After the colossal disappointment that was the original Red Steel, Ubisoft decided to take a sharp turn away from the first game in an effort to redefine what the franchise is all about. Sure, your hero still wields both gun and sword, but in no other aspect does Red Steel 2 relate to the initial entry in the franchise. Ubisoft Paris has brought in new characters, a new art style and new controls in an effort to right the wrongs of the Wii launch title. But did they succeed?
There are two ways to answer that question. Is Red Steel 2 a better game than the original? Undoubtedly. Is Red Steel 2 the ‘triple-A’ experience that Wii fans have been hoping it is? Unfortunately not.
Where Red Steel 2 manages to outclass its brethren is in the three main elements I touched upon earlier. The new character and graphic design make for a much flashier and more engaging first impression. The cowboy/samurai aesthetic gives this game a vibe all its own. When the cel-shaded graphics let you experience a Japanese sunset against a western horizon, you realize how cool this mash-up of cultures is.
Of course, this wouldn’t mean anything if the game still handled like its predecessor. Thankfully, Red Steel 2 feels a whole lot better in your hands. No longer will your cursor jump around the screen for no apparent reason. The default aiming controls are smooth and natural, and you have the option to customize your settings. Taking a page out of The Conduit’s book, Ubisoft gives you access to the size of your bounding box, (the area in which you can aim without moving the screen), and lets you decide how fast you’d like to turn. There are even different settings for swinging your sword.
Why would you need different settings for the sword? Because of the MotionPlus. The accessory is required to play the game and is utilized in sword control. Now, you shouldn’t expect one-to-one movement when playing Red Steel 2. Your hand movements will not be replicated onscreen. What you can expect is to use your whole body. One of the chief complaints lobbied against the Wii is the use of ‘waggle.‘ But wrist flicking will not suffice in this game. If you want to slash an enemy, you will be forced to swing in big arcs, and power counts. After a few hours of playing, it felt like I had put my shoulders through a workout. Choosing the ‘relaxed’ setting can help if you’re feeling a bit overworked, but some effort will still be required. In fact, when I was trying to be too relaxed, I would sometimes move the screen on my draw-back, missing my intended target. Likewise, resetting your cursor after a swing of the sword can initially be disorienting, although you’ll get more comfortable with it as you play.
This is where the fun is found in Red Steel 2. In the mastery of combat. Over the course of the game, you will learn new techniques to use in battle. Taking out a room full of enemies by tossing them into the air and pounding them back down, or bashing their head into the ground is undeniably satisfying. Getting off the couch and using your weapons in tandem in order to execute one move after another makes you feel like an true action hero.
It’s just a shame the game doesn’t offer more. As improved as this ‘sequel’ is, it still doesn’t really feel special. Actually, I’d go so far as to say it feels shallow. As I made my way through the game, I could not help but think about another Ubisoft title, Assassin’s Creed. Due to the repetitive nature of the game. Red Steel 2 doesn’t offer any truly unique situations. Instead, you accept a mission in which you encounter some adversaries, dispose of them, maybe hit a switch or two and then return for your next, all-too-similar task. It always seemed as though I could fight the next battle with the exact tactics as the last. Even the hideouts in which you receive new missions all look identical.
Another letdown is Ubisoft’s neglect in taking advantage of the new world and characters they created. Before playing, I was ready to invest myself in this new world, only to find out the story is practically non-existent. What little you do find is presented in terribly boring cutscenes that are nothing more than people talking at you. As a result, I had no attachment to my character or his motivation.
Graphics & Sound
Red Steel 2 is paradoxically gorgeous and bland at the same time. There’s no doubt that the game’s artistic direction is a thing of beauty. The combination of Old West and Japanese societies create an amalgamous world that is exclusive to this title. And when you’re really soaking it in and taking notice, it can impress you. However, when you are traveling from town to town and merely making your way between each monotonous fight, the streets can look bare and feel like a wasteland.
The music has a mostly western flare with just a touch of the orient injected. It suits the atmosphere of the game, but at times you will wish for a bit more variety. Supporting characters are voiced, although the performances feel uninspired and can make you chuckle unintentionally.
I’m honestly not sure how long it took me to complete Red Steel 2, but I think it’s safe to say it will be an 8-10 hour adventure. After that, there really isn’t much else to do. You can attempt to best your high scores in the challenge mode, which is really just a chapter select, complete with unnecessary cutscenes.
I really was looking forward to Red Steel 2. I was hoping it would become another reason to own the Wii, and provide proof that Nintendo’s console could deliver great content in the hands of the right developer. Regrettably, it’s neither of those things.
Ultimately, Red Steel 2 failed to capitalize on its potential by delivering something that is little more than a beat-em-up. It misses the opportunity to take what excites people about the Red Steel franchise and turn it into something exceptional. That isn’t to say that Ubisoft has released a bad game, it just never moves beyond average.
Release date : 2010-03-23
Publisher : Ubisoft
Developer : Ubisoft Paris
Gameplay : Action
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