Red Steel Wii
Published by Ubisoft
Developed by Ubisoft
Release Date: Out Now
When the Wii was shown off at E3 early last year one of the games that looked as though it was going to be a whole lot of fun was Red Steel. Offering not only an FPS experience but also the chance to do some sword fighting with the remote and nunchuck, Red Steel looked to be the game that really gave gamers a taste of what the Wii’s unique control scheme could do when a game was designed for it. However when the Wii was released in the US the reviews of Red Steel appeared to be less than favourable. In truth the game does fall short in many areas but it does have its moments and can’t be dismissed completely.
In Red Steel you’ll play as a man named Scott who, at the beginning of the game, is out with his fiancée and is about to meet her father for the first time. It’s not a straightforward meeting because not only is her father a yakuza overlord but he’s about to come under attack from a rival gang. To make things worse your fiancée is kidnapped by this rival gang and it’s down to you to rescue her. The game begins in Los Angeles and eventually you’ll find yourself in Japan. The story isn’t that good but it provides a decent enough setting for an action game.
The action comes thick and fast in Red Steel, which is a good thing. At times the action is enjoyable and once you have adjusted to the control scheme you’ll find the game quite a pleasing experience. However, what spoils the action, to a certain degree, is that it’s all tightly scripted and it’s very much an on-rails action game. You're walking into a room or corridor and you can tell from the layout whether you’re going to be involved in a shootout or swordfight. Should you see an enemy come toward you with a sword, you won’t be able to pull out a gun and shoot him. You’ll simply watch as your gun is put away and your sword is drawn. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing but the sword fighting is definitely this game’s Achilles heel. The sword fights don’t feel accurate or sophisticated enough. Essentially you’ll parry your opponents attack and hit them when their guard is lowered. The controls can feel a little awkward at first and the sword movements don’t feel responsive enough (even with the sensitivity settings set to maximum) and the onscreen movement do appear to be a fraction behind your movements at times. Most of the time you’ll have a gun in your hands and here the game feels better.
Let’s take a look at the controls because after all it’s the control system that really makes Red Steel feel unique. When you’ve got a gun in your hands, you’ll aim and fire with the Wii remote. The B button is ideally placed to act as a trigger and pressing and holding the large A button allows you to lock on to an enemy. Whilst the A button is held down and the remote is thrust forward you’ll zoom in on an enemy. The analogue stick on the nunchuck attachment is used to move around, the C button to jump and the Z button to crouch. Rather interestingly both the nunchuck and the remote can perform several functions with simple gestures. Swinging the nunchuck up and down will open doors (when standing next to a door that displays a green hand icon). Swinging the nunchuck down can pick up weapons, reload weapons and activate switches. The remote can also be moved in various ways to perform actions. After defeating an enemy in a sword fight, you can choose to finish them off or spare them and you’ll move the remote either up and down or left and right to select your choice. Of course the remote is mainly used for aiming and many would expect it to be a superior method of control when compared to a standard console controller. Whilst I found that aiming was actually quite good I can’t say it felt any more precise than say the Xbox 360 controller, which was a little disappointing. It’s difficult to be too hard on Red Steel in this respect because as with all launch titles, the developers aren’t working with the final hardware for most of the development time and with the uniqueness of the Wii that means the controls might not be as refined as they could have been.
The disappointments don’t stop there though. Those looking for a challenging AI will be disappointed. At times the AI seems oblivious to what you’re doing and it’s sometimes possible to walk right up to enemies without them reacting to you at all. There are numerous graphical glitches in the game. The old floating weapon glitch that used to be seen in many PC FPS games can be witnessed here and looks unsightly. The game’s menus are rather clunky and not as intuitive as they should be. Some have complained about bugs that have caused the game to freeze. I can’t say I have encountered any of them and didn’t experience any crashes whilst playing the game. There isn’t any online play. The game offers some Deathmatch type games for up to four-players but we couldn’t play it. We have several remotes but only one nunchuck, thanks to the ridiculous short supply of the attachments at the moment.
Graphically Red Steel is an unmitigated disappointment. The character models are actually quite basic and some of the animations on display here are what you would have expected around five years ago. When exploring the various environments in the game you can’t help but notice how basic most of the textures are. They are blurry and low in detail. In fact most would have been disappointed with the look of the game had it appeared on the GameCube, let alone its successor. Given the low amount of detail on offer here you’d expect the frame rate to be superb and the loading times to be nippy. Again you’d be disappointed. We’ve been fortunate enough to play a half-dozen Wii titles and Red Steel has the longest load times we’ve seen so far, although the load times certainly aren’t bad when compared to some we’ve experienced on the PlayStation 2 or Xbox 360. The frame rate is also prone to dip from time to time. It never dips so low as to be problematic but as we’ve just said, you’d expect better given the fact the game doesn’t look that good.
Red Steel is subtitled and deaf gamers will be able to follow the game’s story. The subtitles are simply displayed in white text. There are no character names or portraits placed alongside the text although it’s never much of a problem to follow who is saying what. Your objectives are displayed in text and can be recalled by entering the pause menu (by pressing the + button) and selecting Game Info and then Objectives or alternately you can just press the – button to have them appear on the top left of the screen. As you probably know, the Wii remote has a speaker and it's a concern that in some games it will convey some audible clues to hearing gamers that deaf gamers will be unaware of. In Red Steel there is only the sound of your weapon reloading coming from the speaker which isn't anything to worry about. Hearing gamers will have an advantage of hearing the music change whenever you enter a room or corridor where enemies are going to appear, but for the most part there are no real problems.
There are those that are going to appreciate what Red Steel has to offer and those who are going to look at the game’s numerous problems and take a completely negative view of the game. The sword fighting could have been better, so could the AI and so could the graphics. The controls don’t feel as good as they could have. The animation glitches are also annoying. The game is also far too linear. However, putting those problems aside for a second, it’s difficult to argue that the game isn’t fun at times. There are moments when the game is genuinely enjoyable. If you’re looking for an FPS/action game for your brand new Wii, then it comes down to Red Steel or Call of Duty 3. Call of Duty 3 is the better game but if you want a change from the World War II scenario and can put up with the game’s inadequacies then Red Steel is certainly worth a look, although in fairness it’s easy to see future Wii titles surpassing what’s on offer here.
There's no getting away from the fact that Red Steel could have been a lot better. However, there are times when the game is genuinely enjoyable and the game definitely gives you an idea of how good future titles of this nature could be.