I guess Ubisoft thought that sword fighting might be something a bit different – particularly in a first person shooter game – unfortunately while I commend Ubisoft’s innovation I just wish they could have put more effort into it.
I’m going to deal with the bad in this review first because there has been a lot of mixed press revolving around Red Steel. I agree with what the GameSpot’s and IGN’s of this world have said: the sword fighting is shit. At times you will be randomly flailing your arm hoping you can: a) kill the enemy; b) get to a checkpoint so you never have to revisit said sword fight again.
This game is a pretty bog standard first person shooter that controls a little bit differently to the norm. You will be using your Wii Remote and pointing it at the screen to target, whereas using the nunchuck attachment will cope with all your normal moving and strafing actions. It feels a bit like using a mouse and it is certainly better (in my opinion) to control aiming with the Wii Remotes pointer. Sword fighting sections work with you using the Wii Remote to swing your sword and analogue stick to circle your locked on opponent. While shooting takes a little getting used to on the whole I found it pretty accurate to shoot this way and before I was less than 20 or so minutes into the game I was finding myself running through levels, gunning down as many enemies as I could find.
With everything that is good comes a bad point though – and sword fighting is definitely Red Steels down point as I have already mentioned. Your Wii Remote is meant to mimic the actions you make in order to create striking actions with the sword and such but it just doesn’t feel responsive. You are able to swing to defend from your enemies attacks and the C button on the nunchuck allows you to make a swift evasion movement to either side. It should feel good but the whole element of sword fighting feels so rushed – all you can hope is that not many of these sword fights appear. But they do – there is like two or three per level and they are unavoidable. The frustrating thing is the further into the game you get, the longer these sword fights get. I did find myself turning off my Wii on a number of occasions in sheer frustration from these.
Equally as bad as the sword fighting in Red Steel is the way the story unfolds. It is done in a number of comic-esque cut scenes. They are well designed just the voice acting that tells the story is pretty poor. Imagine a French person, trying to sound Japanese but ending up sounding like a British person that has lived in America for far too long. It really doesn’t help the “rushed” feel that Red Steel already has developed from the poor sword fighting sections.
And, in fairness, it’s a shame because I found the controls for the main sections to be really quite tight. Sniping is especially good fun as you push your Wii Remote forwards to look down your sniper rifles scope and get a good shot. It feels all the more rewarding to get a headshot when you actually have to move your arm to aim..
The nunchuck’s motion sensors also make for an integral part of the gameplay as flicking it will either reload your weapon or open a door. It’s certainly not ground breaking but it all adds to the atmosphere of the game and I really feel that Red Steel is one of the best examples of taking a popular, stagnating genre and making it feel fresh again.
Aside from the single player mode there is a multiplayer mode on offer but it is far from convincing and feels a little tacked on. You will go against a human opponent of your choice around a couple of drab environments and shoot each other. And that’s pretty much about all there is to that aspect of the game – so once you are done with single player don’t expect to be revisiting this title much.
Graphically Red Steel probably is the biggest mixed bag of all the Wii launch titles. At times is provides some graphical effects that wouldn’t look out of place on the 360, and then at other times getting close to enemies can reveal just how poor the levels of detail are on their faces and such. Explosions look particularly nice on this game though and it is a sign of what the Wii hardware will actually be capable of when developers start to learn the limits and capabilities of the system.
Red Steel will take you about 10 hours to play through and along the way you will be met with some frustrating and wonderful moments. I don’t think any gaming journalist quite knows how to rate this game and that is why it has been met with such a mixed bag of reviews.
On one hand the controls in Red Steel are perfect offering precision targeting, yet on the other hand the sword fighting feels poor and unresponsive. At times the graphics provide some of the best effects we’ve seen on the Wii, yet at other times the textures look drab, rough and uninspiring. Even the voice acting is a mixed bag going from convincing to hilariously unconvincing. All I can say is this is one of those games you have to try for yourself. Hey, if you don’t like it there is always eBay right?