Wednesday, 15 September 2010

REVIEW: Red Steel 2

Red Steel 2
[Wii] [Ubisoft]
Way back when the Wii was first launched in 2006 it came packing several launch titles, including The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and the infamous Red Steel. Back then, Red Steel seemed like a brilliant game, but journalists and gamers were overcome by the flashy new motion controls. Back then, using the remote as an aiming reticule and shaking it about to use swords was an innovative idea, but now the Wii is a worldwide phenomenon, with the majority of first person shooters on the system making use of the pointer, it's not so innovative. In fact, Red Steel was a pretty mediocre game, with awful AI, and fairly boring level design. Two years after the release of the original game, Ubisoft announced they were working on a sequel. For months, there was no news on the game. No screenshots, no trailers, just various little snippets in interviews. Ubisoft were keeping quiet about the game, and this lead gamers into thinking they were hiding it away because it would be a generic sequel along the lines of the first game. They were oh so wrong. In fact, it's strange how Red Steel 2 is actually under the Red Steel brand, it's a completely different game and it's certainly for the best. Red Steel 2 is handled by a completely different team to the first game's. The only real similarities between the the sequel and it's predecessor is the fact that they're both first person, they both involve using a mix of swords and guns and the load screens look the same. That's pretty much it! Still, Red Steel 2 is actually a very good game, much more so than the original.

Red Steel 2 takes place in the city of Caldera, a barren wasteland in the middle of the Nevada desert. You play as a lone, mysterious warrior banished from your clan years before receiving a distress call from Caldera, asking for the help of one of your clan. On the way to the city, the nameless hero is kidnapped by the Jackals, a gang of thieves who have taken over Caldera city, hence why the civilians have asked for your help. After being knocked out, tied to the leader of the Jackals' bike and dragged through the city the hero manages to escape and sets out on his quest to find out what's going on. Later on in the game he runs into several civilians who help him out throughout the game. Things start to get interesting later on, but I won't spoil that.
The first boss fight involves you battling against Payne, the leader of the Jackals.
So, what does Red Steel 2 do right, and what does it do wrong? I'll start with the good. The game looks beautiful. There's some great cel-shading effects and the locales are very well designed. The opening sequence involving you getting dragged through Caldera by a rope attached to a bike is a pretty stunning way to open up the game, and it sets the stage for what's to come later on. The enemies, while a bit repetitive, are well designed. Kudos to the devs for making the sequel to a pretty horrid-looking game look rather awesome. Also brilliant is the actual character design, from the lone and mysterious hero to the sheriff of the city Judd and the computing expert Tamiko to the loot-obssessed leader of the Jackals, Payne. There's some pretty awesome music too. Much like the gameplay, it mixes Japanese and Western cultures together to create some pretty cool ditties.

In the end though, it's the gameplay that matters. This is what Red Steel 2 does best. Much like the original game, it involves standard shooting mixed with swordfighting. However, rather than restricting you to either swordplay or gunslinging at certain sections like in the first game, Red Steel 2 allows you to switch between the sword and your guns whenever you like. With the sequel, they've concentrated much more on swordplay, which works a hell of a lot better compared to the original thanks to the Motionplus unit. The game focuses heavily on the swordplay aspect, and it's pulled off extremely well. You use the remote as your sword (obviously) and basic attacks involve you slashing in whatever direction you please. Depending on how hard you slash you will pull off stronger attacks, which is a clever idea as some armored enemies require you swing pretty damn hard. Of course, you could always turn the sensitivity way up, but that would be missing the point. Gunplay works well also. You can shoot your gun by pointing at the screen, even when you have the sword equipped. The switch between your guns and your sword works perfectly, and there's a number of unlockable guns to play about with. Both your sword and guns can be upgraded throughout the game to make them more powerful, which is a nice addition.
There's four different types of gun you can buy throughout the game. None will work against these armored enemies though, time to bust out the sword!
Red Steel 2's fighting aspect also comes packing some awesome special moves. First, there's the Kusagari Powers: Various special attacks that you learn throughout the story. The Kusagari Powers involve sword techniques, my favourite being the eagle - an awesome move that involves you charging up your sword, thrusting it upwards at an enemy causing them to go flying into the air. If you tap the a button to dash forward shortly after, you can fly up to the airborne jackal and smash them back to the ground. Sound cool? It sure is. Aside from the Kusagari Powers, there's also plenty of optional techniques that you can purchase throughout the game. Some of these also involve using the sword, while others make use of your guns too. Wait till you see The Shot finisher, it's awesome. All the special moves work very well, and are fairly easy to pull off. You're encouraged to use them as you're rewarded with more money than using standard slashes.
Purchase upgrades to improve your weaponry.
Red Steel 2 is a great game for definite, but it does unfortunately suffer a few flaws. First of all, the game's a bit short (I clocked the end credits at about 5-8 hours in), and there's practically no replay value whatsoever. Also, once you've completed the game there's no new game + option, which is actually rather stupid as, if you don't have all the guns or all the special moves you won't have a chance to buy them. You can go back and play levels you've finished in the game's Challenge mode, but unfortunately all the shops are closed. To add on to that, you're still forced to slog through the annoying tutorials, even though you've already done them! With that in mind, the game seems unfinished. Surely it doesn't take that much effort to shove in a new game + option. Oh well.

Despite all this, Red Steel 2 is definitely worth at least renting. Or perhaps, you could buy it from CEX for 15 quid, then trade-it in and get £11 back once you're finished with it? £4 isn't much to ask for a game of this high standard. If you're looking for a great first-person adventure on Wii that isn't Metroid Prime 3, then pick up Red Steel 2!


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