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The Red Star
  opened by paleface at 05:07:38 11/26/07  
  last modified by paleface at 05:15:33 11/26/07  
  paleface [sys=PS2; cat=Shooter_4way; loc=NA]
The Red Star had a difficult development period, skipping publishers until it finally ended up with budget publisher XS Games. They got it out the door, at least, and the result is nostalgic shooter/beat-em-up hybrid with some surprisingly good points, and some rough edges.
You control a character running around in a 3D isometric view. You have shooting, melee, and special move ("bomb" type) attacks, and will need to make frequent use of these against the many grunts and bosses you'll face, who come in from every direction.
Generally I don't mind repetitive fighting in beat-em-ups, but there really isn't a whole lot of variety to the hand-to-hand combat here, although each of the two-to-four (I think? several at least are unlockable) playable characters has different attacks. The most annoying part, maybe, is that you often knock them down without killing them, and then have to wait for them to get up so you can finish them off.
The shooting seems a little more solid, and harkens back to classic 2D shooter gameplay, although you can spin and fire in any direction. You get a few different weapons for each character as you go, and can upgrade them in power, or instead spend your earned money on stat boosts or helpful tools for your character. Anyway, you can spin and shoot, and lock on to individual targets if you like, so you can dodge while keeping them in your crosshairs. The frequent boss battles have you dodging various bullet patterns, and although these aren't usually as hard as you'll encounter in a regular arcade-style 2D scrolling shooter (the first boss' bullets are pretty darn reminiscent of Ikaruga (see entry 129), for instance), they at least require you to dodge around a bit.
It's obvious that a lot of effort went into the boss sequences. The standard level grind in between isn't nearly as interesting, for the most part, although it is surprisingly lengthy for a shooter. But mostly you're just battering the same guys over and over again, and most of them aren't all that interesting to begin with.
They don't tend to look so hot, either. It's funny, because the game has flashes of graphical brilliance, including nice depth of field, portal rendering, some sparkle and flash effects, and menus with a very slick Neo-Communist (something to do with the story set in a futuristic Soviet Union or something...I forget, really) style; the framerate also stays pretty nice and high throughout ( far as I recall, anyway). On the other hand, too-frequent use is made of ugly dithering effects to substitute for true transparencies, there's no anti-aliasing to speak of, most of the environments lack variety and detail, and the enemies tend to be pretty darn blocky--so blocky that in some cases you can hardly tell what they're supposed to look like.
The main thing that kind of spoiled the experience for me, though, was a nasty bug my friend and I ran into during our first and only co-op playthrough: eventually, we found that we were invulnerable; for some reason, the game had forgotten that it was supposed to reduce our health meters when we got hit. Short term: kind of neat; long term: a bummer.
I'd like to play through it single-player some time, and hopefully that mode will be a little better tested, and less buggy. You do unlock an extra character or two after playing through, and I seem to recall that there's some kind of arcadish arena mode thing where you can blast lots of enemies quickly for points or just the heck of it.
There need to be more simple, twitch-based, co-op, pure action games with the sort of depth, style and invention seen here, but they also need to be a little better produced. I suppose neither of those is likely to happen in large quantities anyway, so we might as well just be a little thankful that The Red Star managed to come out at all, no doubt after losing hundreds of thousands of dollars, crushing dreams, and probably costing some people some jobs. Such is the joy of the game industry.
  paleface 05:13:24 11/26/07
Download added: 01_story.jpg (20210 bytes)
  "The story isn't that thrilling, but the menu presentation looks nice."
Ohh, yeah, your guns will overheat when fired too frequently. You can buy upgrades to reduce how frequently they overheat, but really, who thinks sitting around waiting for your gun to cool down is fun? Commies, I guess.

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