Despite some frustrations, Red Steel 2's stylish blend of shooting with swordfighting is frequently exciting and makes good use of motion controls.
- Mix of swordplay and shooting leads to varied, exciting combat
- Great visuals
- Constant addition of new techniques keeps action interesting.
- Story and characters are underdeveloped
- Enemies sometimes employ frustrating tactics
- Some awful voice acting.
When Red Steel was released alongside the launch of the Wii in 2006, a lot of hopes were riding on its promise of exciting swordplay that utilized the Wii's motion controls. And when it failed to live up to expectations, it became apparent that perhaps the Wii's technology just wasn't capable of reading one's movements with the precision necessary to deliver on that promise. Now, aided by the Wii MotionPlus accessory, Ubisoft has overhauled the Red Steel franchise. While it's far from flawless, it's a dramatically better game than its predecessor and offers the best excuse yet to swing a Wii Remote around as if delivering sharp, merciless death to your enemies.
Red Steel 2 scraps the yakuza theme and contemporary setting of the original, replacing it with an aesthetic that combines the Old West with a sprinkling of Asian architecture and advanced technology. Your nameless hero is the last of the Kusagari, a clan who protected the people of the Red West from the marauding biker gangs that infest the region. Returning to the town of Caldera after spending some years in exile, you set out to learn who is behind the deaths of the Kusagari and avenge your fallen brothers. Unfortunately, the characters are underdeveloped and the story is nearly incoherent. For example, the mission description will tell you to do something, but often, it won't be especially clear why you're doing what you're doing. You also learn so little about the main character and the villain that it's impossible to care about the quest for vengeance that drives the story forward. A turn of events near the end of the game that's meant to stoke the fires of your rage falls completely flat, and the final battle along with the subsequent ending are almost shockingly underwhelming.
But the combat is the real draw here, and thankfully, it's pretty good. You move with the nunchuk's thumbstick; you turn, interact with objects, aim, and attack with the remote. A Kusagari clan member can switch instantly from his katana to his firearms, and you'll often combine shooting with swordplay to effectively take down your enemies. Those hoping to see their swordfighting techniques mimicked onscreen with unerring accuracy will be disappointed; Red Steel 2 doesn't try to precisely match your movements. Rather, various general inputs make your character perform moves from his repertoire. You can swing horizontally or vertically or stab with the remote to perform a standard attack, with a wider horizontal swing resulting in a stronger attack you can use to break through an enemy's guard posture or destroy any armor he might be wearing. While common sense might suggest that trying to mow enemies down with a tommy gun from a safe distance would always be an easier way to deal with a gang of thugs than engaging them in swordfights one at a time, in the world of Red Steel 2, that's not always the case. The game encourages you to use the different weapons at your disposal in tandem; perhaps shooting an enemy in the head to stun him (yes, stun him) and then responding to an onscreen prompt to finish him off with a fancy katana move. It may feel a bit contrived, but switching effortlessly between shooting and slicing adds variety to the action, as well as contributes to the feeling that you're a master of some ludicrous but extremely effective fighting style.
Initially, you have only a few simple moves at your disposal. But you'll gain access to a wide array of techniques as you progress, most of which are performed with a combination of button presses and sword swings. Some of these moves are doled out automatically at certain points in the story, while others can be purchased with the money you earn for completing missions and by blasting open every box you come across. The steady increase in your abilities matches the wider variety of attacks your enemies progressively employ. You'll learn to parry strong attacks by pressing the A button and holding the remote vertically or horizontally, depending on the direction of your opponent's swing, then take advantage of the opening to land an attack of your own. You'll learn to quickly circle around enemies to attack them from behind and to deflect bullets back at their shooters. You'll also acquire powers that let you send your opponent flying skyward or trigger earthquakes that knock down enemies gathered around you. At times, you may feel a bit too powerful, cutting through a small mob of thugs as if they were made of paper, but the sense of progression that comes from acquiring techniques that allow you to make short work of enemies who had previously given you a tough time is rewarding.