In our last look at Red Steel 2, Ubisoft's upcoming Wii-exclusive action game, we got a feel for the game's hack-and-slash gameplay (thanks to the Wii MotionPlus-powered gun and swordplay), as well a deeper understanding of the pulp sci-fi meets spaghetti western setting in which the game takes place. There's still more to learn about Red Steel 2, however, as we found out after recently checking out one of the later levels in the game.
Jumping into the seventh level of the game, we were surprised by the setting: You begin the level on the roof of a speeding train. Moving at such high speeds, you'll find yourself sliding backward when you aren't pushing forward with the analog stick on the nunchuk. With simple movement hampered, combat becomes a bit more challenging as you quickly find out when you are attacked by a handful of Jackal goons. This being a later level in the game, the Jackals have stepped up their game with some tougher opponents. As a result, these guys are quick, apt to dodge fire from your revolver, and are skilled at blocking strikes from your sword.
Hacking hard enough will stun these Jackal ninjas and give you an opening large enough to finish them off with a well-timed slash or two. We also took advantage of the additional weaponry we had on hand, including a double-barreled shotgun and a Tommy gun; you can switch between any of these guns by pressing the assigned direction on the Wii Remote's D pad.
As you make your way through the train car, as well as an army of Jackal enemies, you'll eventually reach the lead car and your unnamed nemesis. Before you can leap across to confront him personally, he disconnects the train's engine from the cars it's pulling and tosses a grenade at your feet. The train explodes and your enemy escapes unharmed. Of course, it takes more than a simple exploding train to stop a member of the Kusagari clan, and a brief cinematic follows showing the hero picking himself up to continue on foot.
Some time later (three days, according to the cinematic), you end up in yet another hub world, which looks to be completely deserted. You start out in an empty saloon before coming to the local sheriff's office. Inside, you find a radio receiver where you make contact with your sensei Jian, who encourages you to go out back and continue your training, despite the fact that he's not there in person. You'll find a handful of training dummies and can learn a new technique known as the "bear." By holding down the A and B buttons on the Wii Remote, you can charge your sword then stab it into the ground to create a tremendous shockwave that can stun (or defeat entirely) several enemies at once.
You'll use that bear attack early and often in this town. Soon after your training is complete, you'll head over to the gambling hall where you'll meet a man named Songan who has a few missions for you that mostly involve defeating as many Jackals as possible. He's also got a shop inside the hall where you can buy upgraded armor, Kusagari emblems, or masks that will give you improved attacks against certain enemies. Most of these upgrades are pricey, so you'll need a lot of cash on hand to take advantage of them.
In addition to the story missions--which mainly involve surviving multiple waves of Jackal enemies--you'll have various side missions you can accomplish to earn cash. These include raiding Jackal weapon stashes hidden all over the town or finding wanted posters with your name on them and tearing them down. The final mission in this level features a showdown against a chaingun-wielding samurai that proved to be one of the more difficult fights we've seen yet in Red Steel 2. Not only does the gun do enormous damage (eventually penetrating your defenses even if you're blocking with your sword by pressing the A button), but the guy holding it also has a huge see-through shield mounted on the gun that effectively prevents him from your frontal assaults. We were able to finally take him down by using the dash ability (pressing the A button and moving the nunchuk in any direction) to get around his defenses and then hack him up from the rear.
Based on our last two looks at Red Steel 2, it's clear that Ubisoft is trying to straddle the line between action and accessibility with this game. You spend lots of time hacking and slashing, but there's zero blood onscreen, which, depending on your point of view, may be a disappointment. We also have yet to run into an enemy that's given us too much of a fight (at least on the normal difficulty level), which makes us question just how much of a challenge this game will pose for most players. The game's visual amalgam of high tech and Old West continues to be one of its high points (as is the spooky spaghetti western theme music). Will the gameplay live up to the artistic design? We'll find out when Red Steel 2 is released on March 23.