Heavy Fire: Red Shadow – Xbox One Review
The Blands of Iwo Jima
I’ve always enjoyed the interludes in shooters which place you in a gun turret; likewise I’ve always wondered whether it would work as a full game. It seems the team at Anshar Studios have been thinking the same way as they’ve just released turret shooter Heavy Fire: Red Shadow.
Following some nonsensical exposition about a conflict with North Korea, Heavy Fire sits you firmly in the seat of your turret and lets you get on with the shooting. You’ll stay in that turret throughout the games eight levels, firing thousands of bullets at faceless bad guys; rocket specialists, kamikaze runners (basically, suicide bombers – mostly on foot, some in vehicles), riflemen, pontoons and battleships. Note the absence of airborne opponents – there’s no threat from the skies here which seems a strange omission, particularly as you will unlock the option of air support for yourself.
Those eight levels are really four. Each area has a night and day mode which, apart from some nice lighting effects at night, are not discernibly different. It’s a pretty cheap way to prolong the game, and the lack of variety to both gameplay and setting wears thin pretty quickly.
In each area, you’ll be besieged by invaders who come in waves; survive a few waves and you’ll hit a checkpoint. Clear three checkpoints and you’ll unlock the next stage. Success is accompanied by promotions which allow you to buy upgrades. By upgrading your support options, your rocket launcher, your machine gun and your supply drops you can become all but invincible. The AI, and the methods of the AI, really don’t change as you progress. This completely reverses the learning and difficulty curve, meaning that the more you progress, the easier Heavy Fire becomes.
I earned the achievement for unlocking all upgrades in the second area (third level) which meant I had better health, explosive rockets, abundant supply drops and a machine gun that never needed reloading. Since the AI didn’t adapt and the difficulty level didn’t increase, I became a killing machine. A monotonous, bored, killing machine. The challenge presented by the first level quickly evaporates as you upgrade; I only stopped firing my machine gun to fire rockets, and if you’re patient enough to wait for the timer to allow your periodic air strikes and chopper support to appear, you’re in God mode.
Not great right? Well, we haven’t gotten to the bugs yet. No, it’s not Starship Troopers DLC (that would be awesome though), we’re talking bad bugs. Game killers. On at least four occasions I completed a wave, but nothing happened. Presumably, one of the faceless minions who had been running towards my seat of death was stuck in the scenery somewhere but my targeting reticule didn’t indicate the presence of any more bad guys. So after a few minutes of patiently blasting away at scenery, I had to reboot.
And about that scenery – the game features partially destructible environments, but they have little or no impact on the gameplay. It looks cools to blow up buildings admittedly, but the impact is soured when riflemen keep climbing the same building to take pot-shots at you. Likewise, the destruction has no impact on the invaders; debris just bounces off and flaming cars you’ve shot into the air just pass them by.
Completing the game should take one rainy afternoon. The 1000 game score available should be within your reach in one playthrough, but for the dedicated achievement hunters an ‘endless’ mode unlocks on completion. This is just more of the same without checkpoints, but if you really want the ‘kill 30,000 invaders’ or ‘fire 1000 rockets’ achievements, you might need to spend a bit of time here to mop up.
I wasn’t surprised to discover that Heavy Fire was playable in VR. It doesn’t excuse the games bugs, or repetitive nature, but I’d guess it might be a bit more fun with a headset on. On Xbox, it’s lacklustre, unimaginative and a bit of a missed opportunity. If it appears on Game Pass or Gold, it might entertain you for an evening, but at full price, it’s hard to recommend to all but the thirstiest of achievement hunters.
Many thanks to One PR Studio for the review code.