Despite some frustrations, Red Steel 2's stylish blend of shooting with swordfighting is frequently exciting and makes good use of motion controls.
That's not to say that the game is too easy. Some groups of enemies can be effortlessly eliminated once you've got the right techniques, but there are also times when you're confronted with mobs of enemies in which the odds are stacked a bit too much in their favor. Even well-armored enemies generally aren't smart enough to be much of a threat one-on-one, especially once you've figured out which attacks are most effective against that particular type of enemy. But the group tactics that your enemies resort to sometimes feel cheap. Being swarmed from behind while you're trying to deal with the enemy in front of you can get irritating, despite the indicator that tells you when you're about to be attacked from the back. And although it doesn't happen often, enemy bullets occasionally pass right through walls, which can lead to some especially infuriating deaths.
The motion controls for all this shooting and slashing work very well for the most part. There may still be the rare time when a stabbing motion doesn't register or when what felt like a pretty wide swing to you is interpreted as a standard attack instead of a strong one, but it doesn't happen frequently enough to be a real problem. It's possible to see Red Steel 2 as both an argument for more widespread use of motion control or against it. At times, seeing an enemy fall before you as you forcefully swing or thrust can be visceral and exciting, but at other times, you may tire a bit of all the arm waving, longing for the reduced exhaustion of a traditional control scheme. Just how much a control scheme like this can add to a gaming experience is not a question Red Steel 2 is going to answer once and for all, but it is one of the more successful implementations of a motion control scheme in which your character's movements mirror your own to some degree.
You don't spend every spare moment in combat, but there certainly isn't much else of interest outside of it. In each area, in addition to main missions that advance the story, there are a number of optional side missions available that you can take on to earn some extra cash. (In addition to buying new techniques, that coin can also get you damage upgrades, life extensions, armor, and trophy masks that give you more time to input finishing moves on stunned opponents.) But these optional tasks are dull, and many of them repeat from area to area. The money you earn might be useful, but it hardly compensates you for the time spent scouring the area in search of a few wanted posters or running around pushing buttons to activate communication towers. The most engaging diversion outside of combat is the quick safecracking process that you encounter from time to time. For this, you turn the remote back and forth like the dial on a safe, pushing a button when you hear the click of the lock sliding into place. It's not challenging, but it's a fun little use of the added precision that is afforded by the game's MotionPlus motion controls.
Red Steel 2 is one of the best-looking games on the Wii. What the cel-shaded environments may lack in fine detail, they make up for in vibrancy. Your enemies attack with style and grace, with dramatic speed lines giving the action a heightened, comic-book quality. Even in the midst of the most frantic combat, the game maintains a silky smooth frame rate that helps pull you into this dusty place of tumbleweeds and neon signs. In fact, the visuals are so good, you won't even spend much time thinking about the fact that your steel never turns red at all. Sadly, the sound design isn't so successful. The music combines spaghetti western motifs with Asian influences, which fits the setting, but the results here are a bit uninspired. Some of the voice acting is terrible, particularly with regard to a few villains who strain with every word to sound as evil as possible. And a few instances in which subtitles indicate that a character's words are being jammed by enemy transmission yet you can hear every word perfectly suggest that the sound just didn't get the attention it deserved.
It takes roughly eight or 10 hours to reach the game's conclusion, and while you can jump to any chapter you've completed to use any guns or techniques you've acquired, there's little incentive to return to the Red West after the credits roll. But it's a memorable experience while it lasts, thanks to its interesting setting, great visuals, and frequently exciting combat. Red Steel 2 isn't going to usher in a golden age of motion-controlled action games, but it's a solid enough game in its own right to be worth playing regardless of how you feel about the potential of the technology.