The Red Star
The Red Star, based on the so-called comic book series, hasn’t really got a joyful past. The game was announced in 2004 on PlayStation 2, Xbox and Gamecube, but went down with Publisher Acclaim into the world of bankruptcy in that same year. Last year the PS2-version got picked up by XS Games. After laying under a good pile of dust for a while, it got a full revision from the new developer, which finally lead to a release this year. A good choice to save this game out of the empire of the dead or should they have just let it rot?
The story is far from simple. Were the writers this drunk while writing, or was I so drunk that I could not understand it? The many Russian names as Konstantinov and Taktarov didn’t really make it easier. Anyway, it soon becomes clear that the story isn’t really that important in the game. What you need to know is that you find yourself in an alternative USSR, the URRS (United Republics of the Red Star) to be precise, and the situation there doesn’t look too good, not to say it looks utterly crappy. Of course you want everything back the way it was, but to do that you have to get through all the enemy rebels.
The Red Star is a “from-left-to-right”-shooter (thus, sidescrolling) with the fast, brute action as we know it from earlier days. Basically this means the levels are filled with loads of enemies coming towards you. In every chapter you meet a couple of bosses, where the game switches to a top-down-view and where hundreds of bullets get shot at you. That’s the time to keep the head cool, find a pattern in the spraying of bullets and act as a man with your own arsenal of distant- and melee-weapons.
In the beginning you can choose from two characters: Kyuzo and Makita. You have to play the complete game with the character you chose in the beginning, so pick wisely! When taking for Makita you get a nice, slim lady trusting on her speed, while Kyuzo is a big, fat bad-ass-Rambo. Both characters play completely different. Makita rushes through the levels and evades bullets easily, but she doesn’t deal a lot of damage. Kyuzo however is a bit slower and heavier, but he can easily pierce an opponent on his sword after which he smacks the enemy against his allies.
After completing the game you can choose another character; Maya. She relies on magical attacks. All characters have different melee-combos and can buy, when a level has come to an end and accordingly to how well they played, new weapons, upgrades and improve all sorts of other attributes, such as healthpoints or defence.
The fast action the game has to offer is really fun and shows its full addictiveness when you know all the combos by heart and link them with secure precision. There is a little shortcoming though; there aren’t that many combos, and you will probably use the same quite a lot. The developers could definitely put some more effort in this part. This game is just begging for lots of insane ways to eliminate your enemies. When they do give you the opportunity to buy new weapons, why not program some more moves as well?
The game also features a co-op multiplayer mode for a maximum of two players, following the same storyline and the same levels as the singleplayer campaign, but this time you.. play with two players! The computerized enemies get stronger in this mode to compensate the stronger position of the gamers. By adding the teamplay-element the game proves to be even more fun, but now and then, especially in boss battles where they – sometimes literally – crank up the heat, the framerate drops to a somewhat unpleasant level. This, however, is far from being unplayable or disturbing.
You don’t have to expect anyhing life-shocking when looking at the graphics or audio, but there’s nothing to comment on either. This late-generation PS2-title can at no means be compared to the beauty of a next-gen console but for a PS2-title it looks more than decent. While playing, a simple rhythmic tune guides you through the level, but most of the time that gets supressed by the sound of bullets, explosions and screaming of your character.
The Red Star is more than a pleasant surprise. It’s one of those games that won’t have a lot of owners due to a lack of publicity, but those that do own it will be glad. The simple concept is that what makes it fun. The game itself isn’t that simple though; thanks to a rather high difficulty you can play this game for quite a while, and because of the different playstyle of the characters this game begs for at least one replay. Seen that it has a very appealing budget price, this game is a reason to get our PS2 out of the attic once again.