Years ago, when the quarter still ruled the world of video gaming, rail shooters where a small, yet fierce breed. Now, not so much. If you’re lucky enough to stumble on an arcade with some newer games you’ll find a lot of notable improvements. Ghostbusters, Walking Dead, even Tomb Raider now have their own respected machines. Which I wouldn’t say reinvent the genre, but at very least add something new to an old favorite. Even if you happen to see a Revolution X cabinet in the wild, I’d say you’d get your 50¢ worth. And it's in that very fine tradition that the Heavy Fire series has lasted.
Heavy Fire: Red Shadow is the fifth game in the series. The first game, Heavy Fire: Special Operations came out more than eight years ago to a less than stellar reception. And to give credit where it’s deserved, the developers in those games used any and all tools at their disposal. Releasing games on multiple platforms including the Nintendo Wii and 3DS, later including use of the PlayStation Move controllers on the PS3; the series has tried to create something special in all their releases. Now they have introduced the PlayStation VR into their series, a bold move, that like the previous titles stumbles.
Off the top, the game isn’t really pretty. The models are clunky and dated. Akin to PS2 models, shoulders and elbows look more like daggers jolting out of bodies and the textures seem very morphed. Even the rendered cutscenes are very simple but have an overall lackluster appearance. The environmental destruction is pretty satisfying, in later levels gasoline barrels, buildings, cars all the usual suspects are very much susceptible to gunfire, even if they don’t look all that great before or after the fact.
The voice acting is also something else. It’s just campy; and I say that as a fan of Steven Seagal films, all of them, even the one with Ja Rule. This voice overs just walk a line of trying too hard and not caring enough. The opening monologue are so very easy to zone out of, and that’s the major arch of the entire game right there.
That story is, well, forgettable. Something-something, North Korea, something something here's a gun soldier. Again, I enjoy films like Marked for Death and can remember, off the top of my head no less, the main villain, it was Screwface. But I can’t remember why I’m mowing down hundreds of men other than, they’re bad, I think?
As for the gameplay, unlike the previous titles in Heavy Fire, your locked into a mounted machine gun, able to turn 360 degrees, however most the action will be directly in front or just to the left or right of you. Again, it was sad to see some of the cooler moments of previous games, such as running directly into a firefight, completely missing, instead being stuck in a single position. The game also only uses the controller, so you don’t even get the satisfaction of submersive gameplay to aim, but rather moving your thumbs around and holding R2.
By far the most egregious element to this game is the the levels. 8 stages where you kill 15 waves of bad guys. That’s every mission. 15, no more no less. There are a few side-missions but nothing more than kill streaks and using your rockets, which for the record I have no idea were the rockets shoot from they just kinda go. It’s mind numbing by the half-way mark.
There is an RPG element to the game! You can upgrade your machine guns, rockets and supply drops. And rather quickly you can unlock perk to regenerate life, which after you do pretty much breaks the game. You are now invincible. You can’t die and you’re stuck shooting wave after wave after wave of hard to see blocky spots for a war in which you have no idea why you are fighting. Makes it seem rather poetic when put that way.
I will give the game some credit. It’s a simple game, with simple elements that will appeal to a very young audience. Easy to play, hard to die. But, that said, the game is rated for a teen audience.
Final score: 3 out of 10
A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of review.