The Red Star is hybrid beat-em-up and top down shooter set in a futuristic Russia. The game has had somewhat of an interesting history; it was originally planned for release in late 2004 however around this time its publisher - Acclaim Entertainment went bankrupt. As a result the game was forgotten in all the chaos and sat on the shelf gathering dust for over two years. The game was destined to finally see the light of day however when XS Games picked the game up and decided to actually release it for the PS2.
When I found out about the games storied history I was sceptical about a two year old game that was being released from the back catalogue of a now defunct publisher - however, the game turns out to be very well made, an interesting blend of genres and challenging to boot.
The Red Star is based on a little known graphic novel set in a futuristic Soviet Union renamed the URRS. The game doesn't dwell on setting the scene or the story and after a few briefing text boxes and cutscenes you are thrust straight into the game.
You initially have two characters to choose from; Makita is the quick, combo heavy choice and Kyuzo is the slow moving battering ram.
As you progress the story unfolds however never seems to be the main focus of the game - not being a fan of the source material it is difficult to assess whether it is well utilised.
For a game that is essentially over 2 years old the graphics fair well - it is by no means a graphical masterpiece or even one of the prettier games on the PS2 however visuals are serviceable, glitch free and the frantic action is dealt with without any slowdown.
Both Makita and Kzuyo look and move very differently and their stock animations make the characters distinguishable. There are a wide variety of enemies which are nicely designed and fit with the futuristic industrial Soviet theme.
The game initially follows the tried and tested scrolling beat `em up format seen in games such as Streets of Rage and Final Fight. You walk left to right and hordes of enemies flood the screen to attack you. At your disposal you have a number of melee combos activated by the square button and various directions. In addition to your hand to hand prowess you also have a projectile attack in the form of a gun - useful for dealing with long range enemies. The gun must be used relatively sparingly though as if it overheats you can't use it until it has cooled. This adds a level of strategy to the game as you aren't able to stay away and gun down enemies from afar.
The game contains a wide variety of enemies in both look and how you have to tackle them - you come across some are impervious to guns, some heavily armoured and some lightning quick. As such you have to mix up your fighting style to fit the scenario.
The fighting sections of the game are very well put together and would stand up well on their own however in addition to this the games also adds in scrolling shooter elements. Suddenly mid level the view shifts and the action switches filling the screen with missiles and bullets. This often occurs when a huge boss comes into view and you are required to hit and move to gradually chip away at the bosses life bar. Generally bosses follow a set attack pattern however action is so frantic it never seems monotonous.
The game is relatively short in length and starts off pretty easy however it has one of the best implemented learning curves I have encountered in any game - the challenge does creep up with each passing level until in the final few you are facing a really difficult, but never frustrating game.
The game has decent replay value as you can go through the game with Makita, Kyuzo and a third unlockable character. A two player co-op mode is also included allowing you to plough through the game with a friend in tow.
For a game with such a chequered past, it more than lives up to expectations. It seamlessly combines two very different genres resulting in a challenging, action packed game that is well worth picking up.
Overall The Red Star gets.
7 out of 10