Takedown: Red Sabre Review: Old school in nearly every way

The tactical shooter space on consoles has been pretty vacant for a while. Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 was the last viable game I can remember in which tactics mattered; lone wolves were shunned and communication was key.

Serellan, a team of former developers of Ghost Recon, Halo, SOCOM, SWAT and F.E.A.R. saw this vacancy and created Takedown: Red Sabre. While there are some newer shooter elements, in terms of controls, Takedown is as hardcore as it gets – no regenerating health, no respawns – you get one go at it and you had better hope you have a good team that can aim true and communicate well. While there is plenty to admire in terms of variety of weapons and loadouts, there are some nagging issues in the presentation that seem like either oversights or features left out due to budgeting issues. But for the most part, there is a solid, difficult game underneath the rough exterior.

Coordinating as a team is paramount if you want to succeed.

I have a mic and I know how to use it

Something sorely missing from online console FPS’s is communication; something that should be expected from team-based games. And yet in the past few years, it has been quite the opposite. In fact, I am genuinely surprised when I entire a lobby and see active mics, let alone hearing people using them for anything other than being obnoxious. Coordinating tactics is almost a lost feature amongst online gaming and has given way to people singing horribly, blasting awful music, or insulting other gamers.

I’ll admit that I’m relatively new to the online shooter space. My first experience with the genre was with Rainbow Six: Vegas on Xbox 360, and it was pretty awesome.  My teams always communicated and communicated well. We rarely lost and wouldn’t let anyone into the lobby that didn’t have a mic. You were going to communicate in our lobbies or you would get the boot.  Sadly, this feature is absent from most shooters these days and playing with randoms, when you actually want to win, is a crapshoot at best. Thankfully, Serellan knows this. Immediately when I started my first lobby, a full team of players who didn’t know each other joined, and communicated and acted like a team.

Needless to say it was refreshing and it greatly enhanced my experience.

Guns handle realistically. SMGs have lower recoil for continuous fire, while assault rifles require burst firing for accuracy.

Variety is the spice of shooters

The game offers plenty of variety in terms of loadouts, and more specifically, weapons. There are 4 preset loadouts – Recon, Assault, Breach and Sniper. On some maps, Snipers aren’t very viable because most of the environments are indoors, but on some, long range is crucial. You can customize each loadout to your liking and there are a lot of weapons in each class to choose from so every play style is accommodated.

Another bonus is that all of the guns, attachments, armor and equipment are available from the get go, so there is no unlocking weapons. You simply pick what you want and go. Well-coordinated teams will choose loadouts that compliment each other so you can have a good mix of range, close-quarters and something in between.

While the game does offer a single player component, I do not recommend it. First of all, it’s really just playing the maps by yourself, and considering how easy it is to go down, no real fun can be had here so it’s best to start a lobby or join a quick match.  Once in a lobby, it’s here that a few nagging issues start to pop up.

Up to 12 players can join a lobby for either co-op or competitive play. Unfortunately, you can’t choose a strictly co-op lobby so if that is what you want to play – unless you set up a private lobby – you will be kicking people out left and right and that’s no fun. I felt bad every time I had to do it because lord knows there probably aren’t a lot of people to play with at this point. I say this because it was more or less the same 3 or 4 people getting kicked before every game.

Of the 5 maps, there are 3 game types: Mission, Tango Hunt, and Bomb Disarm. Mission is basically a set of tasks that need to be completed before you can extract. For example, the Biolab map requires teams to disarm three bombs, lockdown a server and extract. Others will require a bit more, but the objectives are all fairly varied. Tango Hunt requires the team to eliminate all of the enemies on the map, and Bomb Disarm should be pretty self-explanatory. Each game type offers a different number of maps. Mission has 5, Tango Hunt and Bomb Disarm have 10 (7 unique maps, 3 variants). Each map has 2 insertion points which is great when coordinating tactics.

Before each mission your teammates can choose their insertion points. It depends on the map, if splitting up is viable or not.

It’s in the details

How much enjoyment players will get out of actually playing Takedown: Red Sabre will greatly depend on expectations. If players want a game in which they respawn after every death, then stay right away from this game. It’s punishing by design and rewards careful tactics, planning and above all else, communication – lone wolves need not apply.

What I also appreciate about the design of the game are things like when I walked up to face a wall, my gun would be forced down and I wouldn’t be able to shoot. Also, I have to actually equip a grenade, cook it, and toss it. This left me vulnerable to being shot because I couldn’t simply tap a button for an instant grenade and pull up my weapon. And lastly, there is absolutely no regenerating health. Depending on the armor I selected for this particular loadout, I could either be dropped instantly, or take a bit more damage before ending my time in the mission. Getting shot in the leg also removes your ability to sprint.

This death in an instant type of gameplay makes playing carefully, checking corners, and communicating so essential to the experience that it creates a palpable amount of tension that I found so incredibly welcome, bringing me back to how much fun I had with Terrorist Hunt in Rainbow Six: Vegas.

Being a low budget title, Takedown is certainly not a looker.

Something is missing

Let’s get one thing out of the way, right away; this game is not pretty to look at. Takedown is bland on the visuals department, which I can forgive a bit because this is a Kickstarter funded game and the budget isn’t very high.  It seems the attention was focused more on how the game plays rather than how it looks.

While I did enjoy actually playing the game quite a bit, there are definitely some major flaws with the UI and the lobby system. As I mentioned earlier, when in a lobby I am able to choose between Co-Op and Versus, Game type, map, insertion point, and loadout. Unfortunately, as designed, there are 12 slots open, regardless of whether Co-op is chosen or not. This means that in between missions, while choosing the map, game type and loadout, up to 12 people can join the lobby, meaning I had to kick out several players because we were playing co-op and could only have 6 players. Making matters worse is that Takedown doesn’t remember the last selections you made so if the entire team dies, I couldn’t simply restart immediately and get back into the game. Instead, I would have go back in and choose everything all over again. It’s just incredibly cumbersome and unintuitive. The only fix for the people joining your lobby beyond the 6 intended players is to start a private lobby, which works well enough, but it shouldn’t have to be that way.

I understand the limitations of the budget, and I’m not a designer by any means, but as player, having two separate lobbies for co-op and versus would have been a much better solution, and being able to pick the map and game type once, no matter how many times we died, would have been ideal. These are common features in games like Rainbow Six so the lack of it here is disappointing.

AI is at times problematic. Sometimes deadly lethal, sometimes incredibly stupid, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Quite honestly, I found them to be more on the deadly lethal side, but watching a teammate stuck behind a door and watching the AI simply open the door again and again, rather than running out and shooting him, was all kinds of amusing.

There is minimal HUD distractions and no map, adding to the much more tense and tactical approach to the game.

A flawed diamond in the rough

Lobby, AI issues and aesthetics aside, there is a lot to enjoy here in Takedown: Red Sabre if you are a fan of tactical shooters with a more realistic slant. Making sure you have a group of players that are willing to communicate is key to enjoyment, however. Maybe I’m nostalgic for a thinking man’s shooter and a team that communicates and plans, but I can’t deny that I am having a lot of fun with Takedown: Red Sabre and I’m dying to see what Serellan does with a bigger budget. If everything I have described to you sounds good, then I absolutely recommend this game. If not, then there will always be more arcade-like shooters out there for you to enjoy. Me, I like both, but this was right up my alley and I’m looking forward to actually playing more.

Sean played the game for 5 hours in co-op, tested weapons from every class, and played all maps and game types. The copy was provided by 505 games for review purposes.

7/10+ Hardcore in every way
+ No regenerating health
+ Communication and tactics are key
+ Realistic approach to weapons
-It looks like an early last gen game
-Lobby system isn’t intuitive
-Enjoyment depends heavily on having a good team
-Single player is essentially worthless

Available on: PC, Xbox 360

Version Reviewed: Xbox 360

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