Tensions between the United States and North Korea earlier this year had the world’s collective breath in limbo, with threats of nuclear annihilation suggesting that the nuclear apocalypse could arrive sooner than we expected. The words never evolved into anything else, but after playing Heavy Fire: Red Shadow, I think we might have been given a future even worse.
Set in a future where nuclear deterrence doesn’t exist and North Korea has begun the process of Korean reunification, Heavy Fire: Red Shadow places you in the role of Sergeant Will, a soldier whose sole objective is to man a rotating machine gun turret and annihilate any troops who stand in his way. In his sights are a constant stream of North Korean soldiers with no care or regard for their own safety, often charging blindly at the turret in the hopes of getting a few shots off before they’re torn to shreds by high-caliber ammunition.
Ludicrous as the basic premise already is, Heavy Fire: Red Shadow manages to make things even worse by the bizarre decision to include Korean “kamikaze” enemies. Though there are instances of North Korean troops launching suicide attacks during the Korean War, it was predominantly a Japanese strategy, making it seem like the game views the two as interchangeable. The right-wing overtones continue in regard to the United States’ domestic situation, as a prologue sequence explains that the country has experience crippling debt because of expanded social programs – something that is absolutely not happening.
Once you get past the exposition, you’ll find that the basic gameplay of Heavy Fire: Red Shadow is simple beyond belief. Across four different stages – the game says it’s eight, but it’s just four with options for day and night – you swivel a machine gun turret and mow down wave after wave of North Korean soldiers, boats, and ground vehicles. With a rocket launcher by your side and a handful of perks that feel similar to score-streaks in Call of Duty, you can usually weasel your way out of danger, particularly because there are very few surprises over the few hours it takes to complete the campaign. You kill the enemies on the screen, you wait a few seconds, and more show up. You repeat this process for about 15 minutes until they arbitrarily decide to stop fighting you.
I played a few of the missions in the traditional television mode before trying out the PlayStation VR mode, and the latter option changes almost nothing about the experience. Yes, you are now actually sitting in the turret and looking around at the enemies you’re shooting, but you still only use a standard DualShock 4 controller that doesn’t even rumble, and you can’t move it around to reposition the turret. Worse still, enemies occasionally will try to sneak behind the turret encampment, which means you have to turn around and face the front of your couch, which PSVR was not designed to do.
Heavy Fire: Red Shadow looks like an Xbox 360 game when played on a television, but it could pass for a Nintendo 64 title in its VR mode. People, weapons, and environments become extremely pixelated (video footage and images here do not do this downgrade justice) and enemies in the distance are just about impossible to see. Worse still, this mode isn’t even included with the game. You have to pay another $10 on top of the game’s initial $20 asking price to play a mode you’re going to hate after a couple of minutes.
There were a few instances where the game glitched out and I was forced to restart an entire mission, either because an enemy wouldn’t appear or had become indestructible, but the only reason this bothered me so much is because I didn’t want to play what I just played again. Heavy Fire: Red Shadow is so repetitive and boring that I felt like I had been playing it for years after only a few hours, and for complete masochists, there’s an endless mode that throws an enormous number of enemies at you in the same locations. You’d be better spending your time doing practically anything else.
Heavy Fire: Red Shadow is short, and for once in a linear game, that’s a good thing, because I wanted to move on with my life the second I had finished playing it. Casually prejudiced, generic in nearly every way, and an absolute bore to slog through, it genuinely might be the worst game on PlayStation VR. If you’re given this as a gift, cut out that person from your life, even if they’re a blood relative. It isn’t worth it.
Heavy Fire: Red Shadow is out now on PS4 with optional paid PSVR support. The game is also listed on Steam, but its release for Rift and Vive is unknown. Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.