Red Steel 2
Red Steel 2 is vast improvement over its predecessor
- The melee combat is impressive, designers take full advantage of the Motion Plus accessory
- The same level of technical expertise is missing from almost every other aspect of the game
A vast improvement over its launch title predecessor, Red Steel 2 takes full advantage of Nintendo's Wii MotionPlus accessory with responsive swordplay and fast-paced melee. Unfortunately, the rest of the game falls victim to repetitive combat and a lacklustre story for an uneven overall experience.
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The original Red Steel was a Wii launch title, which is the only reason why I find it interesting. It was flawed and poorly designed, but it remains memorable because it was one of the first attempts to implement Nintendo's new-fangled motion controls into something other than a simplistic party style game. More importantly, it failed to do so, which was valuable because it tempered some of the revelatory joy that resulted from Wii Sports; it was a reminder of how far the technology, exciting as it was, had to go before it could reach its potential. Playing Red Steel 2 almost three and a half years later shows just how a strong a grip (pun intended) developers now have on the Wii's unique capabilities. But due to a myriad of issues, Red Steel 2 will also likely be relegated to 'interesting historical footnote' status, remembered more for its use of the Motion Plus accessory than for its own relative merits.
At the time of this writing, a handful of other games like Wii Sports Resort and EA's Grand Slam Tennis have already implemented Motion Plus, a peripheral that adds greater fidelity to the Wii's motion controls. But Ubisoft Paris built a finely honed combat system to go with the greater sense of control, elevating the chunk of plastic to 'necessary component' status. You can actually feel the difference when navigating the world with the first-person viewpoint. Aiming -- and more importantly, turning -- is handled with a deft precision that puts even High Voltage's The Conduit to shame. But the Motion Plus really benefits the hand-to-hand combat: the original Red Steel was fairly awful at translating your physical movements to the screen, but Red Steel 2 handles the melee attacks with far more aplomb. You still end up flailing your arm around a lot, especially when you're trying to activate a strong strike -- this requires a wide swiping motion versus the light attack, which requires just a quick flick of the wrist -- but it definitely offers a greater degree of control than anything I've seen previously.
Red Steel 2 also makes heavy use of a combo system that relies on power moves like 'The Matador,' wherein you quickly sidestep around to your opponent's exposed backside, and 'The Guillotine,' where you jump up into the air and slash down with great force. You also gain access to special powers like the Dragon, which is basically Force Push, and the Tiger, a purely defensive manoeuvre which lets you parry almost any attack. The combos give you a variety of ways to off your foes and, when used properly, can turn you into a whirling dervish capable of two-hit insta-kills. At its best, the combat is satisfying, and you can easily kill a roomful of enemies with a few well-timed swipes. The sword is so useful that I stopped using the gun after a while (it helps that you can deflect most bullets like a Jedi simply by holding down the A button); I would still use firearms for the sake of variety and to kill the occasional airborne foe, but the sword became my de facto weapon of choice, and I think that says a lot about the overall quality of the melee combat.
But where Red Steel 2 stumbles is in every other aspect of the game. The world, for example, has absolutely no sense of internal logic; it's a mash-up of feudal Japan and the Old West, which is cool in a nonsensical anime sort of way, but it doesn't offer any sort of narrative structure. The story revolves around an ancient clan who guards a special ore from which incredible swords can be crafted, but it's really just a thinly veiled excuse to take you from one area to the next. I also didn't like that the world was broken up into small discrete zones; there are opportunities to venture off and discover hidden items, but for the most part, you enter an area, clear it of enemies then head to the nearest exit. There is also a healthy loading pause between areas; they cleverly disguise it with simple animations but the constant breaks are difficult to ignore.
If the satisfying melee combat was tied into a better game with a compelling story, I'd praise Red Steel 2 as the next step in the Wii's evolution. But the nonsensical narrative, the repetitive nature of the gameplay, and the poor pacing keeps it from being anything more than a promising glimpse at the future of FPS games on the Wii. The Motion Plus is the real deal, and even though it needs a bit more tweaking before it offers an absolute sense of control over the onscreen action, it's still an impressive technology; I just wish the game surrounding the intuitive scheme exhibited the same sense of quality and expertise.
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