By: Justin Redmon
Takedown: Red Sabre is a throwback to the intense tactical shooters that used to dominate the scene, bypassing the bullet sponge mechanics most modern shooters use to craft a more serious title where every bullet counts and even the simplest mistakes can spell absolute disaster. It’s admirable what Serellan attempted, but Takedown: Red Sabre misses the mark by such a wide margin that it’s hard to say whether or not it was even worth the effort. What’s there is an experience that disappoints from start to finish, ultimately feeling more like a kick in the pants rather than a return to glory.
A tactical shooter has to have good controls, right? Takedown, however, fails on all fronts, with movement, gunplay, and even item and squad management biting the bullet. Controls feel sluggish and unwieldy, making something as simple as aiming a gun a struggle that will often leave you on the floor screaming in anger.
The tutorial for Takedown is a complete joke, as rather than tell you anything, it leaves you to your own devices on a Killhouse-esque starter mission with you monkeying around to figure out the convoluted controls yourself. Even when you do get the hang of it, nothing feels right, and weird setups like having to switch through your entire inventory one by one every time you want to change an item will leave you confused, frustrated, and more than likely dead.
When it comes to looks, Red Sabre tries to get away with way too much. In a move to make Takedown more tactical a minimal HUD was adopted, bereft of almost anything besides an ammo indicator, movement state, and the odd button prompt that pops up. The trouble is it’s just not enough. Things like objectives aren’t clearly marked most of the time, so first-time players will more than likely stumble past without much care (if they can even find them in the first place).
Other than objective markets, horrible texture quality abounds, not only in the environment, but right up in your face on your character models’ hands as well your AI squad mates’ entire bodies. Grenade explosions are almost laughably bad, but not as bad as the animation breaching charges use when taking down doors, which seem to disintegrate in a puff of smoke rather than break apart.
Enemies move like robots, as does your squad, snapping to attention at odd intervals. It’d honestly be hilarious if it weren’t for their tendency to blend in with certain environments, creating situations where you’ll hear gunfire and bullets pinging off objects around you, but you sure as hell won’t be able to see them.
If there’s one thing I can say nice about Takedown is that its guns sound alright; the shotgun especially has a satisfying boom to it. Other than that, Takedown disappoints and frustrates at every turn.
The game tries to bring back the slow, methodical room clearing of games like Rainbow Six and the like. Bullets hurt way more than they do in other games, so paying attention to your surroundings and having good communication is the only way to go, as the smallest of mistakes can leave you dead.
Since you’ll be dying a lot, a nice feature implemented is that getting taken out lets you respawn as one of your squad mates, giving you more chances before calling it quits on a mission. Unfortunately, this option ends up being somewhat irrelevant since enemies shooting at you are probably shooting at your team, too, so multiple kills can happen while you’re waiting to get back into the game.
Before hopping into one of five missions, you can kit out your player with different guns, ammo, and armor to change your role in the mission. It’s a novel addition, albeit somewhat confusing due to a mess of menus that make switching guns and classes unreliable.
Takedown implements three different co-op modes (Mission, Tango Hunt and Bomb Disarm) and three different versus modes (Team Deathmatch, Attack/Defend and Bomb Disarm) that eschew the tactical style for a more standard shooter experience, something that feels a little weird given Takedown’s theme. Even when everything comes together though, gears tend to grind quite heavily, and all the options in the world don’t make this an enjoyable experience.
First and foremost, the AI is brain dead. Enemy combatants vary wildly. Sometimes they’re the world’s worst shot, spraying bullets without a care in the world, and others they’re Han Solo, snap firing from the hip with insta-kill bullets. At the worst of times they’ll shrug off grenades and bullets, firing gleefully to mow down your entire team in the blink of an eye. These inconsistencies make it hard to judge any encounter, as a heaping helping of luck (instead of skill) seems to dictate whether you’ll survive, making playing slow and methodical somewhat useless by comparison.
Your AI squaddies wield this ability as well, and since your only control over them is to have them stop or continue following, they’ll be happily shuffling along behind you like a line of ducks, most often staring into the nearest wall or corner during a firefight instead of actually making a difference.
Really the only way to stomach this title is to get some people together and play it in multi, but the minimal HUD focus makes it hard to cooperate with teammates when you have no idea or indication of where they are if they choose a different insertion point than you, as well as no mentions if teammates die during a mission.
If you can get some dedicated people together, you can have some fun with the jank fest that is Takedown, and that’s probably the most bittersweet point of the entire experience. Every now and then things will just click perfectly, and you’ll feel what Takedown is trying to be underneath it all for seconds at a time. And that’s something that’s utterly heartbreaking in a title that promised a return to tactical shooter bliss and instead delivered an incoherent mess of a game.
Put simply, Takedown: Red Sabre is a tactical shooter that’s far from complete, with half-baked visuals and gameplay that frustrates due to its inconsistencies and miscommunication.