This is what the Wii was made for.
Ever since the idea of motion controllers, all I’ve wanted was a game that could deliver copious amounts of ass-kicking with equal parts of name-taking. If you can imagine John Wayne being the best samurai in a future Western wasteland, then you’re halfway to understanding what this game is all about. Thank you, Red Steel 2; you have delivered.
The first Red Steel was hyped as one of the great flagship titles for the Wii, but in Ubisoft’s haste to get the game ready in time, it was an utter disappointment. The graphics were poor, the gameplay ever poorer and the controls were so clunky and unintuitive that many began to doubt the potential of the Wii’s motion-control system. Enter Red Steel 2some four years later, given a big old helping hand by the Wii MotionPlus accessory, and you have a game that is so unlike its predecessor that it may as well have been a new franchise.
You play as the last hero of the Kusagari, trying to regain control of your hometown, which has fallen into the hands of a biker gang after a five-year exile. And, naturally, you’re going to destroy everyone you can to make sure things are just the way you like them.
The combat system is the finest of any game on any platform. I mean it. You can swing your WiiMote in all directions and your virtual sword will react based on the strength and arc of your strike. Sure, you may say "that’s just Wii Tennis all over again", but you’d be dead wrong. Over the course of the game you’re introduced to new combos with increasing flashiness-to- gore ratio. There are stabs, slashes, dodges, blocks, finishing moves and an infinite combo of gestures that will keep you on your toes. And yet, there’s still more. There are guns too – awesome guns. In the time it takes to reload your revolver and twirl it around a few times, you’ll already feel like a gun-slinging badass.
You’ll also need to make sure you actually take note of those often-ignored instructional notices on the initial loading screen. You know, the ones where you can accidentally hit a family member or cat? Well, no joke, you will find yourself flailing wildly playing this game. That’s probably why the Wii MotionPlus has excessive gel cushioning... You can’t sit down on your couch and get by with a few flicks of the wrist – this is the Wii at its most deliciously hardcore.
There are times when this game feels like a far less restrictive version of the Time Crisisseries, and this arcade feel really suits Red Steel 2. For one, the FPS element of the game is unparalleled on the Wii. The shooting, after you get the hang of it, becomes just as addictive as the swordplay. All the while, the non-stop nature will have you saying "just one more checkpoint" even though you’ve said that the last 10 times.
The environment is intended to be an ‘open-world’ experience, although there is always a bright green arrow on the mini map that highlights the only path that you can really follow, which is a shame. It is only because the game is so beautifully done that the option for exploration (or lack thereof) seems to be an issue.
The game has had a major facelift – nay, a face transplant. It is impossible to ignore the amazing visual style and art direction of Red Steel 2. All the best elements of comic art, Wild West, feudal Japan and modern technology have got together and created an unlikely lovechild. No doubt, the developers have realised that the Wii isn’t the most powerful platform in terms of graphics, and they’ve intelligently opted for a style that the Wii can handle. The environments are bold and colourful – it feels like a Frank Miller comic (300, Sin City) in its entire 3D glory.
Red Steel 2 is so good that the only problem is there isn’t enough of it. The easy-mode of the campaign didn’t pose much of a challenge, and after you’ve played it through there really isn’t much else to do. The ‘challenge’ mode only requires that you clear certain parts of the story as fast as possible, which really doesn’t seem like much of an extra feature at all, and the extra difficulty levels are obligatory and don’t provide anything new.
Red Steel 2 is a masterpiece – and that’s not often said about a video game. While it’s the gameplay that makes this game something truly special, it’s the rest of the package that makes it one of the must-have Wii titles. The graphic novel-inspired visuals are stunning and are highlighted by the game engine, which runs at a beautiful 60 frames per second. The soundtrack is extremely atmospheric and does a great job of mixing both Wild West slide guitars with oriental flute flourishes to mirror the visual style. The only reason this game doesn’t get a perfect score is because it lacks a bit of replayability. However, it’s so good that I’m sure I’ll run through the campaign again next week, and the week after that, and the week after that...