Ever since the Wii was announced, gamers have been dreaming of using their Wiimote to control a sword. Picking up on that early anticipation, Ubisoft started development of a game called Red Steel. The title was a Wii exclusive first-person shooter, built from the ground up for the system, where players could not only blast foes into oblivion, but they were also given the ability duke it out in one-on-one sword fights. Nintendo fans were ecstatic.
But when the game finally arrived right next to the Wii hardware, it was just plain awful. The controls were painful, the story was bad, there was no online multiplayer, and worst of all the swordplay was atrocious. It was nothing like Wii gamers had hoped it would be. Now Ubisoft is back with Red Steel 2, a dramatic reboot of the entire series, ditching anything that would relate it to the first game besides the namesake. This time around, the game kicks ass.
The amount of changes Ubisoft Paris made in this sequel’s design is ridiculous. We’ll kick our review off by discussing the most important aspect of any Wii shooter; the controls. If you’ve ever played the original Red Steel, you know what I mean when I say the controls absolutely ruined the game. Sure there are going to be plenty of Nintendo loyalists who claim it was still great despite the broken aiming mechanisms, and I’m sure just as many will claim that there were no such problems. But as a person who is not a biased idiot, I assure, the game sucked entirely because of the controls.
In the sequel, Ubisoft Paris looked at what other developers with winning first-person games — Retro Studios with their Metroid Prime Trilogy, High Voltage Software with The Conduit — and have given this much-anticipated sequel all of the necessary control options a modern Wii FPS needs. Fully customizable controls with adjustable options for Sensitivity, Speed and Smoothing as well as a few preset control options, the ability to alter the lock-on camera to your liking, and adjustment of how much effort it takes to register a swing are all yours for the tweaking. Even without changing any options and just diving right in, the game plays pretty solid. Needless to say, Red Steel 2’s controls are countless times better than its predecessor’s.
That improvement extends to the swordplay as well. In the original, which was made well before Wii MotionPlus was available, swordplay generally happened only at predetermined spot with certain enemies. Swinging your arm resulted in nothing similar to one-to-one motions, and instead felt like waggle versions of button presses, which made for a very frustrating experience. In Red Steel 2, you are free to switch between gun slinging and slashing at will. This works fantastic. While there certainly is a bit of a steeper learning curve than most Wii titles require, mastering the controls provides a very rewarding experience.
The controls don’t work flawlessly, however. The sword mechanisms still, even with help from Wii MotionPlus, isn’t true one-to-one. There is a very small delay between your arm swing and its translation to on-screen action. Also, while the game does require dramatic sweeping motions instead of small flicks of the wrist, which I actually prefer because it draws you deeper into the experience, if you get overly dramatic with your actions the game will misread your efforts and not do what you are wanting. You can still get wild, but you’ve also got to stay accurate to a certain extent.
On the flipside, if the stabbing gesture isn’t forceful enough, nothing happens. This often results in missing a kill opportunity and can get quite annoying.
It’s a good thing that the gameplay is enough to keep you interested, because the generic story sure won’t have anything to do with you coming back to the game. While admittedly a bit better than the first time around, the story behind Red Steel 2 is forgettable at best, and serves only to give a reason for each mission to occur. The characters are awful, boring, and obnoxious. All of them. And you are interacting with these people on a regular basis. A lot of it has to do with the terrible voice acting. I mean really, really terrible voice acting. Every raspy voice is ill-matched with a character it doesn’t belong to, and hearing the cast of already lame characters talk just adds to the pain.
It’s kind of strange that the voice acting is such a detraction from the overall presentation of the game, because everything else is spot on. The rest of the audio design is solid, with awesome Western-inspired music that really gets your adrenaline going in a big fight, and it would be hard to complain about any of the sound effects. Just those damn voices.
Even more impressive than the sound design is the gorgeous visual style the game takes on. And I mean it is really gorgeous. Levels and environments are crafted in such a way that you’ll actually stop in your tracks to look around at the scenery, something I haven’t done with a Wii game since Twilight Princess. The beautiful comic book art style is accented with thick lines around characters and objects, wild colors, and cel shading. Running at a solid 60 frames per second, the game is one of the best looking titles the Wii has so far.
Entertainment value is a bit of a mixed bag. The campaign runs about 10 hours, give or take, which isn’t shameful but it also hardly warrants a $50 purchase. Extra content? Well, there’s a Challenge mode, but that just makes you replay the same parts of the game as fast as you can to try and earn rewards. The problem is it isn’t much fun.
Other than that there’s absolutely nothing. No multiplayer, be it online or otherwise, no incentives to play through multiple times, and nothing to do after you beat it. I’d say to give it a seven day rental.
Red Steel 2 is so much better than its predecessor that it’s kind of sad. Everything from the art style to gameplay has been dramatically improved upon. Is it the best FPS on the Wii? No. Metroid Prime Trilogy is much better, and The Conduit offers much more entertainment value. Still, what it does offer is one hell of a ride through fictional NinjaCowboyLand and a whole lot of fun. Just don’t expect anything too original or anything to last you more than a few weeks at best.
- Excellent Wii FPS controls
- Absolutely gorgeous
- Great presentation
- Wii MotionPlus makes swordplay fun instead of frustrating
- No worthwhile extra content after you beat the 10 hour campaign
- Awful, dreadful, painfully bad voice acting
- Generic story
Score: 8.4/10 (Great)
Entertainment Value: 6.75/10