Way back in early 2007 I reviewed Red Steel, a launch title for the Wii that was the console’s very first FPS. In addition to the shooting, it offered something entirely new—sword combat based on the Wii’s motion controls. It was also the first Wii game to release screenshots; the very first look anyone got of what the Wii was capable of. Naturally, expectations for the game were so unrealistic by the time it launched that it could never hope to reach them. While the original Red Steel sold in excess of one million copies, it was critically panned.
Some of the criticism was deserved, but fell more along the lines of typical launch title jitters. Ubisoft had very little time to make the game and as a result parts of it felt rushed. Red Steel also had the misfortune of blazing trails on the Wii, notably in first person shooter controls, which felt loose and unresponsive in the game. The sword gameplay was rudimentary and cumbersome, and took the most flack from critics expecting a seamless katana simulator.
All things considered, Red Steel was a decent launch title and an effective proof-of-concept. It was a mixture of good ideas and unrealized potential, of ugly rushed corridor levels and breathtaking Japanese environments that are still impressive years later. To this day I regret judging the game so harshly in my original review. Flawed as it was, Red Steel planted the seeds for a new genre that has gone unrealized for over three years…until now.
And that brings us to Red Steel 2. Whether you loved the first game or hated it with a passion, before passing judgment on Red Steel 2 know this first: it is no ordinary sequel. Rather, it is a huge stylistic departure, and a massive evolution in the gameplay of the original. In fact Ubisoft has been very vocal about distancing this sequel from the original, emphasizing just how different and better it is. They aren’t lying. Red Steel 2 improves upon the original in every conceivable way, and by a vast degree.
Red Steel 2 takes the basic premise from the first game—a mixture of sword and gunplay—and places it in an entirely new setting. Scott Munro, Miyu, Sato, Tokai and the admittedly generic Yakuza plot are completely gone. Red Steel 2 takes place in a whole new universe, essentially. Set in an alternate reality near-future, the story happens in the remote town of Caldera in the middle of the Nevada desert. You play as a nameless, lone-wolf protector returning from a five-year banishment. In your absence gangs descended upon Caldera and slaughtered your entire family. You are the last of the Kusagari clan, and it’s time for revenge.
On every level, Red Steel 2 is a nuanced blend of the old west and the Far East. The lone protagonist reflects this in his fighting style—he is both a katana-wielding swordsman and a revolver-packing gunslinger. You begin the game with only your trusty 8-shooter, but only minutes in you recover a blade and put it to good use. This is the biggest departure from the first game; while it was an 80-20 split between gun and sword, the sequel is the reverse. The swordfights in the original were slow, one-on-one and heavily scripted; in Red Steel 2 you can switch between your guns and sword at will, and the action is fast, tense and unrelenting.
The swordplay wouldn’t be possible without the WiiMotion Plus attachment, and the game in fact requires the add-on. It’s really not a hassle because you can buy the game bundled with a MotionPlus for $60, a little pricier than a typical Wii game but the same cost of a standard 360 or PS3 title. As far as I’m concerned it’s worth it to own a MotionPlus for Red Steel 2 alone; the swordplay is just that good.
The controls are actually pretty simple, which makes them flexible and easy to pick up. You move and strafe with the Nunchuk and use the Wii remote for aiming and slashing. You can lock onto enemies and just about any item in the environment with the Z button, which focuses the camera and allows for circle strafing, aiming and sword slashes without disorienting your viewpoint. I took some time to get a handle on the control scheme by exploring and trying out my new sword.
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