While previous games in the Heavy Fire series have been on-rails shooters a tiny bit (but not exactly) like a non-gun controller version of Time Crisis with a whiff of modern military shooters set in fictional locations based on real word military hot zones, Heavy Fire: Red Shadow ($19.99) is more than a little reminiscent of the arcade version of Beach Head 2000. For those with short memories (or those who’ve never played that older game), it was a fixed turret shooter where you mowed down enemy troops and vehicles, blasted planes out of the sky and pretty much laid waste to as much as you could in a 360 degree radius until you were overrun (or just ran out of credits). While a bit on the shallow side in terms of gameplay depth, this latest installment packs in enough stress relieving bang for the buck that keeps it replayable.
Well, provided you don’t mind dealing with a few troubling bugs that really need patching.
That said, I’d gather that some fans of the series from its beginnings as digital titles on the Nintendo 3DS may be disappointed in this because of the lack of co-op play, which a game such as this kind of needs to spread the fun past one’s home. You do get PSVR support in the retail packaged version that adds some “in your face” moments (usually in those moments when you’re yelling exactly that to some enemies on the receiving end of whatever ordinance you’re blasting or calling down on them). But those plain-ish visuals tend to get a bit mushy in VR compared to other games using the format. Granted, it’s not supposed to be a “great” game in that way some games become “instant classics” these days. But, if you just love all sorts of digital pyrotechnics and can bear the bugs, step on up and have a seat – it’s your turn at the turret.
There’s a straightforward story here, but all you really need to know is there’s an invasion force that has to be fended off using that machine gun/rocket launcher armed turret from a few different locations (4 day and night level variants) that yes, misses the opportunity for rail shooter maps that could have led to the combat played here. It’s a shame about the loss of those on-foot sections (as well as the potential for rail shooter vehicle stages) because the game has a RPG-like experience and money earning system that allows you to gain ranks and upgrade your weapons and skills as you play. Action is generally frantic, but the ability to deploy a small squad, call down air strikes, supply drops and gain other assistance add a hint of depth the game really needs.
As fun as all that cathartic screen clearing gets, some old issues get in the way with some enemies and vehicles getting too bullet spongy, shots that seem to hit or miss randomly at close range, and the occasional optional mission that’s easy to fail because you’re taking on too much to handle. The most annoying bug tends to ruin the experience outright, though. There’s a spawning/path finding issue where sometimes the last enemy on a map gets trapped in a location you can’t shoot, so you end up wasting time blasting every object in sight praying to whomever you score that kill. As you can imagine, this drags a level out and crushes any fun one may be having like am egg rolled under a charging elephant. Oh, and those indestructible palm trees do not help one bit.
Granted, you can also play a bit lazier and keep dying and retrying by simply sweeping the targeting reticule all over the screen. But that’s really a more boring way to do this whole protecting the shoreline (and I’m sure that virtual drill sergeant in your head will be screaming at you at some point for improper use of a fake firearm). There’s an Endless mode here as well, and it ups the challenge, allowing you to pick a map and have at it until you’re overrun. Other than leaderboards, there’s no online support at all, but it would be cool to see the next installment return to co-op play and maybe some sort of reliable online play (any lag would make for a lousier game, so maybe that’s not in the cards) as well as the return of some sort of rail-based on foot and vehicle stages.
As with any casual play arcade game such as this, your mileage will vary. If you know what you’re getting into and like what you see, there’s a good chance you’ll be all aboard this train. There’s a free demo up on PSN for everyone else to make up their minds. With that said, I’m going to go blow a few more bad guys up with a pair of good headphones on and call it a night. For all the bloodless mayhem and buggy stuff, this is actually somewhat… relaxing?
Score C- (65%)
-Review copy provided by the publisher