« | Home | »

Review – Red Steel

posted on December 8th, 2006 by matt

If you’ve paid attention to some of the reviews Red Steel has gotten, you probably have no idea what the game is really like. The scores are all over the place, and reviewers just can’t seem to agree on what is good or bad about the game. Some love the sword fighting, some don’t. Some hate the gun controls so much that they barely touch upon the rest of game. The best advice for you is to just forget about those losers and their reviews. This is the only one you need to worry about.

Let’s hit each one of the major problems first, just to cleanse you of all the garbage you may still have in your head. First, the controls are a little hard to grasp, at least initially. Ubisoft has implemented an aiming/turning control scheme that is going to feel very foreign to everyone. I will say that it took me about 2-3 hours to fully grasp the aiming and turning mechanics. It only took that long because of the originality of the control scheme.

No one has ever played a game like Red Steel before, so you’re basically learning a totally new way to play video games. You essentially have to erase a lot of the things that you know if you want to be able to play and enjoy Red Steel.

Car bombs: the international language of the mafia.

Instead of a dual-analog controller or a mouse/keyboard setup, you physically move your hand around as if it were the gun. For Red Steel, the developers used the “bounding box” theory for the FPS controls. Basically, the aiming reticule is never in the middle of the screen, like how it is with a mouse. You can aim over most of the screen without ever changing where the character is facing.

Once you get to a certain point on the screen (outside of the “bounding box”), your character starts to turn in that direction. If you are in a situation where you’re only shooting in front of you, Red Steel can be played very easily. But once you start having shoot-outs with enemies in all directions, you are going to see what the problems with Red Steel’s controls are.

The only way to stop turning your character is by putting your reticule back in the “bounding box” area. When I first played it, I could never get the guy to stop turning. He would continually spin around. My instincts were that, if my hand stops moving, my character stops moving. It got very frustrating to see the complete opposite, but with more practice, I found the way to combat this problem. Basically, you flick your wrist when trying to turn. If you do it right, you’re character will turn to the desired angle, and then right back into the original position.

After perfecting this technique (which, again, took about a solid day of playing), the game was a complete joy to play. Merely moving around in a video game has never been as interesting as it is in Red Steel. I actually applaud myself for moving so fluidly when I play the game.

He’s unarmed. SHOOT HIM!

If you want to, you can say that Red Steel is two games in one: one where you shoot enemies in a Yakuza-based storyline and another where you try to move around with the Wii-mote. Both are equally fun, but you’ll need to be good with both parts to fully enjoy the game. If you put enough time into Red Steel, the controls will come to you. You will get frustrated at the beginning, but if you’re man/woman enough, you can become one of the elite who knows how to play Red Steel correctly. And judging by the reviews, that’s a very select group of people.

There are a few things that seem a bit arbitrary in the controls department, however. Opening doors is done with a quick push of the nun-chuk. It sounds cool at first, but after opening a thousand doors, the mechanic becomes annoying. It would have worked a little better if the player opened a door with a button or something. As of now, it’s too much of a gimmick, and a tedious one at that.

Also, zooming in is way too stiff. You really have to move your controller forward when zooming in. It’s cool to have to do it like that, but Ubisoft should have made it a bit more sensitive. And the only other complaint about controls I have is the turning speed should be increased just a smidgen. It’s not horrible, but it would have made moving around even better.

Then there’s the sword-fighting. Unfortunately, it’s not in the 1:1 style we all hoped for, but it’s still very playable. You have the standard 8-way directions as your primary attacks, as well as a parry move that can stun a character long enough for you to get in a good hit.

Must be some Japanese show.

Later in the game you will gain new sword fighting abilities to use, as well. Some of them are fairly easy to pull off, while the later ones take some practice to nail. I did have some problems pulling off some of the harder moves. Because I’m a complete retard, I would never follow through enough with the Wii-mote, especially when you have to use both the nun-chuk and Wii-mote at the same time. My guy would, of course, do nothing, and I would get very frustrated.

Not until I pulled my head out of my ass did I get it right. I then made sure to make blatant swipes with the controllers, and viola! Sword-fighting then turned into one of the better parts of the game. Again, just have patience and you’ll be pulling off those Crouching Tiger moves in no time.

As for the graphics, we really do have a mixed bag. There are some outdoor environments that look really good, while most of the indoor environments have a very blurry and basic look to them. I remember hearing Ubisoft talk about giving the game a semi-grainy filter, so this might be why, but in most cases, it takes away from the game more than adding anything to it. It just comes off as sloppy.

There are certain places where the game looks fantastic, though. Like when you’re sword-fighting. If your enemy parries one of your attacks, the screen will add a cool-looking blur effect to show that you’re stunned. Also, there are some really nice lighting effects being thrown around. One look at the Filtration Plant’s outdoor area and you will see that the Wii is more than capable of making graphically impressive games. Glass is also rendered very nicely.

The cut-scenes are like comic-books, where everything is a still photo. Unfortunately, the pictures are heavily compressed for some reason (which shouldn’t be a problem anymore, now that the Wii uses standard DVD’s), and the game’s cinematic presentation is ultimately lacking because of it. I look to Max Payne, a five year-old game, and I see what Red Steel should have been like. It does its job of telling the player what is going on in the story, but it’s far too flat to say it was the best way to handle story progression. Hopefully, the sequel will put more effort into this aspect.

Too bad we can’t kill people because they have bad tattoos in real life.

Many people have also voiced concern over the AI, but from my experience, the enemies do a good job of messing around with the player. I’ve seen enemies continually move around a barrier to get away from me. I would try every angle, but he would keep dodging me. As well, if an enemy repeatedly got hit, he would retreat to another vantage point in the level.

There were a few times where an enemy would get stuck between boxes, but it was so rare that it’s really not a concern. We have to remember that this is a launch game and there are bound to be bugs. Red Steel does have a few bugs, but nothing to flip-out over. Granted, we don’t want any bugs in our games, but this is far from a perfect world. People have even found bugs in Zelda, which is made by the company synonymous with quality.

For all its worth, Red Steel is a gamer’s game. You will have to practice at it to become a proficient player, but the rewards are easily worth it. I am definitely looking forward to going through the surprisingly long (10-15 hours) campaign again, just to see how good I’ve become. Although the game is standard FPS fare, the implementation of the Wii-mote brings this genre to a whole new level, and Red Steel does an admirable job in paving the road for future FPS success on the Wii. Thumbs up.

4 Comments

  1. Stefan said on December 8, 2006:

    Regarding the motion, particularly having to re-center the controller to stop turning – There is a reason why you don’t see non-centering joysticks anymore.  The game industry already tried that underlying control mechanic, and found out it causes severe problems.  Now, since your hand is still pointing to the side of the screen, it may make sense to have the screen continue to turn in order to re-center, rather than forcing your gun back to the center, which is more what happened with the joystick, but one way or another automatic re-centering is vital to almost any analog control scheme.

  2. max said on December 8, 2006:

    I’ve read like 10 reviews of this game over the last couple of weeks and kept wondering how bad the controls could really be.  People were complaining all over the place, but none of it sounded so blatantly wrong as to justify some of the abysmal review scores.  It sounded like Ubisoft made some minor mistakes that were inevitable for a first take on a completely different control scheme, that’s all.  So what I am trying to say is that I am happy to finally see a review that acknowledges the faults, but doesn’t go into an apoplectic fit over them.   We have to keep in mind that as more and more games are released, these controls will only get better and better, so the revolution is still on as far as I am concerned :)

  3. GoldenJew said on December 8, 2006:

    I only played Red Steele back at E3 in May, but I’m a little dissapointed they kept things like the door opening (which was neat for the first 5 doors in the demo, and universally complained about by everyone who I saw demo the game after that.  Which was about 500 people, the nintendo booth was more crowded than a Cancun club full of jail bait in spring break).  Your description of the game movement system is dead on, and mirrored my frustrations.  Most games have a learning curve, where you know something is annoying but within 30 mins you’ve got it down pat.  The extended learning curve is brutal for the ADD/ADHD.  And I shouldn’t have to pop riddlin to play a game. Does anyone know if Ubisoft is planning on more games with the same style of gameplay, so at least the muscle memory will be re-used down the line on the Wii?

  4. Matt said on December 8, 2006:

    Thanks for the feedback everyone. I’m just glad that Red Steel is getting the recognition it deserves.  Max, I think the main reason why the reviews were so bad was because people just weren’t giving it enough time to get used to. Something tells me launch reviews were in high demand, and being somewhat hard to get to grips with, Red Steel was put on the back burner for the most part. But this also brings up what GoldenJew said, that such a high learning curve isn’t exactly a good thing. How long can people expect to play it without getting to the point of pure frustration? I think for launch it’s a problem, but after a few solid months of playing the wii, games won’t be that hard to get into, especially when game controls get refined a little more, as max pointed out.

Leave a Reply