The Red Star
Blast evildoers to kingdom come in XS Games' mindless shooter.
Sometimes the last thing you want to dwell on in a video game is the plot. Instead, it's best to check your brain at the door and let your trigger finger do the talking. It's here that The Red Star makes itself at home, providing lots of insane shooting action for a bargain price.
The game is loosely based on the comic book of the same name (as was the PS2 game before it), following three members of the United Republics of the Red Star (U.R.R.S.) as they battle the villainous Troika, who's looking to restore Russia back to its tyrannical glory. You'll choose from one of three gun-toting characters and battle the odds, ranging from heavily armored soldiers to large warships.
If you've played the PS2 version, you'll know what to expect from the downloadable PSP edition. The Red Star doesn't contain extra features or modes. It's simply a straight-up port. While it would've been nice to add new goodies to the package, we're happy that XS Games didn't remove anything. There are several stages of shooting and hacking, with no shortage of enemies looking to do you in.
That said, this is an outstanding port. The graphics look just as good as they did back on the PS2, complete with spiffy lighting effects (like with the giant warship in the first stage) and loads of frenetic scenarios to memorize and complete. The rest of the presentation is pretty basic, but at least it's loyal to the original comic book's tone. The music isn't bad either, with a good selection of rock tunes mixed with war themes.
The gameplay is the real hook. You'll have lots of fun slicing your way through soldiers with up-close combos and shooting them from a distance with your gun. Varying between the two is rather easy, and you can activate a shield should the incoming gunfire become too much to bear. The only negative we experienced with the controls is the lock-on feature. In order to focus on an enemy, they need to be right in front of you. Not within your range, not around your side, but right there, face to face, as they prepare to mow you down with a cannon. You'd think that XS Games would make this a little more forgiving, especially in the tougher stages.
Red Star gives you a lot to do for a few hours, and even though it lacks extra content, it's fun to go through with each of the characters and obliterate everything. Online scoreboards would've been nice, and you have to go through the whole thing on your own, as there's no co-op support. Still, that's the way the original game worked, so no big loss.
For $14.99, The Red Star is a good deal, especially if you enjoy shooters. No, it doesn't include bonus content or allow you to hook up with a friend via AdHoc. Nevertheless, it's a blast to play, and probably the most fun we've had with video game Russians, outside of performing spinning piledrivers with Zangief.
What's Hot: Gameplay works well on the PSP, graphics and sound were perfectly carried over from the PS2 version, $15 is cheap compared to other downloadable games.
What's Not: No two-player mode, no new content added to the PSP version, finicky lock-on system.