All of this gun and sword business wouldn’t mean a thing without solid level design, and thankfully Red Steel 2 has one of the most compelling game worlds I’ve visited. Each main area has a large hub world where the game’s main characters set up shop and assign you missions. Some are generic quests that pop up in each chapter, while in others you must explore unique areas that branch off of the hub. I’ll say this much—I haven’t enjoyed a sewer, mine or train level in years and Red Steel 2’s were some of the best parts of the game.
A few of the side missions tend to repeat too often, though. The primary objective-based quests are all focused and a joy to play through, but hunting down wanted posters or powering up radio towers three times in a row gets a little tedious. Then again you don’t have to do these side quests because they only give you money, and there are numerous other ways to get cash in the game. These extra missions just made me retread the levels a few too many times.
The exploration is similar to the Metroid Prime series, but what sets Red Steel 2 apart from Retro’s trilogy is the more constant emphasis on action, and its unique, superb art direction. Caldera is an almost seamless mix of the old west and feudal Japan, dressed up in the advanced yet makeshift utilitarian tech you’d expect in Bioshock’s Rapture. You get the feeling that some catastrophic economic collapse took place, setting the world back to frontier sensibilities but with modern technology and multicultural influences. The graphics are highly stylized and partially cel-shaded, similar to Borderlands. Red Steel 2 looks fresh and great all the way through.
The sound design is equally good. Tom Salta scored the first game and provides the music for the sequel, but aside from including a few residual musical cues and sound effects, Salta gave Red Steel 2 its own distinct aural personality. The east-meets-old-west theme is just as present in the music; you’ll be listening to something that sounds like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and it’ll transition right into some Japanese woodwinds. Of course the best music is saved for the intense battles, where you’ll get a surprisingly rousing synthesis of fiddles, trumpets, lutes and Asian drums.
Red Steel 2 is easily 12 hours long, 15 to 20 if you finish all the side missions and hunt down all the secret items and upgrades. Even though it’s a decently long experience it felt like it was over far too soon, and this is where one of my few complaints arises. Red Steel 2 ends very abruptly. I don’t want to spoil anything, and the story certainly has a badass conclusion, but it’s all climax and no denouement. There isn’t much closure for the supporting characters after the hero has taken his revenge, so the very classical narrative leaves you wanting more.
However, in terms of gameplay, pacing, art direction and controls, Red Steel 2 is one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had on a console. It’s a bit lean on extra content—there’s only a challenge mode when I would’ve liked a standalone training dojo or endurance arena—but the main quest is so thoroughly fun and satisfying from beginning to end that I can’t help but love it.
If you are a gamer, you need to play Red Steel 2. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Wii fan or if your Wii has been collecting dust for a year; heck, it might be the reason you need if you still haven’t bought a Wii. If you like action games then you should play Red Steel 2, simple as that. It delivers on the promise that the original game only hinted at and offers a fast, frenetic and truly immersive experience that you can’t find anywhere else.
More On:Red Steel 2
Are you a gamer? Do you own a Wii? Then you need Red Steel 2. In fact, this game is a reason to own a Wii all by itself. It delivers on the promises of the first game and then some, offering razor sharp controls, a beautiful art style one of the most visceral action experiences of 2010. There's really nothing else like it right now.
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