Red Steel 2 Review

Red Steel 2 [Only available on Wii]
ESRB Rating: T
Players: 1
Genre: Action/FPS
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Paris
Release Date: March 23rd, 2010

Parent Talk: Red Steel 2 is all about sword fighting and gunplay action.  Though like its predecessor, there isn’t much blood despite the “Red” in the title.  To achieve another T-rating, Ubisoft chose to abstain from including blood and gore.  This decision makes the game more approachable for parents by a significant margin over the competition.  The lack of carnage may disappoint some, but there’s still plenty of violence.  For example, you can shoot an enemy in the knee, spin around behind him and stab him in the back.  Parents should be cautious here and avoid letting younger kids play it without supervision.

Red Steel excited gamers with its blend of sword and gun fighting when the Wii launched.  Unfortunately, it failed to deliver on those counts and wound up serving a mediocre experience.  With Red Steel 2, Ubisoft has tried to distance itself from that debacle, and done so with great results.  The story, characters, and play mechanic have dramatically changed.  The design far better capitalizes on the motion integration.  The plot revolves around a nameless hero clad in red, the last surviving member of the Kusagari clan.  Players guide him through different trials as he exacts revenge on the villains who slaughtered his kinsmen.

The Great: The most satisfying motion combat yet.  Red Steel 2 is just fun to the core.  The katana mechanics are superb, taking perfect advantage of Wii Motion Plus.  Pointless waggle doesn’t rear its ugly head here.  Not only does Motion Plus help determine the direction of a swing, it also gauges the strength of the strike.  Lightly flicking results in a weak slash, whereas pulling back your arm and swinging wide produces a more powerful attack.  Stronger hits can disable enemies and destroy armor.  There are many special moves to acquire as well, each requiring unique input that’s easy to use and satisfying to unleash.  The gun slinging takes a backseat to the swordplay, but for good reason: the latter is the best part of the game.

The Good:

+ The presentation.  The visuals are far more pleasing than before.  RS2’s world combines a Wild West aesthetic with modern and ancient Japanese architecture.  You see feudal temples adorned with pillars and statues close by saloons and rusty shacks.  The “city” parts are filled with radio towers and neon signs.  What you see is clean and colorful, delivering a level of eye candy that most Wii games don’t come close to.  The frame rate is incredibly smooth, the backgrounds look fantastic, and style is superb.

+ Intelligent implementation of motion control.  Even non-combat situations comprise motion that fits well in the context.  When opening a safe, you hold the remote to your ear and listen for clicks while turning the dial.  You also hold the controller like a bar and hold it in place to open locks.  I would’ve appreciated more extraneous use for puzzles and whatnot, but the idea executed are done well.

+ The audio presentation.  It’s as nice as the visuals, though the dialogue comes with a heavy layer of cheese.  The music is mostly well done, with Western motifs combined with other styles.

+ Acquiring upgrades.  It’s a blast to upgrade the katana, your guns, purchase additional armor/life, improve your abilities, and more.  By the end, our “Hero” is an unstoppable warrior if everything is obtained.  Some may not like this invincibility, but it makes for a fun and deep experience.

+ The adventure’s length.  Red Steel 2 should take over ten hours to complete, and there’s even a challenge mode afterward where you can revisit chapters and aim for high scores.

The Bad:

– Glitches.  I encountered a few instances of having to reset the game.  For example, when opening a door with your sword, it became stuck and I couldn’t do anything else but sit and stare.  Elsewhere, I was frozen in the “fast motion” bit after countering an attack and was forced to watch my opponents slowly shuffle my way.

– No multiplayer or online support.  This is rather pointless to complain about seeing as the focus is on a lengthy single-player adventure, but multiplayer would still be nice.

– Easy bosses.  Red Steel 2 is rendered anti-climactic when the final boss can’t touch you.

– Lack of replay incentive.  There’s nothing to enjoy outside of the campaign and challenge mode.  Like the Metroid Prime series though, RS2 is more occupied with offering a rewarding single-player adventure, which makes it hard to fault.  However, Metroid also emphasizes finding secrets and exploration, while this is more straightforward.

The Ugly:

The voice work.  Payne in particular just grates on the nerves with some painfully-delivered lines.

The Lowdown:

Red Steel 2 is a step in the right direction for motion  It should satisfy the hardcore’s need for an intense Wii game, with its blend of cool first-person combat and fantastic visuals.  The scenario could use work (particularly in voices and and characters), but the heart of the game is extremely fun.  RS2 easily shows how fun and satisfying its combat system can be.  Unfortunately, the faults make it difficult to justify a full-price purchase.  This one hovers close between the “Buy It” and “Buy It Cheap” verdicts.

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