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Jeremy Jastrzab
26 Apr, 2010

Red Steel 2 Review

Wii Review | Great Western Samurai Django. With Motion Plus.
While we quite liked it, Red Steel got a bad wrap. Seemingly people’s expectations of rainbows and kittens weren’t met when this experimental title was first released on the Wii, and playing one level or five minutes of a game is enough to make an informed judgement. But that’s neither here nor there. Despite the critical panning, Red Steel actually sold quite well. Much to the chargrin of the 'core' Wii gamers, no other developers had been willing to cash-in on the popularity with similarly styled games, as it seemed that most resorted to mini-game compilations instead.

In all seriousness, developers bemoaned the lack of 1:1 motion feedback, which was simply not feasible on the Wii Remote. However, Nintendo would go ahead and fix this with last year's release of the Wii Motion Plus. Unfortunately, there are only a dozen or so games available at the moment that even optionally utilise this feature. After experiencing success at the register with Red Steel, Ubisoft are back and are taking another crack at the First-Person Shooter/Slasher with the radically different and technologically overhauled Red Steel 2.

Just about the only similarities that Red Steel 2 has with its predecessor are the name, the concept of using guns and swords from first-person perspective and the mixture of Eastern and Western cultures. Pretty much everything else has been wiped from the slate. This time around, Red Steel 2 can only be played with Wii Motion Plus. So for anyone that had a problem with the canned controls of the original, Red Steel 2 completely overhauls the controls and provides true 1:1 motion controls that are fluid, intuitive, engaging, functional and most importantly, enjoyable.

Still red. And now you dead.

Still red. And now you dead.
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Red Steel 2 once again combines the East and West, although this time around the mixture of Spaghetti Western and Samurai flicks produces what could be called a 'Samurai Western' presented in cel-shaded graphics. This invokes similarities to the cult movie hit, Sukiyaki Western Django, while the game itself seems like a cross between Borderlands and Afro Samurai. It’s certainly an intriguing mix, but one that will put off people that aren’t 'into' these kinds of mixy-mixes. The story isn’t much better than the original’s B-grade action flick premise, though it’s something that you really should expect given the inspiring genres.

You play an unnamed, mysterious and (mostly) silent protagonist, who is dressed a lot like Vash the Stampede from Trigun. Apparently, he’s the last remaining member of the Kusagari clan, partly due to him being thrown out of it. Following being dragged across the desert on the back of a bike and surviving an invasion by the Jackal gang, he visits his old master to try and get some answers as to who exactly was responsible for the eradication of his clan. Sure, the story isn’t that serious and it very heavily resembles what you’d find in the movies it idolises, but none of the characters are particularly fleshed out and none are really that memorable. They’re mainly cardboard cut-outs of rather stereotypical characters from the game’s influences. Admittedly, the way that the clashing cultures have been mixed alone still makes it somewhat interesting. However, this isn’t what Red Steel 2 is about.

While the original Red Steel tried to implement Wii motion controls into a traditional objective-based shooter interspersed with the occasional sword battle, Red Steel 2 plays more like an arcade game with a loose attempt at an open-ended mission structure. You line up enemies and knock them down. Aside from being played with the Wii Motion Plus, the controls themselves have been almost completely overhauled. Sure, your reticule will still be controlled by the Remote's sensor, but this time around, you’ll also be allowed to use your sword at the same time as your gun. While the scheme is much simpler, more intuitive and better built into the game, it comes at the expense of some of the interesting additions from the original, such as gestures for picking up items and giving directions to NPCs.

When East and West came together, this isn't quite what they had in mind...

When East and West came together, this isn't quite what they had in mind...
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The implementation of the Wii Motion Plus radically changes the game experience. For the better, mind you. No longer are you restricted by the canned sword controls and slightly erratic gun controls. Everything moves as you do. If it doesn’t work, you did it wrong. As you play, you’ll earn up to four different weapons and several different sword techniques. Often, a new sword technique will complement the appearance of a new (and tougher) enemy. Combining the gun and swordplay certainly sounds ambitious but thankfully, it pays off extremely well. The game moves at a much faster pace this time around but after a few minutes with the controls, you’ll never miss a beat. The only minor control quirk that we came across was that the game got a little tricky with the auto lock on, as there can be a little delayed when switching between guns and swords.

There is an excellent progression curve through out the game. You start off against enemies that are easily downed with a shot to the knee, then a blade to the side of the head. However, you’ll quickly run across bigger enemies covered in armour, armed with bigger weapons, or ones that are faster on their feet and can dodge your bullets. However, as mentioned above, the skills you learn along the way will definitely be utilised to their fullest. Unfortunately, while there aren’t many of them, the bosses are a little disappointing. Once you figure out their pattern, there isn’t much to them. While we praise the controls for their precision, the developers have been a little tricky by designing the game in such a way that they don’t necessarily need to be completely precise.

As you wander through the somewhat narrow town streets, you’ll come groups of enemies. Clear that group, and you can progress with your health refilled. Further adding to the arcade nature is the money you earn for defeating each enemy. Killing them stylishly will give you more money, which is in-turn used to upgrade your weapons, armour and earn new techniques. Aside from the slightly arid Western look that is vaguely similar to Borderlands, the way you pick up missions is similar as well. There are a couple of NPCs that you’ll interact with that will give you access to a mission board, where you come and pick up missions. And in each township, you’ll pick up optional missions that will generate more cash as well, though most of these are essentially ‘flag’ hunts.

Probably not the best place to take a nap.

Probably not the best place to take a nap.
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Despite the divisive premise and setting, Red Steel 2 is a much better game than the original on both a technical and structural level. Wielding a gun and sword at the same time is a blast, not to mention intuitive and accurate. The main issue with the game is that going from fight to fight is pretty damned dull. Sure, you can destroy the occasional crate or barrel, find a few secret areas and tokens, but the main reward is a little surplus cash. Red Steel 2 tries to play open world, but the environments are too small for this and there simply isn’t enough to do in the interim to really make the game truly compelling. The fighting is fun, but sifting through empty locales with little to see isn’t. This is a real shame, as Red Steel 2 clocks in at anywhere between 8-10 hours and has no multiplayer, and only a challenge mode outside the main that allows you to re-play chapters for high scores.

While it may be off-putting and bizarre at first, the aesthetics of Red Steel 2 are actually quite excellent. Aside from the occasional disguised load screen and often empty feeling locales, the game plays incredibly smoothly. It looks almost as good as Borderlands or Afro Samurai, albeit without the same scope, and not once did the frame rate falter. As far as the mix of East and West goes, the blend gives a phenomenal result. It’s obvious that the art direction has been very carefully considered and it pays off superbly. While it is reminiscent of several other things, there really is nothing that looks it on its own. The same goes for the sound and music. There is a great blend of Western tunes that have been given an Eastern flavour. Unfortunately, the clichéd dialogue and voice acting leads to missed opportunities for what was almost an amusing and humorous game. To resort to a cliché though, it gets the job done.

Red Steel 2 is a marked technical improvement over its predecessor, and the developers have gone back to the drawing board to create a combat system that is much more appropriate given the control scheme. The Wii Motion Plus is like a gift from the heavens, as the game is not only completely accurate now, it’s also fun, fast and completely intuitive. To add to this, the game is just about as technically proficient as a Wii game can get and the art direction and blend of Eastern and Western flavours has been extremely well considered. It’s just a shame that everything between fights is so dull and that there isn’t much more to do than a solitary run through the game. Hopefully Red Steel 2 will stand as an example to developers that the Wii Motion Plus is a superior form of control for Wii games, and that there is more to to the Wii than just excessive amounts of mini-game compilations and tacked on ports.
The Score
Red Steel 2 is a great little arcade shooter/slasher that will hopefully be a benchmark and catalyst for more Wii Motion Plus titles. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  25/03/2010 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $79.95 AU
Publisher:
  UBI Soft
Genre:
  Shooter
Year Made:
  2008
Players:
  1

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