Before we dive into this review, a quick disclaimer: I love old school retro games. I mean, like a lot. If asked, I’d still rate the original Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy 2 and Gran Turismo among the best games ever made. Period. In case you’re wondering, these games were huge when ‘internet’ was something you got at the hairdressers. So when we heard of Mastiff’s homage to the old school in the shape of Heavy Fire: Red Shadow, I’ve got to admit I was grinning and rubbing my hands together like a randy uncle at a family wedding. Flash forward two weeks and the picture’s a little different. It’s not that Heavy Fire: Red Shadow is a bad game that gets things wrong, it’s just that, after nearly 14 days hammering away at the controllers, I was left with a decidedly ‘meah’ feeling. The word ‘vanilla’ came to mind, but we can’t just use that as a review and say job done.
So here’s a break down; Heavy Fire: Red Shadow is an arcade-style war game that involves some sort of political twoing and froing between the US and North Korea. Inevitably the sabre rattling eventually leads to a declaration of war and an open invasion. In Heavy Fire: Red Shadow you’re playing as a solder tasked with repelling invaders from a gun emplacement. Basically your orders are to shoot anything that moves. You can swivel your gun turret 360 degrees which is pretty handy as the enemy has a habit of swarming in from all directions. Your choice of weapon is fairly limited, although you do have access to missiles to destroy boats as they deliver more cannon fodder.
The game kicks off with a training mission of sorts that has an angry drill sergeant walking you through your paces. There are several side missions that pop up occasionally and usually involve you having to shoot a set number of soldiers in a given time in order to collect a reward. There are a total of eight missions in the campaign mode set in four different locations which all pretty much feature the same basic premise. If you get restless playing the campaign mode, you also have the option to try your hand at the endless mode, which, as it sounds, features you trying to gain top spot on the leader board by holding off as many enemy waves as possible. Heavy Fire: Red Shadow does reward constant gameplay with some 30 or so unlockable field promotions which will allow you to upgrade your gun, rocket launcher, health etc.
All of this sounds great on paper, but we were slightly disappointed by the games lack of variety. Sure you can call in air support now and then. And, if you hit the right crates, you can boost your health or get a handful of friendly soldiers to help you wipe out the invading soldiers. But the truth is, most of this is usually found in larger games as an entertaining side mission.
Graphically, Heavy Fire: Red Shadow does what it says on the tin. The visuals are fine. Not terrible, but not great either. The colours are muted, there’s very little detail on offer when looking at enemy soldiers and everything just has that functional feel about it. Audio-wise, however, Mastiff do a great job in recreating the sounds of battle with meaty explosions, the sound of constant machine gun fire and a suitably unpleasant drill sergeant barking orders (or in some cases congratulations) at you from a hidden location.
Heavy Fire: Red Shadow is a game that can easily suck up hours of your time before you even notice that you haven’t eaten for two days. The levels are very long and get progressively harder and harder the longer you play. Luckily there are plenty of checkpoints which mean you avoid having to replay the level from scratch the moment you get overwhelmed and die.
All in in Heavy Fire: Red Shadow is an entertaining game that will satisfy your arcade old school craving without overtasking your grey matter. It won’t revolutionise gaming, but it’ll keep you hammering away at your controls for hours. Marred by repetitive game play and mediocre graphics, Heavy Fire: Red Shadow gets a school report review: good but could do better.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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