The Stalin Subway 2: Red Veil
A poorly veiled attempt at making an incompetent shooter.
There aren’t enough shooters set in the totalitarian confines of Soviet Russia. The last good game which gave us a tangential tour through the Motherland was No One Lives Forever 2, but it wasn’t exactly that memorable of an experience. A genuine exploration of the political repression, poverty, art, architecture and day-to-day gloom and doom of that era seems to foreign for representation in the Western mind. Thank goodness, then, that the Russians gave us The Stalin Subway, a bland but noble effort at a brainless splatterfest set in 1950s Moscow.
The game had some staying power simply for having a novel setting, but one might be forgiven for being less tolerant of the equally brainless sequel. The main drawback of Stalin Subway 2 is that the gameplay has a lot in common with NOLF 2’s evil doppelganger – Contract JACK. only this here’s Contract JOSEF, made in Russia, with none of the capitalist riches spruce it up. The end result a game that has the same appeal of a Russian tractor – it won’t break down on you, but boy is it horribly unnapealing.
The story is simple and told through grainy engine-rendered cutscenes. You play as Elena, the ill-fated wife of Gleb Suvorov, both of whom get targeted for elimination by the Secret Police. The KGB storm your apartment block, but Elena proves herself to be quite capable as a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man. In fact, she can pretty much massacre endless rows of Kalashnikov-wielding goons with ease.
Part of this has to with the dumbfoundingly incompetent AI, who seems to freeze up and fire away from fixed positions. They occasionally follow you if you retreat, but nine times out of ten they act like stationary turrets. You can use this limited AI to your advantage. Simply peek out of a corner until you spot an exposed limb of an enemy, and ventilate the guy until he drops. It might take a few shots, but they’ll stupidly stand still and take your bullets. His buddy meanwhile will watch and do nothing, because none of the enemies present any sort of tactical awareness or even a sense of self-preservation.
There are a few notable touches of realism. The weapons are all Soviet-era hardware, from rifles to submachineguns, AKs, grenades and the eternal Molotov Cocktail. They have punch and all of them deliver billows of smoke when fired. You have to reload them periodically, use rifles for long distance shots, or lob grenades around a corner full of enemies. The ragdoll physics look quite good – after dropping dead, some limp bodies shift slightly, giving you the impression that their still kicking. Shooting them will leave visible bullet wounds, and the results are quite grisly… for the first five hundred or so guys you off, anyway.
The levels, alas, are quite uninspired. Even though they’re set in realistic places like apartment buildings, factories, city streets or abandoned subways, the maze-like layout of each area makes getting around a hassle. And with nothing to do but down endless waves of soldiers, the fun runs dry at around the one hour mark when the game pretty much showed you all of its tricks. In the end, the gameplay has the sturdiness of most things built it Russian. It never once crashed on me, which I guess is a plus. Why you would bother wasting your time with it is another matter.
System Requirements: Pentium IV 2 GHz, 512 MB RAM, 128 MB Video, WinXP
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