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The Moonlight War novel by S.K.S. Perry

The Hunt for Red October (NES) artwork

The Hunt for Red October (NES) review


"Before Rainbow Six, Tom Clancy's name was associated with another video game. I wouldn't be surprised if he disowned it..."


The Hunt for Red October (NES) image


I know this sounds obvious, but basic mechanics really help keep a game afloat. All it takes to sink a title like a torpedo-shot U-boat is one or two mechanical errors. With its hull smashed in, it descends to the bottom of the gaming sea where it may not be seen or heard from again. Only in passing memory is it ever mentioned, and usually not fondly. Down there, the scavengers pick it apart, bashing it with their profanity-laden YouTube videos and dreadful reviews and...

Well, this is awkward...

The Hunt for Red October is just such a game. The idea of taking a movie that wouldn't by any stretch make a good game is intriguing, much like the idea of a submarine-based sidescroller. They're two concepts that, let's be honest, can't make good bedfellows. Judging by the product that came from such a marriage, they should have gotten an annulment. The game is plagued by the same problems that destroy other sub par movie-games: jarring controls, questionable mechanics, and faulty hit detection.

Heck, even an element as simple as level progression suffered a blow. It seems like the developers couldn't settle on which kind of shooter they wanted to make. The game sluggishly auto-scrolls like a classic shmup with a severe injury, but also requires you to manually advance. You thus wind up with segments that would be effective in one type of shooter and not so much in the other. For instance, there is one section towards the end of the first level that demands perfect timing. A group of vice-like traps threaten to crush you, and you need to pass through them at just the right time. It's needlessly difficult to time, though, because the game is slowly auto-scrolling. On top of that, there's also a wall that pops out from the background and tries to crush you, so you can't dawdle when you need to. This forces you to either clumsily sail through the vices and hope you don't get caught, or hang back and get smashed by the wall.

The Hunt for Red October screenshotThe Hunt for Red October screenshot


On the other hand, there are scenes where the game would have been better off as full blown auto-scroller. There are underwater turrets that pop out at not-so-fixed intervals. Since you have to go halfway across the screen to be able to advance the level, you almost always wind up either crashing into them or unexpectedly aggroing them. In the latter case, you wind up in the line of fire and unable to correct yourself or dodge their projectiles.

Because you're underwater, the game's control response is pretty awkward. Thanks to that, evading enemy shots is trickier than it should be. The sub builds momentum too quickly, going from sluggish to breakneck in an instant. This also causes the vessel to slow to a halt rather than do so on a dime. I realize that makes for more realistic physics, but sometimes video games are better off forsaking realism. Bear in mind that taking damage also stuns you and leaves you susceptible to further punishment. To top it all off, you often find yourself in tight quarters, so the act of attempting to avoid and shrug off harm is horrifically demanding.

Oh, and colliding with walls also weakens your armor. As if that isn't bad enough, the game could glitch and you can get stuck in a wall and continually take damage. Yeah, even Red October itself is out to get you. Reaching "game over" isn't difficult at all thanks to this and your inventory of lives. You only receive five lives and there are no continues, passwords, or saves.

Never mind that you also have to watch your fuel level.

...and there's a time limit. Who the hell thought including both finite fuel and a timer would be acceptable? You're basically trying to beat two clocks now!

The Hunt for Red October (NES) image


If you think the game isn't done trolling you, then you haven't engaged anyone in combat. You can fire missiles directly in front of you and above you. Most foes appear diagonally from your position. D'oh! So now you have to struggle with the previous brought up control issues to position yourself just such that your torpedoes aren't completely worthless. Even then, you have to hope that Red October doesn't screw you over by not registering your shot. The game's faulty hit detection requires you to be pixel precise when firing explosives. Did I also mention that ammo comes in limited quantities? Yeah, even your helpful EMP, which deflects homing attacks, only lasts so long.

Now, are you ready for real kick in the ballsack? The game has bosses that require loads of torpedoes to fell. Because of that, you can't just gun down every adverse sub you meet and must conserve your armaments. Yeah, I've said this in other reviews, but here it goes: The Hunt for Red October is an action game where you often have to avoid action. Prospective developers, please keep this in mind when producing such titles.

The Hunt for Red October is just another forgettable movie-game with a steep difficulty generated by poor mechanics. It should be no surprise that it's a clunky, damn near unplayable mess that makes even the wonky arcade submarine shooter In the Hunt look like a legendary piece. Leave this sunken treasure at the bottom of the abyss where it belongs.

Rating: 2/10


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (October 05, 2010)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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