|Red Steel (2006)
Available for: Nintendo Wii
“Twilight Princess” aside, Ubisoft’s first-person shooter, “Red Steel,” has probably garnered the most attention of all the Nintendo Wii launch titles – and for good reason too. The title not only looks to demonstrate how well an FPS runs on the new system, but it also gives mature gamers the opportunity to play something very different from what the Big N usually offers. Unfortunately, the end result doesn’t accomplish much, and those still on the fence over buying “Red Steel” will likely become even more indecisive, because while the gameplay feels fresh, there’s some serious problems plaguing the overall experience like clunky graphics and lame AI.
Since the game takes place entirely from a first-person viewpoint, you’ll never actually get to see the guy you’re playing as, other than in the comic book-like cutscenes, but he looks like just about any other video game hero of the past decade. His name is Scott, a gaijin (or foreigner) about to meet the Yakuza boss father of his Japanese fiancée at a restaurant when a bunch of dudes from a rival gang start shooting up the place, kidnapping your girl and her father along the way. After shaking off the beatdown you’ve just received, you decide to go after the pair using both a gun and sword – the latter of which is replaced with a sacred katana about a fourth of the way through the story.
The controls for “Red Steel” aren’t like any other you’ve played with before – namely because this is the first time that most of us will have handled the Wiimote/nunchuck combination – and honestly, it takes a little getting used to. When your gun is equipped (and you can only carry two at a time), you’ll use the B button (that’s the one on the bottom) to shoot, and the A button to lock on to enemies. Thrusting the Wiimote towards the screen will allow you to zoom in, as well as activate a “Matrix”-like Focus Mode that gives you the opportunity to either disarm your enemies by locking on to all of their weapons, or just lighting them up with bullets before they even get a chance to shoot. Performing zoom is actually the most uncomfortable part of playing the game, because while it makes it a lot easier to see your targets, your arm will be cramping withing mere minutes.
The sword-fighting segments, on the other hand, are actually quite a breeze to master. Your Wiimote hand controls your sword strikes and your nunchuck hand the smaller blade, which will be used mostly for parrying. You can also dodge attacks by moving left or right and holding the C button, and you’ll also learn special moves from your allies along the way; including the Hammer Strike, which is more or less a double blade stroke. And while learning the sword techniques isn’t quite as difficult as figuring out how to control your trigger hand, that doesn’t mean that your enemies won’t get any more difficult. Because they do, and you’ll probably spend a lot of time replaying several of these mini-bosses as it takes a few tries to expose their specific weaknesses.The wild card in this back-and-forth game of pros and cons are the title’s visuals, which can be either absolutely beautiful or downright fugly. The lighted environments are a wondrous sight for those expecting GameCube quality, but your expectations will eventually be met after seeing the blocky character models that inhabit it. Ultimately, this shouldn’t effect anyone’s decision to buy the game – we already know that the Wii is all about gameplay, not graphics – but it’s still worth noting for anyone who can’t accept the visual downgrade. In the end, it’s going to be damn near impossible to convince anyone that hasn’t already purchased “Red Steel” to go out and pick it up, but if you have the time, it’s certainly worth a look. Despite some minor flaws, it’s still one of the best launch titles for the Wii, and continues to show promise for the little console that could.