It was very unusual that the first title announced for Nintendo’s newest home console was a game called Red Steel, for two reasons. Firstly it wasn’t even released by Nintendo, instead it is from French gaming company Ubisoft and secondly because it is really quite an unusual title for a Nintendo console in that it is a first-person shooter. Nintendo have shown a lot of support for the game, probably in an attempt to shake off their image of a kiddie games company, but were they right to do so?
The story behind the game is that you, an American called Scott, are going to meet the father of your fiancee, who is the leader of a Yakuza gang, but the meeting is interrupted by a gang of rival Yakuza brandishing both guns and swords. You are unable to get the approval of your upcoming marriage because your soon-to-be father-in-law is gunned down and left critically injured, he commands you then to rescue his daughter from the hands of this rival gang. You will then scour the world, from Los Angeles to Tokyo looking for her using a deadly combination of guns and swords to deal with anyone that gets in your way. The story is a lot better than the majority of the Wii launch titles, and it keeps the gameplay running along at quite a frantic pace.
Red Steel was always going to be a game that attracts a lot of attention from both the gaming press and gamers alike, due to the fact it so readily embraces the new control scheme of the Wii, and gives gamers something they’ve always wanted the ability to control a sword in game using actual swings and blocks rather than a confusing control scheme on a standard controller. As well as this aiming with a gun using the WiiMote is more fun and accurate that using two analog sticks. But whether or not the game is any good is a different matter, and what it really comes down to is how well do the controls work. And unfortunately the controls aren’t as good as they could be, this doesn’t mean that they are awful they could be a lot worse, but for a game with as much anticipation as Red Steel you will feel a little let down when you play it for the first time.
It is inevitable that many people will give up on this game after just a few missions because of the controls, but if they actually stick with the game and adjust to this new control method then they will become a lot less frustrated for a start, not only that but they will start to enjoy what is a good game. The game does have a steep learning curve that doesn’t make it as accessible for most first time gamers as many other games for the Wii, e.g. Wii Sports, have been so far. It is annoying that you will not enjoy the first few hours with the game as it is so tricky, but if you stick with the game in the end it will be worth it. It will take around two or three hours to completely learn the games unusual control methods.
The majority of the movement is controlled using the nunchuk attachment, in much the same way as Call of Duty 3, but you will need to adjust the sensitivity level or else the game won’t respond quickly enough and you’ll die through no fault of your own. If there is one major fault with the movement in the game it is that the majority of the time you seems to move around really slowly, and you will find yourself cursing the developers for not including a run button. Looking around the screen and aiming are both controlled by the WiiMote and the bounding box technique, it may seems unusual at first but it is a more precise method than dual analog sticks. One interesting aspect of the game regarding gun-play is the Focus mode, in which time slows down, in a similar way to bullet-time, so you can pick of multiple enemies very quickly. In many of the trickier parts of the game it can prove to be very useful. Grenades however aren’t as simple as the guns, it can often be quite tricky to throw a grenade exactly where you want it, this may at times prove to be a fatal error, and eventually it will become frustrating.
The sword fighting aspect to the game was the one part of the game that had me, and many others I’m sure, most excited, after all how many people would say no to a good sword fight. And despite having a few flaws it is a lot of fun, and shows the potential for a proper sword fighting game on the Wii. Early on you will face your first sword battle, and you may find overly simplistic, but as the game progresses you will learn more about sword fighting from your clan and battles will become more intense. Although you may notice that your swords motions don’t exactly match those on screen it is quite accurate. The nunchuk here is used for blocking and parrying which seems unnatural at first but, like most of the game, after a while you’ll get used to it.
If there is one area of this game that is completely lacking in any consistency it is the graphics. At times you won’t mind sitting around looking at the atmospheric environments and the brilliance of the lighting effects, like for example how good it looks when a small amount of light appears through a crack in the wall. Other textures like fire or glass windows also look great. But some of the other parts looks awful with very unrealistic textures and dodgy objects ruining the atmosphere of the game. A lot of the graphics would have been acceptable in a GameCube game, but it really sets a bad standard for the visual capabilities of the Wii.
Voice acting in video games is rarely good, as few people pay much attention to it, but in Red Steel it is truely awful. Not only do the majority of the Japanese accents sound very fake, but going through a level you will hear the same phrases repeated very frequently and after hearing your character, Scott, shout “Die bastards” for what seems like the hundredth time in the past minute you’ll begin to get annoyed. Fortunately the in game music isn’t as bad. It isn’t anything particularly special, but it does up the pace of the game a bit when necessary.
The main game may not last you as long as you like, most gamers will probably complete it in about ten hours at the most, but there is the added benefit of multiplayer to keep you coming back for more. It may not be the greatest multiplayer mode in the world, but it has a sort of retro charm to it, in that there are limited levels and modes, not to mention there are no bots, so on some of the larger levels expect to feel a little bit lonely at times. But despite some of there faults it is still good fun and adds a lot to the game in terms of value and longetivity.
Red Steel may not be a perfect game and it does have some major flaws, but despite this it does become a fun game once you’ve gotten past the tricky first few hours. With a little more work Ubisoft could have made a brilliant example of how third party support is going to be a lot stronger for the Wii, but with a very high possibility of a sequel alreay in the works, we can be sure that next time Red Steel 2 will be the game that Red Steel shows the promise of being, and if Ubisoft iron out all the kinks then it will be something special. In the meantime it looks like Red Steel is one of the stronger titles from the launch line up and offers something a bit different from a guy in green suit with a sword or monekys rolling around in plastic balls.
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