I don’t know what I was expecting when I spent five bucks on a cheap-looking Metal Gear Solid clone, but it sure wasn’t whatever the hell Hundred Fires: The rising of red star is. For one thing, I thought I was getting a full game, since nowhere on the eShop listing does it say that this is just the first chapter. I certainly didn’t expect a fever dream satire of the Cuban Missile Crisis with a weird John F Kennedy hologram, while rambling about the evils of communism, ordering me to assassinate a weapon developer with a striking resemblance to Hideo Kojima.
In 1955, Valero Montenegro, a Cuban revolutionary with the husky voice of a not-quite David Hayter, seeks a cure for his ailing wife, and having been denied any such supplies from his uprising chums (“Medicine is only for soldiers”), he flees to the United States. Fast forward a few years, and he’s made a name for himself as a formidable soldier in Brigade 2506 and general thorn in Castro’s side. So when JFK needs someone to stop a “prolific Japanese [weapons] developer” from deploying nuclear missiles in Cuba in 1962, who else would he call? But just for a little bit of, ah, “insurance”, he kidnaps Montenegro’s daughter—what’s a bit of hostage-taking and blackmail when you’re the president of the USA.
Hundred Fires feels like a Tom Clancy story by way of Tommy Wiseau. The writing is clumsy to a laughable degree, and in ways that I’m not always sure is intended. “Stop kidding me and don’t touch my balls” is going to be a strange line at the best of times, but when it comes out of nowhere in a conversation with a sitting president, well… There’s a definite “Oh hi Mark” kind of feeling going on. There’s a deliberate satirical streak—it’s hard to see Kennedy’s incessant rambling about “communist monkeys” and his ghoulish, uncanny valley hologram as anything other than poking fun at the president, and American imperialism along with him. But while it seems like it’s trying to be pointed in its satire (in between some random Metal Gear Solid gags), it misses that mark completely and lands in the realm of sheer, unintended absurdity—but it turns out so ridiculous and off-kilter that it ends up being hilarious.
The game itself is an unashamed Metal Gear Solid clone, right down to the control scheme, the design of the UI, the sound effects, and the way
Snake Montenegro moves. It’s a functional derivative, more or less, though lacking in any of the depth or substance of its inspiration. Enemy AI is woeful, their paths are basic (when they move at all), they rarely cross paths with one another, and they struggle to see anything more than a couple of feet in front of their faces—making avoiding detection so easy that having enemies at all feels almost pointless.
When you do need to pull out a gun, aiming lacks precision and hit detection is all over the place. It’s quite something to try to aim at the head of a motionless enemy, be physically unable to because the controls just don’t let you move the reticle in small enough increments, and then get the headshot anyway when you shoot the air beside his ear. That sort of jank runs right through the game: inconsistent outcomes when you try to sneak up for a melee kill, tutorials that trigger repeatedly any time you cross their activation point (in a game specifically designed around backtracking and revisiting areas), seemingly random damage when you take hits from an enemy sniper in the sole boss fight.
As unrefined as it is, that jankiness rarely becomes more than an oddity or a mild nuisance at worst. That’s mostly just because of the lack of any real depth to be hindered, but it does mean that if you just want to experience the strange ride that is Hundred Fires, actually playing it is mostly inoffensive.
The lack of disclosure about the incompleteness of it is indefensible, though. I don’t object to a first episode being sold as a standalone thing, especially with such a low asking price, but to not actually specify that anywhere in the store listing is just crappy practice—especially considering that this exact game landed on Steam late last year with “Episode 1” right there in the title. It might seem a little thing, but if you go in expecting the full thing (because there’s nothing to suggest otherwise), to have the credits suddenly role at the end of the first chapter, just as the story is starting to get rolling, is jarring. A little transparency on the shop listing is all it would take to avoid that.
Hundred Fires: The rising of red star is not a good game by any stretch: a Metal Gear Solid clone that is, at best, functional. It replicates superficial details with a wink, but it’s far too clunky and lacking in substance to be enjoyable. And yet, I find myself morbidly curious to see where the bizarre story of a Cuban Solid Snake, a ghoulish JFK hologram, and a Kojima-lookalike weapons manufacturer ends up.