Red Steel (Wii) review
"Red Steel is a Japanese wannabe game whose play has an interesting metaphorical resemblance to a happy meal. There, I summed up everything you needed to know in one simple sentence. The sad truth being, that I'm really not kidding about this. You know how delicious that little tub of lard-glazed french fries looks when you're at your local heat-attack hut. That guy who photographs the hamburgers and tacos which you know will only hurt you in the end, does a beautiful job, and the deception t..."
Red Steel is a Japanese wannabe game whose play has an interesting metaphorical resemblance to a happy meal. There, I summed up everything you needed to know in one simple sentence. The sad truth being, that I'm really not kidding about this. You know how delicious that little tub of lard-glazed french fries looks when you're at your local heat-attack hut. That guy who photographs the hamburgers and tacos which you know will only hurt you in the end, does a beautiful job, and the deception takes you in. The allure of delicious looking products and false positives from a nice picture are the “hook line and sinker” that will draw you to the surface, like a fish gasping for that precious last breath.
But the surface is as far as it goes, much like that delicious looking meal at your fast food joint, Ubisoft managed the same deal. I presume I wasn't the only one drooling at those screen shots from E3 2006, or at least, I hope not. Admit it, they looked beautiful. Once again, like that meal, it's not what you ordered, the beautiful pixels, where have they gone? The promising game-play lost it's luster, and you're left with but a measly half of what you were promised by that slimy advertiser.
So, meet Scott; the main character in the regurgitated tale of the kidnapped girlfriend. (Well, fiancé in this case) The story begins with you playing as this brilliant L.A. Charmer, who is about to get married to the illustrious Yakuza boss' daughter, Miyu. But of course, the love interest is always stolen away from the charmer, only to have to go through unspeakable horrors and endless tasks to get his girl back. Personally, I would have let her go. There's plenty more fish in the sea, and you're already a prominent member of the Los Angeles rat race, there has to be someone else to get attached to. Now, what of the Yakuza? They can't do much here in America, and so your quest to save your fiancé soon whisks you away to the world's overpopulated wonderland. I'm of course talking about Tokyo, Japan.
I'm no Japan-ophile, and I know not of their culture, but why would I be sword-fighting with Samurais and Ninjas, when I could just as easily fill their chest with lead from my 12 gauge? I'll tack it up on the “creativity” list and leave it be, but, if nothing else, it's a fun idea. The sword-fighting takes advantage of the innovative Wii remote system, and creates a fun experience. But that's not to mention the ever exciting moral dispute of “do I kill the guy, or do I spare him for good karma and reputation?” It all depends on your level of paranoia and superstition I suppose, but I personally find that whole aspect of the game a bit absurd. The guy tried to kill me, why would I not want to hack off one of his limbs?
If running around a shooting everything in sight is your style, I suppose there's always that as well. The experience may be less fulfilling, but no one plays video games for enlightenment, do they? Even if they did, they wouldn't be looking in a fantasy Japan-ican game. There's a nice little slew of weapons in the single player mode. Enough to keep you busy, but just few enough to get a bit droll and repetitive as you progress and the game gets a bit more monotonous. However, the ability to use them is a whole new story. The issue in this being, that there is always some inherently useless and aggravating motion you have to do to perform simple tasks such as picking up a weapon, throwing grenades, and opening doors. You will find yourself frustrated, in that picking up a new weapon to kill that guy on the other side of the room will completely throw off your aim, and suddenly you've lost that big chance to kill the boss. They wanted to be creative here, but just did it completely wrong. I don't need to make a door opening motion to open that door, and half the time, it won't even open anyway.
Multiplayer on the other hand, is a whole new experience. It takes what you enjoyed about the decent single player mode, and waters it down, to a half-game, that leaves you still thirsty. There is a lack of weapons, a lack of space, and a lack of playability. Each level has to be the size of your average basement, so that you can get kills from across the map with a basic pistol. I don't know if the modeling and design team liked to party, or was just lazy, but there was clearly no effort put into it. You will find that within the first 5 minutes, you've memorized the whole map, where every grenade is hiding, and where the few guns are.
A lack of weapons also drags the multiplayer experience down. It's disturbing how single player can have a multitude of fun guns and cause excitement when you've got that new Uzi, but multiplayer throws a toss up of around five different guns into the cramped maps with little remorse. I mean, I like the revolver, but I don't love it.
Red Steel isn't necessarily long either. If you're a moderate to hard-core gamer, who plays for hours at a time, (due to a lack of social life or otherwise) it will probably take you around a couple of days to complete. Those few days are difficult ones though, the missions are grueling, in the nature that they will cause you to start asking the game to end by the finish. I took my jolly old time with this, and found myself struggling all the while, in a horrid fit over why there shouldn't be 50 people in that obscenely small room, with me versus the world and no backup. The inane firing noises and constant issues with “OH GOD PLEASE FACE THE CORRECT DIRECTION” will aggravate you, but soon, you'll tolerate, and perhaps become friends with the horrific control scheme that the game has to offer. I can point my gun sideways like a gang member, but I can't turn around without pointing to the side and losing my perfect headshot. It was thoughtfulness to a degree that didn't need to be touched, and this seemingly lead the programmers away from the basic structure of the game which in this case is lacking and pushing the players away.
Graphics in this game lack, a lot. Like I said above, it once looked beautiful, but the modeling budget had to have been cut somewhere, so suddenly everything went horribly askew and it lost its beauty. The environments are extremely simplistic, to a level that a new-wave minimalist artist could have done just as well, if tag teamed with an AV productions student. Quite simply, there was no effort put into it. I can tell that this chair is a chair, that this table is a table, and that this curtain is a curtain, but that doesn't make it look good, not on our fancy new gaming consoles. It seems Ubisoft might have just haphazardly thrown textures on small, unfinished models to hit early release dates, however, this took a large chunk out of the joy of playing. This all might have been great for the Gamecube, but not for the Wii which is supposed to be a great step up.
To spite my complaining, you'll find a bit of the game exceedingly creative and interesting. For example, in multiplayer, there is a game mode called “mission mode.” In this, you play as a sort of hit man who is supposed to kill the other players. (that is, if you can get together three friends to play with you. This mode is for a full set of four only) Your Wii remote will ring, and you'll put it to your ear like a cell phone, listening to a digitized voice give you orders on which player to kill. This, and the occasional sword fight, stun moves, and other oddities, make it a bit intriguing from the standpoint of an onlooker at a party, but that may be about it. It was creative, but just not done well. It feels like a beta-test, not a retail “market ready” game. If you simply must have a first person shooter for the Wii, I suppose this could hit your list, but if you're willing to wait for something possibly worth your while, Red Steel can handle a miss.
Community review by beverage (September 27, 2007)
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