When I played Red Steel 2 at iDEF last year, I wasn’t exactly filled with a sense of longing for it to be released. Sure, The 10-minute playthrough appealed to my love of all things over-the-top, and I must say that I was quietly surprised at how well Wii MotionPlus was applied to the game. However, I couldn’t help but think back to that god-awful Wii launch title, Red Steel.
With a modified engine and a new lease on life, is Red Steel 2 able to do a complete 180 on its older brother, becoming something of a Killzone 2? Or should it simply be thrown atop the ever-growing pile of failed sequels?
You awaken to find yourself dazed and confused in a dusty plain, eyelids flickering and without any idea of where you are. A member of the Jackals works quickly over your body, laughing in that overly maniacal way that we’ve all come to expect from dodgy action flicks.
And then it begins.
With one of the most intense and exciting openings to a game, you are thrown right into the heart of Red Steel 2. While you can’t control the Hero at this point, you are able to witness his ludicrously over-the-top skills, and sheer reluctance to die. There isn’t much of a history lesson given in the game, and there doesn’t need to be; for those looking to find an in-depth character-driven storyline, go play Dragon Age.
For the first mission, you’ll be afforded a deadly revolver while you sort out the controls. I’ve always found first-person-shooters frustrating on the Wii, as developers never seem to be able to find the perfect way to organize the character’s movements. While the Nunchuk controls the Hero’s feet, you must point your WiiMote to the edge of the screen in order to tilt his head. And while you do eventually get used to the system, it never really allows you to feel like the gun-slinging legend that the intro makes you out to be.
After rescuing your old Kusagari swordmaster, Jian, you are given the old man’s katana and sent on a number of basic cash-grab missions. The money feature is something of a dead gaming element nowadays, and it isn’t implemented in a way that will interest players here. Instead of earning skills and upgrades as you progress, you must collect cash from raiding your victims’ bodies and smashing boxes. Granted, as the missions deepen and the game becomes more difficult, you earn more cash and thus more abilities, but it often comes across as an unnecessary annoyance.
Luckily for you, the game gets much, much better after hitting the half hour mark. Wielding the blade is by far the most exciting part of Red Steel 2. Wii MotionPlus is implemented wonderfully, and you don’t even have to be standing up to get the most out of your weapon. There are plenty of deadly moves for you to study and utilize, and having master Jian teach you adds a rare element of serenity to an otherwise balls-out action title.
Fans of Borderlands will see plenty of similarities in Red Steel 2. In addition to the desolate setting and Western elements, progressing in the game requires you to select a mission from one of several “bases”. While this is all good and well for gaming-on-the-go, it does take away from what could have been an intense action experience when you have to spend a couple of minutes after every mission returning to the base.
While there are flaws – many of them, in fact – what is most impressive about Red Steel 2 is its ability to make a FPS on the Wii worth purchasing. This is the sort of title that has just been begging to be made ever since Nintendo released its little white console. Ubisoft has done a remarkable job of allowing its gamers to become immersed, if not in the slipshod storyline, then in the deep and engaging fighting mechanics; the only real disappointment is that there is no multiplayer in which to test your sword skills against the very best.
I very rarely come across a Wii title that I feel comfortable in urging people to buy. Red Steel 2, despite a repetitive narrative, some strange Eurasian accents, and a few niggles in the visuals department, is able to stand as a testament to what Wii MotionPlus can do for a game. Long have gamers waited for a Star Wars title that allows you to control a lightsaber in a realistic manner – all I can say is: take a long hard look at Red Steel 2, LucasArts.
While obviously not everyone’s cup of tea, Red Steel 2 should be seen as something of a “missing link” for Wii developers. MotionPlus has shown that intricate gameplay is possible on Nintendo’s baby, while Red Steel 2 has exploited the fighting mechanics now available in order to create a memorable action title.
The game has its glitches, but Red Steel 2 looks remarkable for a Wii release.
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Swordfighting has never been never been so enjoyable or immersive. If only they’d made the movement a little less frustrating.
The Western soundtrack is superb, although the voice acting leaves a lot to be desired.
Without multiplayer, the game loses a lot of its replay value. One playthrough should be enough for most gamers, but it’s a non-stop thrill ride all the same.
Every game has its flaws, and Red Steel 2 is no exception. But what it lacks in heart, it more than makes up for in cajones.