Red Steel 2 Updated Hands-On

Payne brings the pain in our first look at Red Steel 2's boss battles.

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Ubisoft's upcoming action game for the Wii, Red Steel 2, puts a sword (and a gun) in your hands and lets you get to work hacking up bad guys by the dozen in a revisionist Old West that's equal parts The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, motorcycle gangs, and feudal Japan. Earlier today, we had a chance to check out an updated build of the game, which showed off something we hadn't seen yet: boss battles.

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Enter Payne, a heavily tattooed beast of man--the kind of guy who carries a big sword and knows how to use it. He's the leader of the badass biker gang known as the Jackals; he's also the guy you see in the very first scene of Red Steel 2 dragging the hero of the game through the desert after chaining him to his car. As it turns out, Payne and his cronies have taken over a town known as Caldera and are taking residence in the mayor's home.

The visual design in Red Steel 2 is a far cry from its predecessor--forget the modern-day time line and the Los Angeles setting. Its combination of Old West and Japanese influences create a look that's all its own. When you encounter Payne to do battle, for example, you'll do so in the courtyard surrounded by Japanese-inspired architecture. Once Payne spots you in the courtyard, he immediately calls out a couple of his henchmen to assist him. These enemies are easy to take down but can be considerably annoying if you let them stick around while focusing on the much more present danger of Payne himself. As for the boss--he's big, strong, and faster than he looks. And you'll need to make the most of the game's intriguing controls if you hope to have a chance of survival.

It's those controls, particularly when it comes to the sword combat, that serve as Red Steel 2's hook. Your character's sword is drawn by default at all times, so a simple swipe of the Wii Remote will slash out. You can also move the Wii Remote forward for a stab motion. The Wii MotionPlus accessory makes the swordfighting a much more tangible experience. For example, how hard you slash will determine how hard you are striking an opponent.

You can also block with your sword by pressing the A button, and which direction you hold the Wii Remote when blocking will be important in some cases. For example, if a character is looking to attack you with an overhead vertical strike, you'll need to deflect it by holding the Wii Remote (and thus your sword) horizontally. As for Payne, his attacks seem to come from every angle. He'll even kick you into the air and attack you as you fall--an attack you'll be able to use against enemies yourself once you've finally defeated Payne.

Of course, defeating Payne is more difficult than it sounds--his speed, strength, and aggression make him a formidable foe (and don’t forget those pesky cronies--they'll take you out if you aren't careful). And the boss fight was too much for us on our first try. However, we did watch Ubisoft producers as they successfully defeated Payne, which led to a brief cutscene and a teaser that suggested Payne has more tricks up his sleeve (read: "second stage boss battle").

Red Steel 2's release date has been moved to early 2010, which will give the development team at Ubisoft Paris time to polish the game. This is something the original Red Steel could have benefited from as well. Here's hoping that the extra polish time pays off because what we've seen of the game so far suggests that things are conceptually heading in the right direction. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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