The Heavy Fire franchise, which quickly received a couple of entries back in 2010 and 2011, is back with Heavy Fire: Red Shadow. Available this month on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC, it’s the first game in the series to support VR – which is why we hooked up a Playstation VR headset to go hands on with the game.
I’ve always enjoyed first person arcade shooters, dating back to the days of Operation Wolf with its machine gun that was mounted on the cabinet. While that game still used 2D sprites and sideways scrolling levels, it wasn’t that much later that we got Virtua Cop, and eventually House of the Dead and Time Crisis became staples of the genre in 3D. And yes, I even enjoyed the full motion videos approach to the genre, with games like Mad Dog McCree. Because they were all “on rails”, they allowed for great visuals that just weren’t technically possible if you had to account for player movement.
As time progressed and the gaming experience moved into people’s homes, the genre more of less faded away, but at least motion controllers have allowed us to play the likes of House of the Dead and Time Crisis within the comforts of our living room. And every now and then, a new shooter will attempt to reignite that flame – Heavy Fire being one of them.
In Red Shadow, the conflict between the US and North Korea has escalated to the point of armed conflict, and you assume the role of a sergeant who has just survived a missile attack and goes on a solo rampage against pretty much all of the armed forces in North Korea. You can regularly request backup through things like aircraft and helicopter strikes, but you’re mostly on your own. The story is pretty silly and evokes memories of over the top 80s movies – like a B-movie version of Rambo, if you will.
In terms of gameplay, Heavy Fire: Red Shadow sticks to a familiar recipe. As with the previous games in the franchise, you’re stationary while shooting, making this a wave shooter rather than an on-rails shooter. Although wave shooters can definitely work in VR and we’ve had a few examples of this already, I thought this was a missed opportunity, as I always thought the Heavy Fire franchise had the potential to be more like the on rails sections of a Call of Duty campaign.
Since you’re stuck in one place and just shooting wave after wave of enemies without the background changing or surprising twists and turns, things tend to get repetitive after a while. Things quickly get frantic and explosive, but Heavy Fire is best enjoyed in short bursts. In the longer run, you also unlock skill points that allow you to boost your attributes and make you into an ever better killing machine.
Despite nice graphics for a VR shooting gallery/wave shooter-type game, Heavy Fire: Red Shadow remains fairly generic in its formula, story and gameplay. It’s a fun little mindless shooter and the basic gameplay works just fine, but it’s nothing more than that. It does feature Playstation Aim support though, which is a great excuse to dust off that excellent controller for a gameplay session that mimics the arcade experience of old. Hopefully the Heavy Fire series will evolve into something a little more ambitious with the next entry, as for now we’re stuck with short-lived shooting fun that doesn’t stand out from the crowd, with VR support as its saving grace.