The Heavy Fire series has seen several releases on numerous platforms for almost a decade now. Heavy Fire: Red Shadow is the latest game in this series and is a stationary first-person shooter as opposed to the more on-rails presentation of the other titles. Although it provides some mindless entertainment in short bursts, the lack of replayability and general housekeeping stagger the entire experience.
Playing as a gun turret, the goal is to shoot anything that moves using a machine gun, rockets, and calling in support while surviving until the end of the wave. There is a story, something about Korea being the bad guys, but the light narrative presentation isn’t important when there are troops to kill and trucks to blow up. Using the right analog stick, the player can aim precise movements of the gun whereas the left stick makes the gun rotate faster. I personally found the default cursor settings to move too slowly but was able to speed up movement in the options screen but the rest of the control is easy to use and makes efficient use of the shoulder and triggers. The right trigger shoots, right bumper launches the limited supply of missiles, whereas the left trigger zooms in and the left bumper calls in support. Once enough points are earned, the player can tap the left bumper to call in troops, supplies, an air strike, or chopper support. While it doesn’t take much to call in supplies, foot soldier support is pretty much pointless as they get killed instantly, but the chopper support is handy but takes a while to save enough points to activate.
The gimmick behind Red Shadow, unlike other FPS titles, is the ability to gain new perks to make shooting the red army easier. Using the experience points gained from destroying the enemy, the player can upgrade numerous perks to become an eventual unstoppable killing machine. For example, the player can eventually unlock the ability to shoot stronger bullets, never have to reload, and slowly regain health. The good news is, even when the player dies, they keep all experience points and perks and continue at the exact wave where they got game over. This friendly feature prevents needless grinding and helps to reduce frustration; this is a welcomed game design choice.
Unfortunately, after the first couple stages, the player will experience everything the game has to offer as enemies never change and the player eventually grows stronger to out power them. This repetition makes this game boring and even unbalanced. By the end, the player will be able to steam roll pretty much anything that comes your way. At the same time, more so during the earlier stages, there are times when the player gets totally overwhelmed within the first few seconds of starting a wave never being able to stand a chance. But since the game retains experience and perks, I was eventually able to overcome these sharp difficulty spikes.
There is no question that this is a one-trick pony action game but there are so many small details, or lack thereof, that hold everything back. For example, the player has to watch the lame opening cutscene every time the game is booted up. The voice announcer during the game yells the same lines at the player over and over. The scream of the kamikaze soldiers is more annoying than the enemies in Serious Sam. It took me forever to realize there were additional perks to unlock by scrolling the screen to the right as the game does a poor job to indicate this. The end cutscene is the same whether you beat the stage or die; the final ending cutscene once the game is completed is also a let down. There is a scoring system but there is no leaderboard whatsoever, giving this game zero replayability. The side missions, in which the player can earn additional experience points, often do not make sense – how can the player kill three enemies with rockets when rockets are depleted with no way of getting more? Or how can the player kill multiple enemies with headshots when there is only one enemy left? Sometimes, during the very end of the wave, a single enemy can get stuck in the back of the environment so there is no way to kill him to active the end of the stage. There is bad pop-in as each stage loads. Some stages feature background elements that are interactive, like houses that can be cut down with the machine gun, but things that get in the way, like trees or benches, cannot be destroyed.
Heavy Fire: Red Shadow can provide some action-based entertainment for the first twenty minutes of gameplay, and it seems like the RPG upgrading features would give it legs, but ultimately falls short of the mark. With no incentive to perform better, like aiming to hit higher on a leaderboard, shooting secrets in the background, or the complete lack of multiplayer, there are many other action games better than Red Shadow despite it probably being the best game in this lightgun-style series.
Not As Good As: Let Them Come
Also Try: Toy Soldiers
Wait For It: any Asian country to invade the US (they are going to sneak in through Alaska)