It’s a top down helicopter game! It’s a top down run and gun shooter! It’s a weird combination of both with the most creative use of red and black to produce elaborate cut scene graphics! It’s Red Zone!
Full disclosure, I had no idea what to expect with this game. The box art had me thinking it was strictly a run and gun shooter, perhaps side scrolling, but booting the game made me rethink that completely. The opening sequence is one of the most elaborate cut scenes I’ve seen on the Sega Genesis and was done completely in red and black. The plot is your typical 1980’s action move: military dictator seizes power and is prepared to launch nukes at the free world unless the buff hero(es) can stop them. Bad guys bad, good guys good. Let’s go!
The sound track fits right in with the action movie vibe. The bass line and drum machine rhythm of the opening sequence immediately made me think of the Terminator movies. Each subsequent track is a bit more up tempo, but continues to maintain that action vibe. I’m really digging this sound track.
The game play is what surprised me most about this game. You actually start the game piloting an apache helicopter in the same style as Desert/Urban/Jungle Strike. These sections were actually pretty fun with a variety of weapons to choose from, a radar and navigation system to help find your way around, and subsystems that can take damage and impact your performance.
However, there are sections where you have to land the helicopter and proceed on foot to complete a mission. These sequences continue to be top down, but the controls switch from straightforward and intuitive to clunky and annoying. The character does not move very smoothly and has difficulty lining up shots. In addition, enemies frequently hide behind sandbags which require either tossing one of your limited grenades or scaling the sandbag all while taking enemy fire. Thankfully the hero is a bullet sponge and can take a number of shots before dropping, but I found these foot sequences to be more a pain than a pleasure to play.
Overall Red Zone was an unexpected title and very much a mixed bag. The sound track and helicopter sections were highly enjoyable, while the on foot sections were a struggle and highly frustrating. With the password system available you can skip around the game a bit to just play those helicopter sequences, which is what I will probably do in the future. I can definitely recommend trying the game out at least once and checking it out for yourself.