Argonaut's first Dreamcast title is a tank-based action shooter called Red Dog. In it, you pilot a futuristic armed assault vehicle, travelling through various environments like cities and buildings, blasting all enemies in your way. Multiple paths await you as does a wide variety of weapons to pick up and use. A multiplayer mode will allow up to four players to battle for ground superiority. Red Dog hits shelves this fall.
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Red Dog isn't a game that immediately strikes you as unique. You drive around, you shoot things. Sounds pretty run-of-the-mill, doesn't it? Well, think again, this is one of the big sleepers of the year. The special thing about Red Dog is the amount of control and strategy in this action game. There's no run-and-gun-ning in one direction here; instead, you must swivel your turret, carefully aim and pick off baddies close and far away--often while you're on the run. The game gets hectic when you must decide when to use your lock-on missiles, power-ups and the energy from your reserves to beef up your lasers. And that's not even mentioning the best thing in the game: your grid-like reflective shield. Red Dog's enemies throw a mess of hurtful things at you, and that's when you can go on the defensive, which becomes the offensive, since blocking energy bolts sends them flying in other directions. Killing enemies with a great Poollike ricochet shot is not only cool, but sometimes required. The graphic detail is impressive and makes you want to go on to the next level, which is sometimes a little too tough because of some frustrating-ly hard end-level bosses. You can get a little help by completing extra challenge levels (which are also hard), but the difficulty could prove too much for all but hardcore players. The surprisingly deep multiplayer modes (Deathmatch, Flag, Tag. etc.) offer something anyone can play, fortunately.
I'm not sure what's happened to Argonaut since the days of the original Star Fox, but Croc and Buck Bumble didn't quite cut it, and neither does Red Dog. While the game is certainly attractive enough, the stilted gameplay reminds me of Wild Metal. Yeah, it's cool to rumble over Mars-like landscapes and blow stuff up, but when it's delivered at a stop-start pace, then it's no darn good. The framerate stays peppy, and the controls are able enough, but strafing's a bitch, so more often than not, you're a sitting duck while you get the enemy in your crosshairs. Still, the multiplayer action is diverting, and it wilt probably keep less-demanding gamers entertained.
A nice treat for shooter and mech fans alike, Red Dog is the closest thing to a 3D Blaster Master we've yet seen. It's consistently fun to play, and no less than top dog graphically. A wide variety of stage settings show off some really rich artwork and textures, which complement the innovative gameplay. A reflective shield, for example, is often as effective against baddies as one of the many power-ups, making defense strategies equally as important as attacks. On the flipside, the game is flat-out tough at times, mostly because of the frustrating gunsight controls. The aiming takes some getting used to, but all in all, this title's sweet PS2-mediocrity relief