim, the fault of the game.
I recall my first first person shooter experience using a mouse. It was Half Life and I died rather quickly. This is similar. Stick with it, and I promise you won't be disappointed. After about twenty minutes, you'll have the controls down and then you'll never want to go back. Everything from zooming in the aim to reloading is done through some kind of movement, and it beats the heck out of hitting “R” to reload.
Of course, by now, games like RE4 have got this control scheme down a little better, but it is by no means ruined in Red Steel, or even (for the majority of gameplay) noticeably worse.
Then of course there's the much talked about sword fights. A little disclaimer here. The sword fights are not done like actual sword fighting and don't follow your every move. So don't expect to be pulling off the Zelda sword spin. However, they are still fun and require more attention than you might think. Especially later in the game, when you have to really start exposing enemies weaknesses by throwing them off balance with blocks or powerful sword combinations.
Of course, not everything that people complain about with this game is untrue. However, there are only three complaints I've seen out of the dozens that have a regrettable truth to them. The first is controls. Now, I'm not going back on what I said. The majority of people who complain about the controls quit before they got used to them. But there is one tangible problem with the aim, and that is that they can be jumpy at times, especially near the edges. I've done extensive tests with the controller and have come to the conclusion that this is mostly a result of moving the mote too quickly. However, it can be hard to keep things slow in the heat of battle, and what worse time for controls to bug out on you? I don't want this to sound worse than it is. Don't expect every combat to be a struggle because of control issues. It happens once in a while, and you can prevent it from happening at all (despite what people say) by moving your Wii mote slower and more fluidly, and learning where the game is detecting your center point. But in a system that's new to us, and therefore already presents a learning curve, having one more thing to keep track of is not appreciated.
Another complaint is that you cannot skip the scenes. And the game has this thing about saving right before long scenes. So if you die, you are kindly placed in the perfect place to hear your mission objectives be given once again, no matter how emphatically you claim to know them. On the plus side, this adds an extra penalty for dying and makes you really want to stay alive. Maybe that's an immersion tactic?
The only other valid complaint is that the multiplayer is lacking, especially if it is true that Nintendo won't be taking it online. It isn't that the game is not fun to play against others. But in a game that screams to lend itself to all kinds death matches and cool arenas, the options for multiplayer are extremely limited. Four levels, four modes (most of which are limited to three or more players), and virtually no extra options limits the death matches a lot. There is one cool mode, in which players receive secret instructions on their Wii mote's speaker (holding it to their ear like a cell phone), but it's only playable by four people and just goes to show that with a little bit more effort and time, multiplayer for this game could've been sweet. And did I mention there's no sword fighting in multiplayer?
Neither Here nor There
There are a few things in this game that might serve to push some people to one side of the fence and leave others nonchalantly shrugging their shoulders. One thing I noticed was a distinct lack of blood, which I'm not sure was needed. Another thing was the distinct lack of talented voice actors, and their use of terrible Japanese, but what would Chopsuey Action be without bad voice acting?
Why Should I Buy?
I give Red Steel the benefit of the doubt for using new technology and allowing us to do so much with it with a minimal of problems. There are a couple, but any way you slice it (no pun intended) this is a fun game that is worth at least a rental. The fun of this game is that the AI is good enough that it will feel like different gun battles every time you play, and the environments are excellent. I guarantee you will play this more than once. I'm not calling it the ultimate first person shooter, but if you want to check out the capabilities of the Wii in the FPS genre, and have a great time while doing it, then Red Steel is for you.
Community review by zippdementia (July 08, 2008)
Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.
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