Game Review: Red Steel 2
Release: March 23, 2010
Genre: Action Fighting, Shooter
Developer: Ubisoft Paris (France)
Available Platforms: Nintendo Wii
MSRP: $49.99 ($59.99 w/ Wii MotionPlus)
ESRB Rating: Teen
Do you remember a little launch title called Red Steel? You know, that sword swinging launch title for the Wii back in 2006? The idea of swinging your wiimote as a sword sounded awesome. I couldn’t wait to purchase, get home, and slash some enemies. However, the hardware limitations hindered this experience and resulted in mediocre gameplay. Jump ahead to 2010 and we finally have a game that feels next gen on the Nintendo Wii console – Red Steel 2.
Red Steel 2 is a much needed upgrade to the Red Steel franchise. This is what Red Steel promised to be, but didn’t end up being. Forget everything you knew about the original because Red Steel 2 is a completely new game. The opening cutscene pulls you in and sets you up for one of the best wii games to date.
The first thing you may notice is the controls; with the help of the Wii MotionPlus and a proper setup the cursor moves around the screen with ease. Shooting targets is no longer jittery. From one target to the next it just feels right. Controls aren’t exactly 1:1 but they feel much better and more precise with the MotionPlus add-on. However, the camera can still be a little frustrating, moving the camera is fine, but occasionally when you attack, the cursor gets stuck off screen. Correcting this problem results in pointing the wiimote back in that direction. A simple command to center the cursor after an attack would have worked well. Swinging the sword requires more motion and force from your arm this time around; no more little wrists movements. The direction you swing is also taken into account; diagonal, horizontal, and vertical swings all work as you’d expect.
The second thing you’ll notice is the completely new story and setting. The plot from the first game does not continue in this sequel. To me, Red Steel 2 is best described as a fantasy western with influences from Japanese history. In Red Steel 2, you play as an outlaw and protector returning to a town overrun by Jackals. The leader of the Katakara clan is not known but they seek the Sora Katana sword you own. This sword belonged to the Kusagri clan who were known for great power and technique. After the initial cutscene, you will be introduced to Jian, a sensei who trains you in the ways of the Kusagari throughout the game; also, other characters such as Judd, a sheriff and Tamiko. Each will provide you with a location to buy new weapons, upgrades, and training.
Weapons and upgrades are only available at their respective location, but new unlocks become available as you earn money and progress through the game. Multiple techniques can be learnt at once if you have the money, but the game encourages you to wait. This gives you time to master one technique at a time and enjoy what it does before crowding you with something new.
At launch, Red Steel was described as a unique sword fighting game for the wii, but most of the gameplay was with guns. In Red Steel 2, the gun won’t be your main weapon of choice. Instead of the one on one sword fights from Red Steel, you’ll be able to pull out and use your sword in combination with one of the 4 guns against multiple enemies. Combos will reward you with more points. Shooting the enemy to his knees and swinging horizontally will finish him. Knocking him to the ground will result in a stab finish. Enemies travel in packs and will require you to fight multiple enemies at once. Enemies will circle you. Unlike most games however, they won’t stand around and wait until you have finished one person. They are smart and will attack together. Smart thinking and a combination of the gun and sword is a must to survive these battles. Using these strategies is a must for survival against the armored enemies or bosses. Throughout the battle you will lose health. To regain health, defeat the pack of enemies and it will instantly return to full.
The overall look and presentation of Red Steel 2 is stunning. It’s almost like Ubisoft looked at the success of Borderlands on the other platforms and decided to bring that to the wii. The Graphics are cel shaded, set in a western desert and vibrant. Cutscenes are beautifully rendered and transition to and from gameplay very well. Through these cutscenes, I’d sit back and think I was watching a movie but then you’d have to jump right back into the game.
Now don’t get too excited; unlike Borderlands, Red Steel 2 is for the most part linear. Linearity gives the game a much needed structure but still provides exploration of the towns via sidequests. Similar to Red Steel, missions are taken from the Dojo. Other locations such as the Sheriff station and a bar provide some as well. The way you take a mission though is similar to Borderlands in that you check a billboard where new missions will be available. However, new missions are only available when you are called back to check. You have your main missions which progress the story, and then you have sidequests. Most sidequests are just tacked on to provide more gameplay and require backtracking or location guessing, but others can help aid the main story. After a while the sidequests feel repetitive. For most of the game you don’t notice it, but after the third time, it stands out.
Although Red Steel 2 is a huge improvement over the original there are many things that could still be improved upon. Doors are used to travel to new sections of the map. Above or around them are no signs leaving you confused at times. Later in the game some places have signs, but having a fully viewable map with symbols and a legend would have greatly helped. With the amount of sidequests presented at once, it could have also benefited from some sort of waypoint system. All the dojo’s and sheriff stations you come across have the same floor plan. Sure, it makes it easy to move around, but would have been nice to see a new theme from town to town. I’m a left-handed gamer. For other consoles I don’t switch to south paw, but if I’m swinging a sword, I’d hold it in my left hand. Red Steel 2 doesn’t provide left hand controls. The gameplay was translated well when using my left hand, but there is no true left hand option.
My overall thoughts:
With the four years in between, you can definitely tell Ubisoft spent more time refining the gameplay this time around. A lot of it was waiting for the MotionPlus add-on to be released but I’m glad they did. I found myself wanting Red Steel to just end because of the poor sword sequences. Red Steel 2, however, is far less frustrating and more of an enjoyable gameplay experience. Compared to the original, Red Steel 2 feels much more cinematic, story driven, and engaging. The plotline is mediocre, but the way it is presented is awesome. Swinging the sword around is quite satisfying this time around. Blocking is much easier as well. Shooting guns and swinging a sword isn’t the only use of the wiimote either. Along the way you will encounter objects that require motion control. Most notable is the unlocking of safes. Unlocking one is done by holding the wiimote to your ear and rotating until you hear three clicks. At times, with the smooth camera controls, I felt like I was playing a rail gun shooter. The animations from walking to sword fighting and climbing ladders flow quite well without a moment pause.
Any wii owner looking for a mature sword fighting game should not miss this game. The mediocre story shouldn’t turn you away from the epic cinematics and battles you encounter. Red Steel 2 is a step in the right direction for wii games. Hopefully more and more wii games learn from the many improvements in Red Steel 2. If you were disappointed with Red Steel, give Red Steel 2 a try and you will be amazed.