Review by Ptolemaueus

"Red Steel isn't terrible, but it could still use some serious improvement."

It seems the Wii's launch has been mostly composed of minigame compilations and ports with tacked-on motion control. The minigame compliations are okay, but they're not full-fledged games. The ports, although all of them (such as Twilight Princess) aren't bad, aren't built from the ground up for the Wii. Red Steel, a first-person shooter from Ubisoft, is one game that is built from the ground up for the Wii. This game mixes shooting sequences and swordplay into the same game, so it quickly became one of the more anticipated games for the Wii. But does Red Steel live up to its expectations?


You play as Scott, the fiance to a Japanese girl who's father happens to be a Yakuza (the Japanese mafia) mob boss. The girl is kidnapped and her father is murdered, so it's up to you to get your girlfriend back. To accomplish this task, you must for some reason master the art of swordplay as well as using guns. The story is mostly told in a sort of montage showing pictures of certain scenes or people with little or no movement. When there is movement, it looks bad and out of place. This may have been a style choice, but it doesn't look very good at all. Red Steel's story is not one of its strong points.


In Red Steel, the analog stick on the nunchuk attachment is used to move your character and the Wii remote is used to either aim your gun or use your sword. The buttons on the remote and nunchuk make you do different things, such as crouch, jump, or take out a grenade. A flick of the nunchuk makes you pick up a gun (you can carry a maximum of two), reload your weapon, throw a grenade once you take one out, or do an action such as opening a door when the proper icon appears. If you get close enough to someone, a flick upward of the nunchuk makes you whack him with your sword.

The action icon is when a green hand appears around your target reticule. This means you can flip over a table for cover, open a door, start an elevator, etc. You go into an aiming mode with a press of the A button and thrust the Wii remote forward to zoom in more, which feels a tad awkward. Both of these work, but they don't feel very intuitive at all. Also, since flicking down with the nunchuk makes you reload and flicking up makes you hit a close enemy with your blade, sometimes you might find yourself reloading when you wanted to end your opponent's life.

Shooting works pretty well. It provides great accuracy, but it has one huge problem: turning. Turning feels far too sluggish to function well. When you're taking damage from an enemy that's to the side and you need to turn, it takes too long to actually face him. The game's levels usually go in this way: go through a corridor. Come to a large room where you will have a shootout. Take cover occasionally while staying in roughly the same place as you shoot. Go through another corridor to a large room, repeat. That coupled with the poor turning leads me to the conclusion that this game would have been better on rails like the light gun games in the arcade.

Sword fighting is pretty much terrible, and thankfully shooting occupies the larger portion of the game. You use your katana to hit people and a smaller blade to block attacks. There's not much skill involved here, and most of the time you can simply swing wildly with the remote (which acts as your sword) and win the fight. Contrary to the name (Red Steel), not an ounce of blood is spilled during the fights. The onscreen sword lags behind your movements and doesn't totally emulate your movements; it will do one of the preset movements yours was closest to. Without any blood or onscreen emulation of your movements, the game feels more like two people beating each other with sticks. The sword fighting doesn't make sense here either. Why can't you take out your gun and shoot the guy instead of fighting him with your sword?

I have two more gripes for you before we move on: health and cutscenes. If you can avoid damage for several seconds (usually by taking cover), your health will regenerate. I'm all for regenerating health, but here it's out of place since you're basically the average Joe. Sometimes there will be cutscenes right before a particularly tough part of the game. If you die, you have to watch it all over again without being able to skip it.


Red Steel is decent looking. The art style really isn't anything to speak of, though it looks rather nice. This is one of the better looking Wii launch games, but that doesn't mean it looks absolutely spectacular. The visuals, however, are very crisp and clean. The outdoor areas look great with lots of detail while the indoor ones look very bland and boring. Effects such as explosions are fantastic. Dips in the framerate happen occasionally but aren't too common. The graphics aren't great, but they aren't bad. Since the game doesn't really border to much on realism, I think Red Steel might have benefited from a more stylized look.

The sound here is pretty good as well. The background music is pretty good and the sound effects are good, too. Voice acting is where Red Steel stumbles. The voice actors for the Japanese characters most of the time sound like they use a fake accent. The taunts of your enemies are kind of stupid, too. For some reason the Yakuza sound like Americans and there's not much variety in the taunts. Why the Japanese mafia will call you a sucker or a moron is beyond me. The voice acting can be a source of comedy due to its lameness.


If you can forgive the swordplay, the turning, and the voice acting you might get a good fifteen hours from the single player. You can replay levels if you want, but the need to do so really isn't huge. There's multiplayer as well.


The multiplayer really isn't too much to speak of. You get only four maps in splitscreen multiplayer. Each of the modes is pretty much built around the standard deathmatch. You may get some enjoyment out of it, but the pack-in game, Wii Sports, has much better multiplayer.


+ Aiming works very well with the Wii remote.
+ The visuals are pretty good, especially the explosions.
+ Background music is great.
- Swordfighting doesn't involve much skill.
- Voice acting is cruel and unusual punishment.
- The story isn't very good and the cutscenes are unskippable.
- Multiplayer isn't much.
- Turning.


Red Steel is not worth fifty dollars. It's as simple as that. A rental is sufficient, since this game isn't terrible. It's a start for Wii first-person shooters, but it needs some serious work. As long as you don't play this game expecting much, Red Steel is a decent game. Again, rent if you have nothing else to rent but don't buy this game. At least not until you can find it for twenty bucks or less.


Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 02/06/07

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