Review by BoyLover X
"A step back from the original in many ways, and lots of wasted potential"
Red Steel was a solid launch title for the Wii. It pioneered next-gen game controls, and stood out from other FPS with it's Japanese themes and sword fighting sequences. While it wasn't exactly an amazing game, it still had plenty of fun moments. The developers immediately began work on a direct sequel, but scrapped it to make something different. Three and a half years later, Red Steel 2 is finally out and has little in common with the original. While that is not a bad thing in and of itself, the game falls short of expectations in nearly every regard.
The story of Red Steel 2 is not connected to that of the first game, although it is equally shallow and does borrow a couple plot points. You play as a nameless hero who returns to the Nevada city Caldera after years of exile. You find that most of your clan, the Kusagari, have been killed by a rival gang known as the Jackals. Using a legendary sword, you are trained to be a deadly killer and take out the Jackal's leader, as well as hordes of goons. You'll meet a few other characters along the way who basically tell you what to do next. They didn't really have personalities and I never cared about what happens to them.
The game uses a cel-shaded art style, which I think is a big step back from the original which was realistic and is still one of the best looking Wii games (an impressive feat for a launch title). The original had great lighting, diverse environments, physics, and TONS of destructible objects. RS2 looks okay, but is not impressive from a technical standpoint. The destruction is limited to boxes and barrel, and animations are simple. Dead enemies and destroyed objects disappear instantly. There is no physics system in place. No impressive lighting engine, either. The only thing the game has going for it is the cool looking art style. The developers managed to combine old Western stuff and Japanese architecture and make it look natural. Unfortunately, almost every area of the game looks the same. Not EXACTLY the same of course, but the biggest difference between each area is the color of the sky. After a while, it's just not interesting to look at anymore. The prerendered video sequences are very good looking though, and provide an entertaining break from the mediocre gameplay.
You explore Caldera in a semi-open world nature. The game is divided into different sections, and within each section there are several optional objectives to tackle which will require exploring the environments carefully. These usually fall into 4 categories: collecting something, killing enemies, pushing a switch, or tearing down "WANTED" posters with your face on them. Completing missions will earn you more money, which can be spent in several ways. You can purchase new guns and upgrade them (reload speed, power, ammo capacity, etc.), buy health upgrades and armor, power up your sword, and learn new sword moves. I used the term semi-open world because unlike a true open world game, you will not be able to return to an area after completing the main objective and moving to the next location. Fortunately the game is nice enough to warn you when you are exiting and can't go back.
Now being that this is a Wii game, I MUST talk about the controls. The first game received it's share of criticism for somewhat unresponsive sword fighting controls, and not being able to adjust the aiming zone for the guns. Since Red Steel, other games like Metroid Prime 3 and The Conduit have raised the bar for FPS controls, and Red Steel 2 integrates many of these advancements such as dead zone adjustment, turn speed, and cursor responsiveness. Aiming your guns in RS2 is certainly improved over the original, and is on par with Metroid and TCon. What the developers have failed to markedly improve is the sword fighting. Playing Red Steel 2 was the first time I had ever used the new Motion Plus accessory (required for RS2, available in a bundle package). Now I don't know if the developers of this game were just bad at using it, or if the accessory itself just fails to deliver, but I can honestly say that the motion controls did not feel any more accurate than what the Wii remote by itself could already do. It's competent, but it's still waggle; there's no 1:1 sword control here. Occasionally the game still fails to recognize motions, and the game seems to lose track of the aiming cursor too often.
Combat in the game has so much potential, but it was all wasted by boring enemy design. Every human enemy in the game, INCLUDING ALL OF THE BOSSES, can be defeated by walking up to them, pressing A and the control stick to the side (this dashes around to their back), and then hacking away as hard as you can with the remote. Yes, it really is as easy as I make it sound. Occasionally a sort of QTE will appear on screen, indicating that you can make a stabbing motion to finish the enemy off even quicker. As for non-human enemies, well you'll occasionally run into some small flying robots which can be destroyed with one or two bullets. No challenge there, either. The game gives you so many moves like counterattacks, special attacks that stun enemies, and the ability to block both horizontally and vertically. Yet there is no point in using these moves and fighting the enemies face to face when it is infinitely easier to just go behind them and waggle your arm off.
Gunplay is somehow even less interesting. The focus on guns has been extremely minimized, so if you wanted a first person shooter, RS2 probably isn't for you. There are only four guns in the entire game: pistol, shotgun, machine gun, and rifle. The guns are rather useless as most enemies will block your shots. Of course you can hold a button to block enemy bullets with your sword too, so there's no need to ever find cover in this game. This pretty much destroys any intensity from gun fights that a typical shooter would have.
As you play through the story mode, you unlock Challenge Mode missions. These are score based battles, and you fight to earn a better ranking. This mode is the only time that the combat system gets it's due, because earning a high score is only possible with advanced moves and combos. Sadly there are no online leaderboards or extensive stat tracking. Beyond this, there's not really any extra content or replay value. Multiplayer is sadly missing completely, even though the original had deathmatch. You can play the game again on Hard mode (if you didn't do it the first time), but it's still easy and repetitive.
Overall I am extremely disappointed by Red Steel 2. There's very little gunplay, combat tactics beyond "strafe and waggle" are completely unnecessary (and it often takes longer to execute advanced moves), the enemies and mission objectives are far too repetitive, and there's no multiplayer component to make up for the story mode's shortcomings. While the fundamental combat system and open-world concepts are good, the game really needed better level and enemy design to showcase these aspects. As it stands, Red Steel 2 is just wasted potential.
Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 04/30/10
Game Release: Red Steel 2 (US, 03/23/10)
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