Game: Red Steel 2
Developer: Ubisoft Paris
Genre: First person stabber
What's Hot: Stylish graphics, solid frame rate, well implemented motion controls, awesome finishing moves
What's Not: Boxy level design, occasional Motion Plus wonkiness, very little replay value
Review by: Brandon "The Cobra" Cackowski-Schnell
Let’s make one thing clear right off the bat: Red Steel 2 shares nothing with its forgettable predecessor other than the weapons and the name. The game is a top to bottom improvement over the original to the point where they should have just dropped the "2" from this one's name and rebooted the series entirely.
Given how much westerns draw from samurai films, the combination of sword and six shooter is a logical pairing even if it has never been portrayed in video games. The game plays the western motif to the hilt from the sleepy town of Caldera, nestled deep in the Nevada desert to the nameless hero who enters town on a horse. Well, it's not so much a horse as a motorcycle and you don't enter town so much as get dragged into it behind said motorcycle but you get the point.
The city has been overrun by the Jackals, the same group who was so kind as to arrange your welcoming party. The entire town is deserted save for the sheriff, his daughter, a sleazy casino owner and Jian, a crusty old samurai who knows more of your past than you do. Upon rescuing Jian and obtaining a katana in the process you start your journey to rid the town of the Jackals, find out who is behind their appearance as well as who killed off all of the other members of your clan, the Kusagari.
Due to the fact that the town has been invaded by hordes of bloodthirsty killers, it's a lonely and desolate place, but not without a sense of style. The cel shaded graphics are a sight to behold and the frame rate never stutters or staggers as you make your way through the town. The levels are a bit on the boxy side and level loading transitions are "hidden" by your character taking several seconds to open a door, but the environments have plenty to look at and lots of little hidden areas where you can find bits of treasure. Due to the game's story you don't mind the fact that there's no one else around, especially if a lack of ancillary characters makes the game run so smoothly, however moving between the areas on the map can be somewhat confusing as there's no way to mark locations. When on a mission, your map will always point you in the right direction; however when attempting one of the game's many fetch quests, having a way to mark your map for future reference would have been appreciated.
Still you're not here for the sightseeing, you're here to stab dudes in the chest, and in this regard the game delivers in spades. Unlike the first game where your sword came out at predetermined moments, here you can use both sword and gun whenever you choose. A pull of the B button will draw your six shooter, or any of the game's three other projectile weapons and put a piece of lead between the eyes of any enemy unlucky enough to be under your aiming reticle. The game has a generous auto aim function allowing shots to hit home even if the target isn't perfectly lined up.
Adding to this is the ability to stun enemies by hitting them in the head or in the legs allowing you to approach and finish them off with your blade. The shooting works well and each gun has strengths and weaknesses that let them shine when used for particular roles but at the same time, ammo is scarce enough for the more powerful weapons so that you can't rely on constantly blasting dudes with your double barreled shotgun. Still though, even with the ability to purchase upgrades for your guns that allow for ricochets and armor piercing, the guns serve as a support role, leaving the majority of the bandit killing to your blade.