By: David Tavernier
The Red Solstice is a compelling sci-fi adventure that combines elements from classic over-the-head gameplay titles along with somewhat good visuals. But is that enough alone to justify a purchase? Let’s break things down to find out.
The controls are straightforward and also interesting at the same time. Commanding your squad of marines is simple enough (point and click). You also have the option of using auto-fire or doing things manually (by clicking on each enemy individually). Using the manual firing mode is useful because you can dish out extra damage and conserve ammo. There are times, however, when the fighting becomes so hectic that you need to use the auto-fire option.
There is also a pseudo bullet time mode where you can slow down time and issue commands to your marines as they move in slow motion (this is the interesting part). All in all, the game controls well, which adds to its fun factor.
Unfortunately, the graphics in The Red Solstice are definitely not one of its high points. They aren’t ugly, but they seem like something from the past. The graphical layout is a 3D-isometric view, allowing you to see the various buildings from overhead as well as your own military squad and the nasty looking mutant enemies that pursue endlessly pursue you.
While not exactly memorable, the music is very good and easy on the ears. It doesn’t play much of a part during some aspects of the gameplay, however. A medley of pounding drums and techno synthesizers play during the game’s menus and various single-player levels, but they’re sometimes absent during multiplayer.
Sound effects also tend to overpower the music, though at least they’re well done. The guns sound authentic and the monsters you fight let loose realistic groans as they die (as do your teammates). They may not be the prettiest or best sounding, but the graphics and sound ultimately get the job done.
Single-player action in The Red Solstice can be difficult even on the easiest setting, but it’s a challenge that is enjoyable without feeling cheap. Commanding your squad of four marines is fun, and this translates into entertaining gameplay in both single- and multi-player modes. That being said, the gameplay is not without its flaws.
One part that is annoying during single-player gameplay is that checkpoints don’t save after you quit a game. You always have to start at the beginning of a level if you exit to the main menu. This can be aggravating because it forces you to play through the campaign without being able to take much-needed breaks. It’d be nice to be able to quit, do some multiplayer as a break, and then resume where you left off. Instead, you have to start the level all over again.
Speaking of multiplayer, it’s probably the highlight of the game. It’s a lot of fun, even though it has a few flaws that detract from it. One is that you have very access to ammo. Completing objectives would’ve been a lot easier if you didn’t have to worry about constantly looting lockers in order to find sparse ammo caches around each map.
There were many times I had to commit suicide in order to get back into the game with a full supply of ammo, so there has to be a better way of doing things. Maybe leave clearly visible ammo caches around each map? Or maybe make a class of player (at a beginner’s level) that can generate ammo and supply it to their teammates. Anything to help the lack of ammo in The Red Solstice multiplayer.
There’s also a scarcity of available online matches — seemingly no matter when I’d search there would only be a handful of matches recruiting members. This means you won’t be able to find matches to your liking all the time because there are so few to choose from. It can often be a bit of a wait before starting a game after you have joined as you wait for the room to fill up.
Other than that, multiplayer is quite a bit of fun. You choose from various classes of soldiers, allowing you to tailor your game to your own play style. For instance, you can choose to be a medic if you want to fight less and help your teammates more often. Or you can be a heavy support marine that can dish out punishment. Making these choices, along with playing the game itself, make multiplayer in The Red Solstice a real highlight.
The Red Solstice is a fun game, especially its multiplayer, if you can overlook its flaws. If you are a fan of games where you command a squad of units from overhead, you should have a good time. The $25 price tag seems reasonable given the lengthy and difficult campaign and deep multiplayer modes. That being said, if you are turned off by simplistic visuals and challenging gameplay with limited checkpoint options, you may want to spend your money elsewhere.