Some may remember posters and standees at the local video game store for the Red Star over a year ago. Sadly this was the last game Akklaim almost finished. For whatever reason the company folded without completing the title, but thankfully, XS games picked up, and released it for the PS2.
Based on the comic created by Christian Gosset, the Red Star is a story about an alternate future where Russia, the URRS, through superior technology and 'military industrial sorcery' is the current world super power. However, the Republic finds itself in a state of civil war. Whether playing the single player or cooperative mode, players take on the roll of Kyuzo: large, slow, and heavy hitting, or Makita: the more agile Nokgorken Rebel, and attempt to bring down the Dark Lord Imbohl.
Essentially a shooter, the Red Star crosses genres with the addition of melee attacks to break up the barrage of bullets. In fact, several enemies can't be hurt by weapons fire because of their shields, and must be attacked hand to hand. As a shooter, the game does provide some nice bullet patterns and multiple and upgradeable weapons exclusive to the characters. As an adventure game, the combo attacks are just plain fun, especially when slamming those pesky peons that run away after sucker punching you. The addition of a third type of attack: Protocol, a powerful mind attack specific to each character, lets you quickly eliminate small groups, or at least make a good dent in a boss.
At the end of every level, you are rated on how well you performed. These ratings are important because with them come points: points you spend on upgrades for everything from new weapons, gun cooling (they do overheat), and even the ability to drain life from opponents with melee attacks. The prices of upgrades vary, and all upgrades have multiple levels for even greater points cost. This means players can't make a purchase every level, and must save up if they want to max out their character. Beating the game unlocks a third playable character, Maya, and opens up an arena mode that plays like a tribute to Smash TV. Thankfully, the game can be re-played after completion with the same character(s): their stats and upgrades intact.
Nothing all too special graphics wise, but for a shooter that is confined to the ground, the environments are quite dynamic for such open areas. Some decent fire effects and shifting camera views makes it a pleasure to play. That being said, the lack of voice acting and cut-scene animations is inexcusable. Even more surprising is the loading times between levels. They are horrendous considering it's just the level that's loading: no new sounds, no videos.
The controls become nice and intuitive after a while. A lock-on function makes it easy to specifically target an individual within a large group. This lets you pick off the annoying mortar operators before dealing with the sword wielding baddies. A personal shield is also nice when overwhelmed with bullets.
The Red Star is not a hard game to progress far, but to beat takes serious commitment. The bosses especially have near unavoidable bullet patterns, making the slower Kyuzo more prone for punishment in the later levels of the game. What makes this game great is how well it crosses genres. Fans of shooters will love the upgradeable weapons and devastating protocol attacks, while those who love to hack and slash, will be tickled pink when they get in there and impale the enemy, throwing them into their comrades before moving on to the next.
The big problem with this game is the loading times. Because of them, most people will pay no attention to the storyline as they will be preoccupied with just hammering the X button in order to get through the next loading screen. Thankfully the story isn't that important, and its shortcomings are made up for with some stellar gameplay. The twenty dollar price tag seals it with this game. For a new game that will take up that much of your time, and is, frankly, that much fun to play, there is little reason not to have it.