Having very recently and oh-so fortuitously found myself acquiring a Nintendo Wii on the day before Christmas Eve (erm… Christmas Eve Eve, if you will), one of my early questions about the console was; ‘can the Wii’s bold control system lend itself to the FPS genre?’ Having already sampled Activision’s ‘Call Of Duty 3’ on the Xbox 360, and not really wanting to play through the same game again, I opted for Ubisoft’s ‘Red Steel’. Still slightly skeptic about the idea of a Wii based FPS, I set off on my oriental journey to battle the infamous Yakuza.
Typical revenge story
You take control of macho American bodyguard Scott Munroe (no relation to Marilyn I’m afraid). Scott was assigned to protecting the daughter of Japanese gang-leader Isao Sato, Miyu, while she is living in America. After falling for each other during this time, Scott and Miyu become engaged, and decide that it’s time to tell her father about their love. During the arranged meeting, an assassination attempt is made on Sato by a disgruntled faction of the Yakuza. During the battle Miyu is kidnapped, and you are only just able to prevent Sato from an immediate death. Before he dies of the injuries he sustains, he entrusts you with his clan’s sacred sword and his enemy’s objective; the Katana Giri, as you become the first ‘Gaijin’ (foreigner) to handle it. You track Miyu and her kidnappers to Tokyo, where you meet allies who will teach you many skills in-between your ongoing investigations into Miyu’s whereabouts.
The gun is mightier than the sword
The gameplay sections of Red Steel are split into two distinct sections; gunplay and swordplay. The FPS sections are the areas that obviously get most play time, and are also the areas that had me at most concern prior to playing the game. The basic controls are operated as you’d expect with this system, through the nun-chuck and the Wii remote. The analogue stick on the nun-chuck controls your backwards, forwards and strafe movements, while pointing the remote at the screen directs your aim and controls the basic ‘look’ functionality. During the first section, those pre-game concerns were realised. ‘I cannot play an FPS like this!’ I thought after bumbling my way clumsily through the first couple of rooms.
Thankfully, this is a feeling that soon passed and within the hour in I was accustomed to the new system, and was navigating the game with apparent ease. Plus if I might add, rather enjoying it in the process. Having this level of control over your aim and your movements is refreshing, and has you feeling far more involved than most of the generic FPS games you find on other consoles. There are some mild hit-detection issues too, and as such you just can’t completely shake that slight ‘clumsy’ feeling. However, the base is now there for this system to work really well, hopefully we can see it refined and tightend-up over future FPS releases on the Wii.
One area that annoyed me more than most is the zoom system. To change your level of zoom, you must press ‘A’ (which by default locks the camera onto targets) and then thrust the Wii Remote in a forward stabbing motion. The more you stab forward, the more you zoom. By doing this slowly you can fine-tune accordingly. The most grating flaw in this zoom system, is that by performing the stab you run the risk of accidentally pointing the remote slightly away from your screen thus spinning your aim away from the intended target anyway.
Also included in Red Steel, is a pretty useful bullet-time system, also known as ‘focus mode’. Once learnt in Act 2 of the game, this will become your friend during heavy fire against multiple enemies. By firing on enemies that are under-cover, a metre builds up on your HUD. Once filled up to a decently sized amount, holding ‘A’, and rapidly moving the remote backwards-and-forwards enters bullet-time. Here, time is paused and you can tag multiple enemies, when time unfreezes the tagged shots are fired. While using this you can also relieve enemies of their weapons and make them surrender, and will become vital in certain firefights when the pressure is on.
The swordplay is pretty much resigned to receiving mini-game status. In the lead up to Red Steel’s release, many publicists echoed that the swordplay system didn’t work as had been hoped. They were right. It doesn’t actually mimic your movements as well as say, an arguably more basic game in Wii sports. Instead your movements with the remote trigger pre-animated sword movements. After the initial disappointment in this, there is eventual depth, as the more you progress, the more new skills and combos you learn. As such it does make the sword fighting sections a bit of a chore early on, but they become a lot more enjoyable in latter sections. As with much about this game, you just have to give it time. It does work well enough, just not as it should have done.
Each enemy you face off with in a duel is different; each has varying levels of aggression, defence, power and speed. This stops the sword-fighting sections becoming boring, and prevents each encounter becoming a foregone conclusion before it’s even begun. The overall enemy A.I. is something that continually managed to impress me. Enemies flank with purpose and change position brilliantly, often causing you to back off to find relative safety behind cover. Top stuff, but Ubisoft always do seem to excel with A.I. don’t they?
Red Steel in need of a polish?
I won’t beat about the bush here; graphically Red Steel is just awful, and for many it will bring about some memories of some of the N64’s FPS efforts. This is mainly down to some shocking texturing effects. The game is detailed, but the visual nature of the game is not only bland, but also very dated and pretty rough around the edges. A bit annoying when you had games as good looking as Resident Evil 4 on the Gamecube. Also sometimes the game looks pretty choppy, this occasionally has a negative effect on the on the gameplay, seeing your aim jump occasionally. That’s not to say that Red Steel doesn’t have any graphical plus-points. Nearly all cover is destructible, and comes apart in a way that I’ve only seen Gears Of War achieve thus-far, leaving dust and particle effects to fill the rooms in a brilliantly realistic manner. Mind you, when all is said and done, the game should just look a lot better than it does, even on a machine that is a fraction of the power of its rivals. The level design is generally well thought out, despite the game being very linear.
The game is roughly tied together through comic-styled storyboards, in a similar way to that of Max Payne. Despite best efforts, it achieves none of the pure noir-style that Remedy’s title has. The voice acting in these sections is also of a very poor standard. As such it really detracts from what otherwise should be an enthralling story.
Audibly the game is satisfactory, guns sound exactly how you would expect in any FPS. The game makes use of the remotes speakers, signaling the acquisition of ammo and the noise from reloading. In reality, this is a very insignificant feature of the Wii, however it does help to some degree to add to the atmosphere, and make you feel that little more involved in proceedings.
Red Steel does have a limited local multiplayer mode, and is actually a fair bit of fun. Four player’s can battle it out on one screen. Rest assured, that each player’s remote does not have any affect should you accidentally wave your remote over someone else’s section of the screen. That said; that should be part and parcel of the Wii in general, considering the machine’s multiplayer prospects. Included in Red Steel are the standard Death-match and Team Death-matches, and an objective based game called ‘Killer’, which is only accessible when played with four players.
Red Steel is a difficult game to call; on one hand it offers a varied and different approach that few first-person shooters can muster, but on the other there are many detracting factors that prevent it from being a title of pure class. What Red Steel has achieved in its mildly clumsy and visually under-whelming way, is to have laid down the promising foundations that not only prove that the FPS genre can and will work on Nintendo’s console, but also that the Wii can be much more than a glorified ‘mini-game machine’. I would recommend that anyone give this game a go, providing they are willing to give it some time and are able to look past its faults. However due to some of those faults, it falls agonizingly short of the seven I so desperately wanted to be able to give it. On the whole you will find an enjoyable game with the odd splash of brilliance. A promising start to the FPS genre on Wii, but no more than that.
Final Score: 6 out of 10 - Average (How do we rank games?)