Beginning life as a Kickstarter campaign, Takedown: Red Sabre promised to be “a thinking-person’s shooter”, one in which slow, tactical movements would be required to achieve objectives and take down foes. As some people have learned to their dismay, there can be a wide gap between the promise of the Kickstarter campaign and the product it delivers, and Takedown is a shining example of this. With rotten presentation and wildly variable enemy AI, not even the best tactics can save this mess.
Takedown has no story per se, just 5 maps (and 2 training maps, which I swear are the same), each presenting different scenarios. Whether attempting to diffuse bombs or plant evidence, the emphasis is stealth and tactics, as running in guns blazing is a sure way to end up dead. Players lead a squad of four, and death results in respawning as the next member of the unit.
Right away I had issues with the controls of Takedown. As a primarily console game player, my preference is always for the controller, and Takedown’s Steam page promises full controller support. This proved to be far from the truth; controls in the menu are expressed in keyboard/mouse layout only, and half of them are not mapped to anything on the controller. Want to use a breach charge to blow open a door? Better not be using the controller then, because there’s no mapping for it, and no way to change the mappings. In fact, the controller scheme isn’t listed anywhere in the game, leaving players to a game of trial and error to determine what buttons perform what actions.
After some time I was able to get a handle on the controls, but one thing that surprised me greatly was the discovery that squad commands are among the items left off the controller menu, despite their being available buttons. In the long run it didn’t matter much, as the squad actions are basically limited to “stay here” and “come with me”. See an enemy long range and want your sniper to take him out? Too bad, there’s no command for that, and no way for players to switch team members to take him out themselves. Takedown is truly a tactical shooter with a very limited selection of tactics.
AI difficulty in the game almost felt like a series of dice rolls. Some enemies were sharpshooters, able to take me out from a long distance with a single shot. In other instances, even after discovering my location they would stand with their back towards me, just waiting to be shot. At times the incompetence blends together – at one point an enemy got the drop on my squad in a stairwell, sneaking in behind us as we crowded around the door. Fortunately for me, he decided to crouch and fire directly into the railing, which was convenient seeing as my team had no reaction to the gunfire happening 10 feet from them.
My team’s lack of a reaction to events was a fairly regular occurrence. When a team member goes down, more often than not the other squad members hold their positions, creating a buffet of victims for any enemy who was a decent shot. More than once I was shot, only to respawn as the next team member just in time to be shot again. Even when they did contribute by spotting an enemy, the best they do is say “Tango spotted”, with no suggestion of where said enemy might be. For a squad based game, I learned to ignore my squad pretty quickly.
The game’s presentation doesn’t help to ease the frustration any. I had to hunt for anything resembling a tutorial (the training maps), and even changing my load out, which was very useful, was needlessly complicated. Even doing something as simple as inverting the look on my controller required fully quitting the game back to the main menu. Since there’s no overall story it’s just a question of pick a mission and play it, with options at the end being restart or quit. With no sort of record keeping or score for missions though, it’s unclear why I would ever want to play one a second time.
The game supports a number of multiplayer modes including co-op and team death match. In my time online I never saw enough people to attempt co-op play, but I did manage to get into a death match with a few other people. Games were lag free but player animations were very jerky. Most troubling, the player models for both teams were fairly similar, making it difficult to tell at a glance what team a player was on. For something like death match, not being able to quickly tell whether someone is friend or foe is an immediate deal breaker.
For as offensive as some of its components are, the worst sin Takedown commits visually is being bland. All enemies on a given map look the same, and perform the same basic animations. Locations are varied but save a few exceptions are a bunch of repeated areas over and over. The audio doesn’t do much to help, as I couldn’t tell which direction enemy shouts were coming from, and as mentioned my teammates weren’t much help.
Takedown: Red Sabre sums up the fears of every Kickstarter backer: that in the end they’ll have paid up front for something that doesn’t turn out very good. With clumsy presentation and wildly uneven difficulty, the game fails to be a competent FPS, much less a tactical one. The best advice I can give is to avoid it, which is little solace for those who backed it in the first place.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.