Without a doubt, my favorite genre has to be light gun games. Something about the arcade pace, over the top action and brilliant peripheral, just gels together to create an experience that, for me, cannot be beat. However, without that vital peripheral the whole thing falls apart. While it’s far from the only lackluster thing about Heavy Fire: Red Shadow, I found myself wishing I could use a light gun almost immediately. A version is available for PSVR, which I’m sure would help in this regard, but as the header shows this is not the place for that.
Initial impressions are a mixed bag. Bare bones menus lead to a Tom Clancy-alike knockoff story cinematic about some war or other. It’s both generically written and entirely forgettable. Thankfully, it’s also brief. Once the gameplay starts, things initially go on the upswing. You control a stationary turret, able to spin a full 360 degrees of movement. A heavy machine gun alongside rockets are at your disposal to cut down the swarms of soldiers coming your way.
As you do so, perks can be unlocked in order to increase the likes of damage done, or boost your rocket’s speed, so on and so forth. It doesn’t take long at all for you to feel too powerful however, between eliminating the need for reloading your machine gun and lessening the recoil, the gameplay soon boils down to holding RT and ‘painting’ the screen back and forth. The novelty soon wears off of being an all powerful being, leading to vast stretches of play where you barely need to even pay attention.
And what vast stretches they are. Levels are split into separate day/night scenarios, each with several stages to clear, which are further broken down into multiple waves. Early ones pass fairly quickly (especially with the aforementioned upgrades), but soon, waves are far outstaying their welcome. Aside from throwing simply more troops at you, nothing changes between stages. The only really troublesome foes come in the form of suicide-vest chargers, as once they get close it can be hard to see them, but even then, it’ll take several to make a dent in your health.
A threat indicator on your reticle shows the rough location of troops, so turning that way and firing blindly will often do the job. There are also reinforcements unlockable as you take down enemies; a bar filling up will grant you supply drops at first, but let it fill more and you can get more powerful help. The final attack chopper is vastly overpowered even before any upgrades – it’s worth the wait unless you need a health drop.
Occasionally you’ll rapidly and unceremoniously die, the screen fading to black with no fan-fare. But a quick reload of the recent stage (only the waves within stages must be replayed, thankfully) and it’s back to business. That’s if you want to go back. Short play sessions are definitely best, but even then, repetition sets in quickly. Some set piece fights of something to mix things up would go a long way, but as it is, fighting the same foes over and over (and over) just highlights how dull the gameplay quickly becomes.
On paper, Heavy Fire: Red Shadow seems appealing, but the reality is a somewhat dull, underwhelming experience that very quickly makes its own gameplay boring by making you too powerful and by not providing any new challenge. There’s a strong feel of early access, which would be fine if the game was released in that pool, as a full release however, there’s just not enough here to recommend.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.