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Red Steel
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Red Steel - Review
Written by James Hobbs

Red Steel isn't really a game you can simply quantify and be done with at the end of a review. It's possibly one of the most erratic games currently out for Wii that I've reviewed so far. It's for this reason that I implore you, if you haven't already bought the game, or perhaps even if you have: please read the whole review. It will give you far more of an inkling into the game than the review score will.

Red Steel Screenshot
What a beard.
As the stoic protagonist, it's your task to rescue your girlfriend from hordes of Japanese Yakuza, in a plot straight out of a dodgy straight-to-dvd film you might find in the Londis. The crucial elements are all in place - a damsel in distress; a silent, brooding hero; and some suitably exotic locations and villains. Whilst the plot is fairly ridiculous, it does provide a suitable excuse for plenty of equally ridiculous gunfights, and this is definitely where Red Steel excels.

The many gun battles throughout the game range from eliminating a few guards to taking on entire legions, and they are extremely well-paced and surprisingly frenetic. The AI of the enemies is of a high enough standard that you are often forced into corners, and coming up with a strategy is paramount to survival. As you progress through the game, you gain the ability to 'focus' - this allows you to slow down time, and target specific enemies in sequence before rapidly dispatching them. At first, this is something of a gimmick, but it does become surprisingly useful, particularly in some of the bigger battles towards the end of the game. Focusing on the weapon of an enemy allows you to shoot it from their hands, disarming them, and executing the gang leader throws the rest of the gang into disarray. A potentially pointless inclusion to the game is in fact rather well executed, for the most part, and does become an integral part of gameplay.

The rest of the gameplay is what you would expect from a game of this genre - it revolves largely around progressing through very linear levels, and collecting keys to unlock doors. Whilst this is somewhat disguised by the plot, cutscenes, and the sword-battles, it is fairly obvious that the focus has been mostly on style over innovation in terms of level design. As you progress through the game, this becomes all the more apparent, and the numerous sword fights, from which you cannot escape, become somewhat tedious.

The sword fighting is where the erratic nature of the game really becomes apparent. Whilst it had been reported that the swords would copy your exact movements, this is certainly not true - random slashing and swiping translates into fairly simple vertical and horizontal slashes, giving an incredibly diluted feel to the proceedings. Whilst you do gain extra moves, or 'katas', as you progress through the game, some of them can be difficult to execute properly, thanks to the unresponsive controls. Once you have got the hang of how the system works, and compensated for how ridiculously silly it is, it is possible to enjoy the sword fights and become immersed, but it certainly isn't ideal. It's definitely a bold move on the part of the developers, and it could herald the start of more games utilising swords, but it does feel rushed.

The gun-toting controls, on the other hand, do feel somewhat more refined. Aiming the reticule on-screen is very easy, and the only complications arise when attempting to turn and move. It does take some acclimatisation before you are able to sweep through corridors smoothly, executing generic looking bad guys with ease, but it does eventually become possible. It's more a case of learning how the control system works and adapting your playing style appropriately than being able to pick it up and shoot like a professional. This is not only an indication that the Wii control system is going to take some dedicated play before it becomes second nature, but it also illustrates that Red Steel has been rushed.

It's certainly not as polished control-wise as some of the other shooters we've seen, such as Call of Duty 3, and this unfinished feel extends even to the menus used before you get into the game itself. A simple act such as loading a level or setting up multiplayer is impossible to execute quickly, and requires you to perform unecessary dragging and dropping of icons. Getting killed during in a sword battle often requires you to resume play from significantly before, meaning you have to fight your way, again, back to the sword-wielding foe to take him on. The cut-scenes, arranged in a comic-book-esque fashion, look absolutely terrible, and do nothing to help to the story. The multiplayer mode, whilst again innovating with the use of the Wii remote's speaker, is stagnant and boring, and doesn't provide as much of a thrill as the main game does.

These small annoyances add up to result in a game that, whilst fun, is ultimately flawed, and requires a certain amount of patience and tenacity to put up with. Some people will undoubtedly love Red Steel, and rightly so - it's graphically fairly pleasing, and provides explosive and ridiculous fun. However, if you're one of those people that doesn't really have the patience to persevere with games like this - don't bother. It'll drive you bananas.

The verdict:

Red Steel feels unfinished, but the single-player experience is good fun, if slightly contrived and silly. Worth a look.


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