March 23, 2010 -
Consider Red Steel 2 not a sequel to the Wii launch title released by Ubisoft in late 2006. Instead, consider it a reboot. Red Steel 2 has about as much to do with the original game as, say, Batman Begins does with Tim Burton's 1989 superhero movie. And similarly, this Ubisoft release is superior to the original concept in every conceivable way. It's easily one of the best looking games of the year, and even with a handful of design quirks and subtle Wii MotionPlus limitations, it's an incredibly fun Wii-exclusive experience.
Back in 2006, Ubisoft was quick on the draw to produce a game that incorporated both point-and-click first-person shooter mechanics with swordplay that utilized the motion sensing capabilities of the Wii remote. Unfortunately, it was during the experimental phase, when developers were learning exactly what the system and its motion controller could do. The original Red Steel was an ambitious effort, but the concept just couldn't mask the limitations: the game's controls were sluggish and very unresponsive at times, both in the aiming and in the sword fighting.
Three years later, when Nintendo revealed the Wii MotionPlus attachment, Ubisoft pounced on the chance to give its FPS-with-swordplay concept a second try. To completely separate itself from the original release, Ubisoft started fresh for Red Steel 2; the urban Yakuza scenario from the first Red Steel has been abandoned for an original -- and breathtakingly gorgeous -- universe that blends Wild West gunslinging with Japanese samurai sword fighting. Once again, it was an ambitious undertaking, seeing how very few developers were embracing Wii MotionPlus as a requirement, but the end result is a great ride from start to finish.
Red Steel 2 is a single-player exclusive experience that follows a nameless, badass warrior -- a member of a clan that's been nearly wiped off the face of the earth. After being dragged to near death by a rival (and much more devious) clan, you make your escape and manage to rush back just in time to rescue your old sinsei who must now retrain you so you can get back your katana -- a blade that has deeper significance than just a weapon -- and this plot device drives you deep into the Western, Japanese-influenced setting.
While there are certainly some first-person shooter elements to Red Steel 2, I would categorize this as more of a first-person action game almost to the point of being a "brawler." The game seems to lean more towards the swordplay than the gunplay, and later in the adventure, you'll unlock some pretty powerful shooting skills that pretty much remove some of the FPS-style elements from play.
Red Steel 2 is entirely mission-based; you work your way through a linear tree of tasks, and it's all very straightforward in what needs to get done. Simply trigger a mission and head straight for the green arrows on the map. Secondary missions are exactly that: optional tasks like destroying wanted signs or activating communication towers. They're unimportant to the storyline, but they'll net you some cash to spend on weapon upgrades, techniques, and body armor.
It's not easy trying a design that requires precise aiming and wild arm-flailing on the same controller, and it's pretty clear that a lot of the focus in Red Steel 2 was on getting the balance just right. There's a significant learning curve to the experience; you'll have to constantly adjust your aim every time you slash the remote arm across your body. The game uses an intelligent camera that stays locked onto the action even when you whisk the remote's pointer across the screen, but even with this system in place, you'll still need to work within restrictions so you can keep up with the fast-paced action.
With Red Steel 2, you'll definitely need to relearn how to play Wii games. After three years of wrist-waggling, this is the first Wii game -- apart from Wii Sports Resort -- that will give your arm a real workout. Simply flicking your wrist isn't enough to get the game to register useful sword attacks. Red Steel 2 features an enormous amount of training modes that require participation, and the game won't let you proceed until you successfully perform the same move multiple times. You'll understand the need for repetition early on after experiencing even basic moves.