In 2006, Ubisoft revealed Red Steel to the world at the E3 conference. Under the promise of next-gen graphics, revolutionary swordplay and mature content, hype for the game reached a fever pitch. Upon its November release, many were disappointed at its poor presentation, clumsy controls and ugly graphics. Nonetheless, as a Wii launch game, it moved over a million copies, justifying a sequel.
With last year’s release of the Wii MotionPlus peripheral, motion control received new potential. With greater sensitivity and accuracy, true 1:1 control was made possible. After an impressive demo in Wii Sports Resort, Red Steel 2 brings Wii MotionPlus into a traditional, hardcore-oriented action game.
Most Improved Sequel… Ever?
As other game critics have pointed out, Red Steel 2 improves over the original in nearly every conceivable way. Gone is the Urban Yakuza theme, replaced instead with a Wild-West Meiji-era aesthetic that is as creative as it is beautiful. With cel-shaded graphics resonant of Borderlands (great game by the way), Steel 2 features some of the best graphics on the Wii. An excellent frame-rate keeps the action smooth, which is critical for this type of game.
Red Steel 2 does not comfortably fit into any established genre of game. It can be played like a first-person shooter, but by simply moving the Wiimote through swings, stabs, pushes, parries, blocks and evades, Red Steel 2 becomes much like a first-person hack-n'-slash beat-em-up. Surprisingly brutal moves push the edges of the T rating. Through a combination of motion-controlled special moves, I was able to knock a foe into the air, pull out a shotgun, fire into his torso and send him diving into the ground with a downward slash. As I landed, I swung my controller backwards to impale a foe behind me, pulling out a pistol to stun another enemy and jump into the air to attempt to vertically bisect him, finishing him off with a slash at the legs to knock him eight feet to the side. Needless to say, Red Steel 2’s motion combat is some of the most visceral on any console and the best since the original No More Heroes.
Incredibly stylish animation makes the combat even more enticing. The game runs at a smooth 60 FPS, leaving the gameplay precise and accurate. Special moves require combinations of button presses and gestures to pull off and the extra time spent raising money to acquire these abilities is worth it, all the special moves look awesome and hold incredible versatility in combat.
Despite the three paragraphs I spent gushing praise for this sequel, Red Steel 2 isn’t without its problems. For one, the exaggerated gestures required to fight leads to inevitable control problems. Sometimes the MotionPlus would fail to read my gestures correctly (although this was extremely rare). More significant however, is that such exaggerated gestures would frequently yank out the Wiimote from the Nunchuk, leaving me unable to move and forcing me to pause the game to reconnect. Given the exaggerated motions needed to fight properly, yanking the nunchuk loose is a serious problem in Red Steel 2, though this isn’t the fault of the developers, it still does detract from the enjoyment of the game in minor ways.
Red Steel 2 features about seven overworlds in each of its seven chapters. The fundamental structure of the game is mission-based, the player takes missions at a safehouse and explores the overworld to complete it. Despite the game’s excellent art-direction, the overworld is comprised almost exclusively of rectangular rooms and linear corridors, leading to some repetitive level design. Even more disappointing are the sidequests that the player can take for bonus cash. Sidequests are comprised of repetitive collection missions, forcing the player to activate a specified number of Comm Towers or tear down a number of wanted posters. This would be forgivable if the sidequest structure was more varied, but the fact that these quest-types reappear in every single chapter frustrates to no end. The lack of a full-overworld map is frustrating, turning these poster-hunts into a matter of wandering around the level, hoping to find a well-concealed target.
Red Steel 2 is not a bad game, in fact, it is very much the opposite. Its a unique action game that could only be experienced with motion controls featuring stylish combat, great art direction and some of Wii’s best motion-combat. In spite of the technical and mechanical success that Ubisoft has achieved, Red Steel 2’s minor problems detract from what could have been one of the finest games of 2010. Recommended for the adventurous. 3.75/5