Developer: Ubisoft Paris
The last Kusagari has a lot to prove. His clan has been slaughtered, his home town has been invaded and he's out for furious revenge... but this all pales in importance compared to his primary mission: proving that Wii Motion Plus is relevant for hardcore gamers. Whilst Wii Sports Resort serves as a reasonable tech demo to show off the new accuracy and precision, Red Steel 2 is the first dedicated third-party action title to adopt the new technology; and as such, it's a truly important title. Many pundits have been criticising Motion Plus for being a cynical way of scraping a little extra money out of Nintendo's loyal fanbase- so it's time for the peripheral to prove its worth or die trying.
So here's the result. Ladies and gentleman, Motion Plus is awesome. And Red Steel 2 demonstrates exactly why.
As with most Wii first person shooters, the nunchuck governs basic movement whilst the Wiimote controls the on-screen reticle. The new precision offered by Motion Plus allows the Point of View to be accurately manipualted with small comfortable wrist movements... but larger sweeps of the Wiimote results in an instantaneous sword slash that perfectly reflects the angle and power of the motion. Players can swing, stab and block using intuitive movements of the right hand, and a simple target lock function assures that the view doesn't accidentally start veering around uncontrollably. New abilities are unlocked throughout the game, and take advantage of simple gestures that feel appropriate to the effect. Mimicking a frisbee throw creates a blast of wind that knocks enemies off their feet- or pushing outwards with both hands results with a powerful counter that can stun attacking foes. A dash allows players to slide around their enemies to access vulnerable areas- or to tie in to larger combos that take advantage of the lateral movement.
However, a range of firearms can also be used simply by aiming the reticle and squeezing the trigger... which adds yet another dimension to the combat. Devastating katana techniques and shotgun blasts are only a slick gesture or hair-trigger pull away, meaning that players can mix and match their combos depending on the situation... or just to shamelessly enjoy themselves. Want to throw an opponent into the air, shoot him and finally slice him open on the way down? Feel like sliding around a foe, slashing him across the ribs and then executing him at point blank range with your .44? Or just fancy putting him down with a couple of swift stabs and a brutal finisher? The responsive input and accurate gesture detection allows these manoeuvres to be pulled off effortlessly-and with enough realistic motion to make you feel like a consumate badass.
Red Steel 2 has also created an exciting and vibrant universe to give the swordslinging a little context. The bold juxtaposition of Wild West grit and grime with Japanese Samurai mythology makes for a truly unique visual style, with clichés from both universes colliding in frequently hilarious ways. It's not often that we get to see the gruff sensei and the grizzled town sheriff in the same game. The cell-shaded graphics are both impressive and subtle, and Ubisoft has drawn on the full range of eastern and western influences to create truly unique character design and genuine personality. Oh, and the age-old feud between pirates and ninjas has been well and truly settled. They both suck compared to Cowboy Samurai.
Unfortunately there are a couple of problems with Red Steel 2, which are entirely due to the level design and the Wii's hardware limitations. Each level is subdivided into tiny arenas that require lengthy loading screens (disguised by very, very slow doorways), which completely breaks the flow that the fluid combat manages to create. What's more, Red Steel 2 also has delusions of being an open world game- despite there being no overworld map or many significant NPCs to interact with. Rather than a focused experience with a few branching routes, subquests will have you tediously traipsing around the samey maps with no idea of where to go (and waiting behind myriad slow doorways)- and no idea how to get back to the dojo or shop to upgrade your abilities. The towns are also completely empty, even as far as enemies are concerned. You might find the odd combatant after clearing out an area for the first time- but there simply isn't enough meat to the secondary objectives to make them worth including in the first place. This isn't gamebreaking by any means, but it will certainly become fairly annoying after a while.
- Seamless sword-swinging and gunslinging
- Wii Motion Plus delivers incredibly accurate and badass swordfighting
- Wild-Japanese-West setting and cell shading provides personality
- Small arenas with long loading times
- Open world and subquests are pointless and poorly implemented
- Needs a better map
The Short Version: Red Steel 2 is a truly superior sequel that aptly showcases the potential and precision of the Motion Plus peripheral. The feeling of power and immersion is amplified by the 1:1 nature of the swordplay, and the unique visual style makes the campaign much more than just a glorified tech demo. Whilst the level design sometimes leaves a little to be desired, Red Steel 2 is an essential purchase for action fans... especially if you're already starting to tire of Wii Sports Resort. We hope that more third-party developers start to include Motion Plus support from now on!