The first game revealed for Wii was an unexpected one – an exclusive FPS from Ubisoft, rather than a flagship Nintendo IP as anticipated, was the first peek of the system’s catalogue. Advertised and promoted by Nintendo almost as much as their own titles, it’s certain that they are banking big on Red Steel to strengthen their line up and help to breakdown those ‘mature title’ walls. Were they right to trust Ubisoft so deeply, though?
You probably know the story by now. An American man is about to meet his Japanese fiancée Miyu's father - who happens to be a Yakuza boss - to seek his approval for their upcoming marriage, but before the meeting can get underway, the restaurant is invaded by rival Yakuza gang members. Falling to the gunfire and left critically injured, your would-be father-in-law implores you to save his daughter as she is snatched away, thus beginning a hunt across the world, right from Los Angeles to Tokyo. Being both an American and a bodyguard, luckily you’re well trained in the art of gunplay, and your arsenal is added to by your acquiring of a katana, which you are hastily taught to use.
The first person shooter is one of the prime genres that people thought would be improved by the Wii Remote's pointer, and developers don’t seem to disagree, with three coming in the weeks including and following launch (the other two being Far Cry: Vengeance, also from Ubisoft, and Call Of Duty 3 from Activision). There's no arguing that Red Steel is the most publicised of the three, yet it has also come under the most fire from critics, particularly on the other side of the pond in the good old US of A. Strangely, it seems to have garnered mostly positive grades from Europe, giving us a direct split between the two continents.
Time for us to put our two pence into the debate, then. Let's make it clear: on this occasion, we stand firmly by our continent and must join the group with the positive impressions, which we’re sure may stir up a bit of controversy among those who have consistently viewing Red Steel negatively on this very site. See, Red Steel isn't as bad as some reviewers have been making out. However, it isn't as great as others have said, either. As a first attempt at a large budget exclusive FPS on a console with a brand new controller unlike ones we’ve seen before, it's impressive, but that’s not to say that there couldn’t have been a lot of improvement with more tweaking and testing.
The biggest talking point may as well be the one that we throw up first: how it controls. We could sum it up this way: works well, but could be better. For a start, the default sensitivity is way too low, and we had to set it to the highest possible to get turning and aiming to an acceptable level (i.e., so we weren’t getting killed every 15 seconds thanks to slow movement) – this sensitivity is supposedly for ‘experts’, but we found it pretty essential for it to be even playable. Once you’ve got that out of the way, though, turning is fine and moving the cursor to the edge of the screen to do so doesn’t feel bad at all – and yes, it is possible to circle strafe and things like that with relative ease after a little practice. Looking around and aiming are spot on most of the time thanks to the precision afforded by the remote – far easier than using a second analogue stick - and the nunchuk motions are implemented well, with a quick flick reloading your weapon, opening doors and activating control panels.
The sword battles are satisfying, and once you’ve gotten started you won’t even notice the lack of 1:1 sword motion. In fact, once you’ve begun a sword battle, you realise it really isn’t a very viable option in this game, and it makes sense for the blade to set itself back to a neutral position after you’ve performed a strike – it’s not even noticeable that the hits aren’t matching your swipes as it’s very easy to get into and to just immerse yourself in. The nunchuk again does well here, acting as the smaller parrying sword, with a jab in either direction to block oncoming blows.
There are but a few issues with control. Numero uno, occasionally the game will go bonkers and your viewpoint will rattle all over the show while your character spins to oblivion until you’ve corrected it with some pointing (it tends to be when you point off the screen for too long). Secondly, the walking speed feels very laboured at times, leaving you practically begging for a run button, or an option to speed up your steps. Trudging along moodily at the pace of a sleep-deprived snail really doesn’t match up to the urgency you’re supposed to be feeling at chasing up stairs in a multi-story car park to go after a car containing your fiancée’s bloody and injured father. Finally, the use of grenades and weapon switching feels very awkward mapped to the d-pad at first, but this one is eradicated fairly quickly after you’ve been playing for a while.
The gameplay is very interesting, in that it is clearly an FPS, yet it also seems to be completely different at the same time. Rather than walking around firing at opponents, it’s often best to find yourself suitable cover and stay in that spot during the entire shoot-out (you can kick tables over to hide behind, though confusingly you can only knock certain tables over – an inconsistency issue that spans a number of elements across the entire game, such as some glass being destructible, other panes apparently being completely invincible no matter what). Running around and shooting as you might in other first person shooters actually results in many more deaths than you could imagine, and so in this respect it sometimes feels more like a light-gun game than anything else during its shooting sections, which is backed up by huge amounts of enemies also moving into single places to hide and popping out in the style of Time Crisis, et al. Far from being a negative, this feels quite neat. Ducking down to take cover, popping up and firing off a few rounds from an uzi, ducking and running to new cover while avoiding stupid amounts of bullets (that are constantly whizzing past you) makes you feel like you’re right in the middle of an action film. The AI can be towards the stupid side every so often, but at least the bad guys know when to duck and not to reload when they’re staring right into the barrel of a gun. They pose a fair challenge, also helped by the sheer amount of them. Spoiler: loads.
Multiplayer is ace in an old-school Goldeneye kind of way, and the modes utilising the speaker are a good distraction. The only problem is the size of the levels – we imagine it’s not too bad when you’ve got four players running about the place, but with two people only it all feels very empty, and you can be wandering about for minutes without ever encountering your rival – much like XIII, another love it/hate it FPS from Ubisoft which shares many of the same style elements such as comic book storyboards, quite possibly thanks to, we believe, some of the same team working on Red Steel. The selection of characters is interesting to say the least, but we really wish Nintendo could have sorted out the online component to get this Internet-playable from day one. For now, though, we have a nice solid multiplayer FPS on Wii if you can get a few mates round.
We’ve all seen the first screenshots that came out of Red Steel, and how the graphical quality has been upgraded and downgraded randomly since the game’s unveiling. Disappointingly, the game does seem to follow the same pattern as the press coverage – some sections look fabulous, but others look like they were ripped from an average looking Gamecube game. On the other hand, we can tell you that the effects are generally better than many GC titles, with some impressive looking fire, water, reflections and trickles of light. One major nuance here is the issue of slowdown, which crops up a couple of times in the first few levels alone – one instance of which embarrassingly brings the Wii right down to a near halt, thanks to the game trying to load and stream new sections while simultaneously throwing effects about. It’s quite sad really – we know that Wii is twice as powerful as Gamecube, or thereabouts, so this sort of thing shouldn’t be happening at all with these slight visual improvements. It seemed to us to be more of an issue with programming than what the machine is capable of, but we really hope this kind of thing doesn’t start cropping up regularly in Wii games and hope it was a one off ‘oops, we missed that’ moment.
There’s a nice variety of fun music tinkering about as you’re playing, with some particularly adrenaline-pumping pieces during intense fights, both close-range and long-range. The voicework is a real let-down in direct opposition to this, with people clearly pretending to be Japanese all over the place. The introduction, wherein somebody charges into the restaurant all guns blazing screaming ‘fiercely’ made us laugh. Another case in point, the very start of the massage parlour level. The girl starts off sounding Japanese enough with a fair accent, but on her last sentence her voice somehow completely changes into a mix of French and American. This could’ve definitely used more work.
‘More work needed’ sums up Red Steel pretty accurately, actually. It’s a fun title that could warrant more than one play through for an action fix, but things like small control issues, graphical faults and terrible voicework build up and detract from the experience, chipping it down until it finds itself far from a bad game, but not up to the heights of brilliance that many were hoping for.
Controls well after a brief introduction period, well-paced and makes us dribble at the prospect of light-gun games on Wii, as it manages to prove that both those and FPSes can and hopefully will work (or continue to work) on the system.
Some fantastic effects, but it’s let down by the fact that it often looks close to average Gamecube. Wii can do better than this, guys, but we'll forgive you due to it being a launch title. The effects do hint at great things for the future...
Great music, fair sound effects, very bad voice acting. A bit more work into making the voices match the characters would be great for next time.
Good for a few runs, and multiplayer should keep you coming back for more when you’ve got your friends round.
Could have done with a bit more time in development, but we can understand that Ubisoft wanted it there right out of the gate alongside the new system. This appears to have paid off for them with how well it’s sold, which hopefully guarantees us a sequel. If issues from this are fixed, Red Steel 2 could be one to look forward to – for now, in our eyes, you could do a lot worse than take a good, hard look at Wii’s first big exclusive game.
Thanks for giving me your thoughts on it Mike. You always give a fair accessment on nintendo games without the outright damning them or overly praising them. I'm picking this one up.
Right thats it. With Elebits being miles away, if I get through alot of Zelda over Christmas period I will be getting this game. If only to ill the gap between waiting for games.
Awesome review Mike, good stuff :
This sounds a bit like the final version of Bounty Hunter on the GC. Some areas were excellent, but others seemed like they never got beyond the design stage graphics. I still enjoyed Bounty Hunter (despite similarly mixed reviews) and am hoping I also enjoy Red Steel.
I only played it until the first death of a main villain (spoiler?).
I play dark, in the shadow and not at all rushed. And I play it with controls at default. It's doable, and not bad. When you rush and jump around like Unreal Torunament, you have to take yourself back or at least change the sensitivity. So I do not agree with this paragraph about slow control. But Mason gave a good 8 and with that I agree. There are some flaws, especially a bit with moving and picking up weapons an reloading on the same movemant (Nunchuck down), but he didn't gave a 7, so that's okay.
I ensure all to buy this fine piece of game, because the voice-acting is cheesy as I like it about Hong-Kong action movies and it fits. Sound is okay, music is superb (check out for the Matrix-like track when being in action). Graphics are sometimes excellent with effects and mirroring in polished floor. You can smash a lot of the surroundings and have enough ammo to do so.
It's wonderful for a launch title, and I personally would give more than a 7, but that's a decent good score for FPS pros. I am not and like to sneak a bit. It's wonderful for me.
Please get it.
Yuo gave this game justice mike, I wouldnt agree with the score but the content of the review was spot on.
I think that it was way too sensitive at first, I have my sensitivity at the lowest.
There are but a few issues with control. Numero uno, occasionally the game will go bonkers and your viewpoint will rattle all over the show while your character spins to oblivion until you've corrected it with some pointingThis is the biggest problem with any Wii game..
Out of interest, what scores would you guys give it (Laurelin, Erotic)?
Thanks for the comments everybody. I think it's well worth a purchase, I wasn't too sure about it from peoples' impressions but I really felt like I had to try it for myself, and I'm glad that I did.
Good review! I've been thinking on and off about getting this, and I think it to be a yes.
Also, I saw what you did with the frontpage thing for this JB Taken from the wii game box?
Id give it an 8/10
Its got a good atmosphere to it, have you played that crazy game show level with power rangers? Simply amazing.
Also the game is glitchy as all get out. I got stuck in a wall which killed me instantly, and another time I got wedged behind the bar at that club and couldn't get out. I ended up out of the level's boundaries in some bizarre dark area where I could see through the walls into the level. I had to reset the level from the last checkpoint.
Also as you mentioned the cursor will spaz out for no apparent reason. I hit the home button and the cursor is fine. I went back to the game, and it's spazzing all over the place. All this while I was trying to show the game to a friend. The game needed about 3 more months of testing.
We moved on to multiplayer, which is completely worthless with two people. No bots? How hard could that possibly be? I guess it's pretty amazingly difficult since even excite truck has no bots in multi.
I think the whole scoring system is skewed. 0 should be completely worthless, 5 should be an average game, and 10 should be the pan ultimate super amazing zenith of perfection. That said I'd give this a 3. That's not to say it isn't any fun at all, but it's unfinished and inexcusably buggy.
5 IS an average game. This is above average, but not so far above average to make it a great game, which would be 8/10+. There are glitches, but I found nothing game breaking while I played it, just a few visual hiccups here and there (there was a floating person at one point that I forgot to mention, but that was about the worst of it, and they gravitated once I shot my gun).
Only problem with Red Steel is the sword swipes not matching your remote movements. Apart from that Great game!