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Takedown: Red Sabre Review – How about a Kickstopper?

Think of the worst Unreal Tournament 2k4 mod ever made. Now spend $250,000 on it. Welcome to Takedown: Red Sabre.
This article is over 10 years old and may contain outdated information

If you’ve ever spent some time on ModDB, you’ve probably seen your share of unfinished conversions for popular games. These projects start out as ambitious mods, but real life gets in the way, and eventually the modders release the work in progress files as a sample of what could have been.

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Now imagine that same barely functional, work in progress mod was released as a full, standalone game with delusions of legitimacy. Imagine that instead of a guy in a dorm room working nights and weekends, it was produced by a real developer with over $250,000 in funds from a Kickstarter campaign, and imagine it was released by an absolute monolith of a publisher.

You’ve just imagined Takedown: Red Sabre.

This is not a good game. It’s not even close. First, some backstory.

Takedown: Red Sabre is a game from Serellan LLC; a company created by Christian Allen, the lead designer of several Ghost Recon games, and Halo: Reach. Combine that pedigree with 505 Games, the publisher behind the recent (and excellent) PayDay 2, and it’s easy to see why Takedown managed to garner some hype leading up to its release. 

Takedown aims to return to the halcyon days of the tactical shooter; that golden age of the late 90s when Rainbow Six and SWAT 3 provided a methodical, realistic alternative to Quake and Unreal. The promotional material for the game laments about how homogeneous shooters have become, and how far from tactical the industry standard “third person cover based shooter” is. They’re not wrong about this; I miss the tactical shooters of the past. I’ve spent more time with Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear than I have the entire Call of Duty franchise, and I’m the kind of person who complains when a shooter’s firearms handling isn’t realistic enough.

It was with more than a bit of excitement that I bought Takedown on Steam immediately after launch, for what seemed like the very reasonable price of $15 USD. Unfortunately, it seems we’ve been cursed with another War Z.

That is not a statement I make lightly.

In it’s current state, Takedown: Red Sabre is garbage.

Technical issues and bugs abound.

Audio desync issues, brain dead AI, poor hit detection, and connection troubles plagued the game at launch, and as of this writing exactly NONE of them have been fixed. 

It seems alarmingly light on content and features.

Even if Takedown is aggressively updated and patched in the coming weeks, and all of these technical issues are ironed out, it still will not be an experience worth having for even the most die-hard of tactical shooter purists. There is so little going on in Takedown, it’s hard to imagine what the point of it is. If it really is an homage to the glory days of the tactical shooter, why is it so bereft of features? Aside from the weapon selection, and a rudimentary bullet penetration model, Takedown has nothing to offer in comparison to games that are now getting on 15 years old. The aforementioned Rainbow Six and SWAT 3 have so much more complexity and depth to them. 

Unlike those older games, Takedown has no squad command system.

The barebones single player campaign allows you to take a squad of three operatives, but your only interaction with them is telling them to hold position or follow you. They exist purely as extra bodies for you to hop into when you’re killed. The missions are similarly barren; Takedown has only 5 levels, which claim to be huge and detailed, but are actually repetitive and bland. They’re so huge that your mission objectives require you to conduct a scavenger hunt for small inconsequential items, like looking for a half dozen external harddrives in a massive office complex. Forget useful features like an objective marker or a map, those are the hallmark of those samey, modern, handholding shooters like Rainbow Six (1998), or SWAT 3 (1999).

The mission structure isn’t compelling in the slightest, and neither is the narrative.

Almost no story or framework is provided; you play as the titular Red Sabre squad, who are just a crew of private military contractors. There is no backstory, and no overarching goal to the game. You clearly don’t play as the good guys, since the missions all involve sinister corporate wetwork, but it’s not an angle the game expands on. Any chances for an interesting, morally gray story are squandered.

Takedown invites comparison to older tactical shooters, but it is not a favorable comparison.

Rainbow Six for example had an amazingly detailed pre-mission planning phase. Before embarking on a mission you could plan out the movements of up to four squads via a tactical map, and then execute multiple complex strategies simultaneously. Rainbow Six was released in 1998. Takedown: Red Sabre doesn’t have a feature that even approximates this. It doesn’t even try.

The things it does try are executed so poorly it’s hard to tell if they’re even in the game at all.

I can’t verify the claims of advanced enemy AI, because they appear to run around randomly. After making contact with your squad and killing one of them, enemies will often turn around and stop moving, exhibiting no situational awareness at all. They’ll often shout about “retreating” or “flanking,” and then move stiffly and randomly to a poorly chosen spot, and face in the wrong direction when they get there.

Graphically, Takedown is a mixed bag.

Some of the lighting effects and level geometry look decent, but the game is very clearly modeled on the Unreal Engine. The whole feel of the game is wrong, especially the way ragdolls slump about and clip through themselves. Dead bodies will often fold up and collapse in on themselves, thanks to knee joints that have as much articulation as a pair of nunchuks. The weapons are realistically modeled at least, but too many of them are minor iterations of the same basic platform, so they look and behave almost identically.

Multiplayer is utterly broken.

Judging from what I’ve read on forums, and on the fast growing petition to get Steam to take down Takedown, the multiplayer is the real focus of the game. If this is true, it leaves me with two questions.

First: why do the game’s website and Steam store page spend so much real estate hyping up the campaign mode?

Second: why is the multiplayer broken on launch?

Since I have yet to successfully play a game online, I can’t speak to the quality of the multiplayer experience. I am however familiar with the mechanics of the game, and they are simplistic and terrible; I cannot imagine they lend themselves well to multiplayer.

Takedown: Red Sabre is a travesty.

Do not, under any circumstances, buy this game.

I wanted a throwback tactical FPS like the games I played in the 90s, and evidently so did many others since the project managed to raise so much money on Kickstarter. Clearly something went wrong between the game’s inception and release, because the current product is an unfinished, buggy mess of a game with basically no standout features. It doesn’t feel like any effort went into Takedown after the initial concept was finished; do not under any circumstances buy this game.

If you want a realistic tactical shooter on a budget, Tripwire’s Red Orchestra 2 and Rising Storm are around the same price, but a hell of a lot better.


Takedown: Red Sabre Review – How about a Kickstopper?
Think of the worst Unreal Tournament 2k4 mod ever made. Now spend $250,000 on it. Welcome to Takedown: Red Sabre.

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The Examined Life (of Gaming)
The Examined Life (of Gaming) is a website and YouTube show about video games, old and new, good and bad. Mostly old though. And mostly bad.