Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Review | Red Steel 2


I think I speak for everyone who purchased a Nintendo Wii on launch back in 2006 that Red Steel was certainly a game we were all looking forward to. With promise of intense action, innovative new game mechanics using the Wii’s motion controller, the hype really could not have been bigger for this particular launch title. Shortly after falling flat on it’s face, Red Steel was rightfully forgotten as the controls ended up clunky and unresponsive, the game itself was uninspired and boring and overall, it certainly did not live up to the expectations we all had. I felt sorry for Ubisoft because after all, this was there first attempt at creating a game of this design, for a brand new console. To me, it was no surprise that it did not come out perfect. Therefore, it was up to them to take the formula of Red Steel, recreate it and bring us a brand new package that showed they had learnt from their prior mistakes and rebuilt the franchise better than ever.


Now, aided by the Wii MotionPlus accessory that provides full 360-degree movement, Ubisoft has revamped the Red Steel franchise. While it is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, you can see and feel that it is overall much better in almost every aspect in comparison to its predecessor and at times, is actually a really enjoyable game to get involved in.


Red Steel 2 divulges from the Japanese Triad theme it had in the original and opts for a much more wild and outgoing them of the Wild West visuals mixed with traditional Japanese audio and a dose of killer high tech weaponry. The protagonist is an unnamed hero who was part of a once ancient clan that has now been slain by villains and thieves that inhabit the land and it is up to you to unfold a tale of revenge. Unfortunately, you won’t actually be doing much unfolding as for the most part the story takes a back seat to the action and this is for the best really as it’s not told very well and becomes boring pretty quickly. The main character is not developed in the slightest, the main bad guy is uninspired and this is all molded together with a pretty disappointed ending.

But do not let this put you off as Red Steel 2 shines very much in it’s revamped game-play mechanics. The nunchuck is used as your basic movement tool but the Wii motion control is used for almost everything else including turning. The difference here between this and the original is the movement feels a lot more fluid and this is the most important aspect when developing an arcade style shooter for a console. You will not find yourself swinging the Wii mote and turning past enemies as the game does a good job sensing how much is needed to turn to face certain enemies and so forth.

Your main character’s assortment of weapons range between blades and guns, an appropriate mix from the West and Asia, but with some futuristic components thrown in there for good measure. At this point, Red Steel 2 opts for consistency over showing off, by this I mean the game does not mimic your exact movements like for example in Wii Sports Resort, the blade wielding mini game. Instead, certain movements on your part register particular moves from your list of skills in game. This allows for flashy finishing moves to be performed with minimal effort but at the same time you feel like you have much less control than you really should. Fortunately, because of this slight simplification, the game almost never causes any problems with hand held fights and with some cool on-screen prompts and the ability to switch easily between your blade and guns to kill varieties of enemies, you will find the combat free-flowing, smooth and a whole load of fun.

Part of the fun in Red Steel 2 is building up your arsenal of moves and weapons. At the beginning of the game you will obviously have very little at your disposal but Red Steel 2 boasts a very good character construction curve that deals out special abilities at what seem like very appropriate times in the story. You will find that just as enemies are becoming pretty hard to handle, you will be rewarded with a new technique to make your life easier at that point in time. Of course you can also purchase techniques and even find them scattered in the world, offering a little more customization in terms of what you unlock first and what suits your fighting style.

Red Steel 2 also shows off a very well designed difficulty curve that compliments around 10 – 12 hours of action in the campaign mode. The game does promote memorizing what techniques are better suited to tackling what enemies and once this is mastered, some enemies can be eliminated without any problems whatsoever. However, the enemy AI does a good job in ganging up on you and this is where problems start to occur. One on one you are almost unbeatable with patience, good defense and a deadly offense, but when enemies group together it takes skill and precision to eliminate them. Unfortunately, at times these group tactics feel a little cheap, especially when enemies come at you from behind. This becomes frustrating at times, but a well thought out game plan can get you out of pretty much any mess in Red Steel 2.

For the most part, Red Steel 2’s does a great job with both the shooting mechanics and the hand fighting. Of course you might encounter a few niggling issues and an occasional slash that does not register, but this is still to be expected. As mentioned before, the simplification of motion capture has made Red Steel 2 an interesting topic of debate, arguing whether motion sensing games should capture each and every precise movement of a gamer, or whether catching a few moves and interpreting them as command actions in game is the better way forward. Obviously the latter is being used here because Ubisoft could not effectively find a way to register all the movements of a human so perhaps in the near future with Microsoft’s Project Natal and Sony’s Move components being developed, this will be a much more realistic possibility.

Red Steel 2 does not offer much outside of its campaign mode. There is no multiplayer mode as game designers said there was no time to dwell in that department before the release and they decided to concentrate on a great single player experience rather than an average multiplayer game. I can respect that, I have no issue in a game that brings to the table an incredible campaign but no multiplayer, look at Bioshock as a prime example. Unfortunately, this of course it not in the same league as games like Bioshock, but is good enough to validate the exclusion of multiplayer. Red Steel 2 does offer some side missions and quests in game to earn more money and unlock further enhancements and upgrades. These are far from imaginative however, and for the most part you can get the upgrades required to complete the game without ever stepping into a side mission.

Red Steel 2 does deserve significant praise for its fantastic visuals. They are very similar to other cell shaded style games by Nintendo such as Killer 7 and XIII, all of which looked gorgeous on the Gamecube. The graphics here while of course don’t match up to the Playstation or Xbox, are still for the Wii, very vibrant, alive and suffer from no slow down or frame issues. Great graphics do need great audio to go with it and Red Steel 2 does fall off the mark in this respect. Voice acting is pretty bad to say the least and the in game sound is nothing to get excited about, but I think the visuals are really good enough to warrant overlooking the average sound quality Red Steel 2 provides.

Overall, Red Steel 2 is a good game by FPS standards on the Nintendo Wii. It is an enjoyable experience while it lasts and while there is little incentive to dive back into the world once it is completed, you will enjoy the hours spent completing it. I think the reason I have such a positive outlook on Red Steel 2 is I am just so impressed with Ubisoft’s overall improvements on not just the game, but also the way the motion sensing mechanics are implemented. As a result, if the progression curve stays as positive as this, I cannot wait till Red Steel 3 is in the works.

Igor Kharin
CeX Contributor

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