Reviewed on Xbox One
As far as rail shooters go, there are two that really catch my eye. The House of the Dead series, for me, stands at the very peak of the genre. Rambo: The Video Game stands at the bottom. It goes to show that just as with any genre, there is a craft in making a fun and engaging rail shooter and it’s disappointing to say that Mastiff’s Heavy Fire: Red Shadow misses the mark.
The gameplay is also flaccid in execution
Set in the near future, the generically titled game tells an equivalently generic story. Tensions between the US and North Korea are rising. The South elect a nationalist politician that pushes the US out of the country. In return, you play as a man in a machine gun hoarding down thousands upon thousands of Korean men in retaliation.
It’s obvious that Heavy Fire isn’t going to win an award for best storytelling in games, nor is it trying to. The narrative is a catalyst for shoving you into gameplay, albeit still a weak one. It’s a shame then that the gameplay is also flaccid in execution.
The best rail shooters are high-paced, have large environments to traverse with a high degree of player interaction and have an interesting variety of weapons to use. Well, Heavy Fire: Red Shadow has one of those: the first one.
The “gameplay loop” of Heavy Fire is remarkably dull. You sit in a machine gun turret with a rocket launcher haphazardly attached to your side and shoot. You shoot a lot. At vehicles and men, but mostly men. A lot of men. Some would consider it a war crime, but the men do not stop for they are not afraid of death – although they should be. You will shoot so many men that it becomes almost therapeutic, and maybe that’s Heavy Fire’s in-depth commentary on the tragedy of war, but probably not.
As a one-man army, you’ll fight through a series of dull, uninspired environments. They’re decently rendered and there are a few interactable objects like exploding barrels and the like, alongside a recreation of the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine which you can indeed explode.
As you kill the aforementioned many men you’ll unlock skill points which you can use to make yourself the US’ most dangerous killer ever. You’ll also earn points to call in supply drops, artillery strikes, infantry and the like to help you with your quest to murder. It’s all as generic and flat as this reads right now, and I wish I could say more. It’s just plain boring.
Heavy Fire: Red Shadow just needs that special something. Everything works but nothing feels good. Maybe it’s the VR mode available on PS4 and PC that Xbox players don’t have, or maybe it’s a lack of any meaningful additions outside of more skills. As it stands right now, Mastiff’s rail shooter is disappointing.
Mastiff’s attempt at designing an interesting and engaging rail shooter falls flat on Xbox One. It could be different elsewhere, especially in VR, but as a regular ‘ol console shooter it is one of the most uninspired this generation. There is a little fun to be had, but only a little, and it fails to grab you every step of the way through the entirety of its missions.