Red Steel Hands-On

Ubisoft showcases its new Wii-based FPS in Paris, allowing us to get more of a feel for the game.

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Following on from our previous coverage of Red Steel, we recently attended a Ubisoft event in Paris, which was held to show off even more of their Wii shooter. The main level on show this time was an updated version of the introduction section to the game, which was previously shown at E3. However, with the polish that's been applied to the game since May, it was nice to see how effort has been made to tighten up a number of the game's areas.

As before, once the scene is set, you find yourself escorting your fiancée's father through various sections of an office building. To begin with, you're taken through the basics of swordplay, and this side of things hasn't changed since last month's play test--in other words, the hacking and slashing techniques are tied closely to your actions with the Wiimote, but they don't correspond exactly.

After you've mastered the various techniques and have successfully slashed, dodged, and parried a number of times, you're given the choice of sparing the life of your sword-wielding adversary, or sending him to his grave. Choosing the former will give you honour points, which you can build up through the game, although it wasn't clear from this play test just what those points will get you.

The next few rooms introduce various other elements of the Wii control system, including door-opening, weapon reloading, and the various methods of aiming and shooting. You can also overturn tables to form a barricade, which is pretty handy since Red Steel has a similar approach with your character's health to Call of Duty--stay down for long enough and you'll recover, thus avoiding the need to mess about finding health packs.

Another part of the level involved holding off enemies until your father-in-law could escape, which put a different slant on the action and made it more defensive than before. The aims were twofold and involved not just surviving yourself, but preventing the enemies from getting to a specific doorway until the clock had run down.

After that was done with, and you headed down to meet up with your fiancée and her father, they were whisked away in some cars, which you had to try and head off before they could escape the car park. Once again, the play style changed to one of frantic action as we tried to make progress as quickly as possible and despatch our targets with ever-increasing haste. The levels we played were punctuated with the sword-fighting set pieces, and overall this breaks up the pace quite nicely.

Based on this run-through, one element that's had a number of tweaks applied since E3 is enemy artificial intelligence, and on the whole that's showing some benefits. On the one hand, enemies are showing enough intelligence to flank, use cover, and move out of harm's way, although there are still some issues around collision detection.

For one thing, it's still not quite clear-cut how close you need to be to objects before they interfere with your weapon's line of sight, and on several occasions we saw what we thought were well-aimed shots hit the surface of a desk we were hiding behind, even though our gun sight had a clear shot. The other thing that stood out was the way in which certain parts of an enemy could penetrate the texture of a door, a bit like in the classic N64 game Goldeneye. It happened only once or twice, but it was enough to be noticeable.

That said, the overall look of the game, while arguably less important on the Wii than on the other next-gen consoles, has also been polished some more. Certainly some of the textures have become smoother since E3, and the overall style of the game--including the highlighted edges of characters and the standout green borders of enemy weapon drops--seems to sit better now.

Our play test lasted for about an hour in all, and it gave us the opportunity to get a feel for how the Wii controller fits in to the game. One thing that's for sure is that the coordination required won't necessarily come easy, especially when you're combining looking and moving with zooming in, shooting, crouching, and reloading--all simultaneously using both hands with several kinds of motion.

That said, we certainly found that we paid more attention to what was going on than we would have had we been playing the game with a normal control pad, and the result was an absorbing experience that left us wanting to play more. We managed to build up a sweat while playing, and with not much longer to go now, we'll have a full preview of the game in the near future.

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