Takedown: Red Sabre review (XBLA)
Takedown: Red Sabre was developed by Serellan Studios and published by 505 Games. It was released February 22, 2014 on Xbox Live Arcade for $14.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.
One of the unfortunate side effects of having so many triple-A, blockbusting first person shooters over the past few years has been the rapid and almost complete decline in a once popular sub-genre; that of the tactical shooter. The last, best examples of those kind of games on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console was probably Rainbow Six: Vegas and its excellent (albeit a little too similar) sequel. In answer to the subgenre’s disappearance, Serellan Studios set out to fill the void with Takedown: Red Sabre, a game that promises the same rock hard difficulty and tactical scope as past tactical shooters in the mould of the Rainbow Six and Delta Force series and the older Ghost Recon games. The question is, has this emergent studio done enough to impress the kind of die hard fans who occupy this space?
Here’s what we liked:
Multiplayer – Well, the good news is that Takedown offers basically all of the multiplayer options you would expect a tactical shooter to feature. Co-op features three modes (Mission, Tango Hunt and Bomb Disarm) and, considering the relatively small number of current players, is probably the main reason to play. In versus flavour, the game has Team Deathmatch, Attack/Defend and Bomb Disarm – to be honest it’s a decent compliment of options for an XBLA game, and each is reasonably distinct in the way it plays. There are only five maps, which isn’t fantastic, but the game’s variety of modes and fiendish difficulty means this represents a fairly high level of challenge. Despite some reports to the contrary, the game is relatively stable when played online, with few dropouts and only occasional lag issues. Although it would be unrealistic to say that Takedown ever really shines, it can be enjoyable when perhaps four or more likeminded players do happen to amass in the same lobby, and, using mics and tactics to coordinate their efforts, overcome the enemy. Unfortunately, there are many bugs that negatively affect the multiplayer, and being killed when playing against the AI will often feels cheap.
Here’s what we didn’t like:
Single player – The single-player mode in Takedown is so desperately hopeless that it’s almost impossible to know where to begin. Players choose a mission, choose a loadout (from various confusing menus) and jump straight in to one of the five missions (six if you include the totally benign training mission.) The player will then lead a four-man team through the mission, taking direct control of one soldier whilst the others follow (usually to a swift and confusing demise.) So far, so Rainbow Six – the problem is that nothing works as well as it should. Teammates provide hardly any cover at all, and the three of them will often be killed by a single enemy because they simply refuse to react to his presence. Equally frustrating, the two squad mate commands available (ROE/Hold) appear to be completely useless, with teammates trudging along behind the player regardless of which order is given – we would have expected the ability to split the squad up into two, to issue at least basic attack/hold/return/breach commands and to change between team members as needed. There are actually many more individual, niggling reasons to dislike the single-player mode in Takedown, but the bottom line is, it’s just not a lot of fun.
Reach for the RAID – Regardless of how you play Takedown, you will almost certainly experience bugs of one kind or another, all of which are at the very least, frustrating and most of which will lead to an unfair death or mission failure. We’ve already touched upon how poor the AI is, but to drive the point home – both teammates and enemies will often stare at walls, oblivious of enemies within close proximity. On other occasions they will get stuck behind doors, stand into a corner and never move again or even just spin around for no apparent reason. Other issues (we are assuming these are bugs) include problems with shooting when leaning. Even though an enemy might be clearly in your crosshairs pulling the trigger while leaning sometimes results in nothing. This seems to be because although you can see around the corner through the sights, your gun is actually pointing at the wall you are leaning around. In a supposedly tactical shooter that relies upon slow, methodical gameplay and checking every corner, this is a huge problem. Rainbow Six: Vegas introduced a third person “snap to cover” mechanic which allowed players to handle corners with ease – and that game is now five years old. Despite its budget roots, I can’t see why something similar couldn’t have been adopted in Takedown.
It’s hard to pin down exactly what is wrong with Takedown. In fact, if the game had been released 10 years ago and patched a few times, it might have been OK. It’s also tempting to go a little soft on Serellan Studios’ effort, because they were clearly building a labour of love that they felt would appeal to fans of tactical shooters – which they themselves so clearly are. But Takedown really isn’t a good enough game to warrant release in its current state in the current games market. It is a vastly inferior game to every single one of its peers and does nothing new for the genre. When compared to a game like Rainbow Six: Vegas (available in your local bargain bin for about three dollars) Takedown features almost no tactical depth whatsoever, leaving players with nothing but a very poor, incredibly difficult shooter that with terrible shooting mechanics. Diehard fans of tactical shooters should probably give it a quick try, but for the rest of us, just save yourself the time and effort.
Score: Skip It