Red Steel, the first game announced after the details of the Wii were released was billed as a FPS with pulse pounding sword fights, an array of guns, and an innovative controller to guide you through an adventure of revenge in the Japanese crime underworld. While all of this sounds like the perfect launch title for a next-gen console, it gives me the impression that the good folks at Ubisoft ran out of time and ended up with a product that’s about finished.
The hero of Red Steel is Scott, the fiancé of a Yakuza crime lord. As you are about to meet her father and tell him of your intentions to marry his daughter, an assassination attempt takes place with his daughter eventually being kidnapped. Before I continue onto some of the games finer points, let me just say that I have seen better acting and plotlines on B movies at 2 in the morning. Ok, I’m done. Let’s go.
Throughout Red Steel you travel through various environments such as office blocks, street racing garages, the Tokyo underworld and my favorite; a bath house complete with bad guys shooting at you in nothing but towels. And no, I’m not kidding. While these environments offer a variety of scenery, they are the textbook for linearity and the textures look like they could definitely be on the Gamecube. The best part of the graphics is the explosions that give that warm fuzzy feeling inside, but cars and barrels blow up with just one shot which is something even Jack Bauer can’t do. Don’t ask me, I just review them. Onto the controls though.
The Wii-mote was hyped as the FSP wave of the future, and on some parts Red Steel delivers, but others make you make you want to throw your Wii-mote on purpose for a change. Yes, aiming with the Wii-mote is sweet, while the aiming rectical could have been made better than a white dot, you definitely get a rush taking an Uzi and spraying down a crowd. My personal favorite, the shotgun, is pure delight in close quarters and there are a decent number of weapons to choose from. Your enemies aren’t the brightest either. Some of them use the standard hide and reload techniques while some just stand out in the open and await you to hose them down. The phrases that the enemies throw out are pretty ridiculous and make you wonder if the enemies are comedians or rode the short bus to work. The main thing in the firefights is you must be very mindful of the Wii-mote because if it goes astray, the screen continues to move around getting you all discombobulated and more often than not, you die.
The other half of the action comes in the form of sword duels that are sprinkled in each level. When details of Red Steel first came out, this was a main selling point. After playing, it’s definitely not what it should be, that’s for sure. First off, Ubisoft took the time to fully map out all the guns in the game so you could turn the Wii-mote sideways and bust caps like a gangsta or shoot normally. Not so for the sword; all of the maneuvers with the sword (including the manual kill) are canned animations. This takes a lot of the ‘ninja-esque-ness’ out of the sword fights and makes them feel more like a test of your reflexes. You are able to use your sword for manual kills, but this is pretty much the same as pressing a button and melee killing in any other FPS. The nunchuck attachment is used to block and dodge, and while the parrying feels natural and works well; all you have to do to defeat most is dodge (flick the analog) and swing the sword. The sword fighting on the whole needs work, and the mapping of the Wii-motes movements would have made it drastically better.
I may have been a little harsh in this review but on the whole Red Steel isn’t all complaints. Movement with the Wii-mote/analog combo takes a little bit to get used to, but as soon as you do it really does become second nature. Yeah, the game feels unfinished, but it gives a good impression of what the future of First Person Shooters is capable of on the Wii. If Ubisoft could have held itself back and refined the action and touched the game up a bit, it probably would of made a world of difference. If you’re really fiending for a shooter for your Wii give it a rent, but woe to anyone thinking of buying this one. After you get past the coolness of the Wii-mote and into the real action, the game loses its luster quickly so enjoy it while it lasts.