Saturday, October 29, 2011

Game Review: Red Steel 2

Every two weeks, Review Editor Zach Davis contributes his gaming review column. This week instead of the typical classic game review, he’ll be sharing with us a more recent title, Red Steel 2. 

You’ve probably never heard of it, or of its prequel. The original was a launch title for the Wii, marketed with “realistic” graphics and first-class FPS gameplay on the Wii, while also throwing in the gimmick of swordfighting. The motion controls, through which basically the entire game and combat system was based, were “clunky” and the graphics were not as revolutionary as claimed. Thus, it fell away without so much as a glance. Red Steel 2, however, takes the premise of the original: using a blend of motion-controlled shooting and swordfighting, and brings it to a new setting, graphical style, and control scheme (using WiiMotion+) that breathe new life into it.

I picked up this game a while back, as it looked solid (even though my friend had told me the original was sub-par) and just a month or two after its release it was heavily marked down on the shelf of my nearest Target. If you find this game as cheap as I did ($10 or $20 if memory serves), then buy it, because it’s a nice bargain. I’ve played it on and off, but I’m glad it’s on my shelf.

Red Steel 2 starts as a crazy, screaming guy drags you through a comic-book-graphic world (somewhat reminiscent of Borderlands) on a motorcycle. He crashes and you begin your escape through the junkyard compilation of styles in Red Steel 2- there is a noticeable blend of modern, steampunk, western, and Asian styles in the buildings, characters, and techniques you acquire throughout the course of the game. You might use a keycard to open the door of a barn, fight through ninjas and gunners alike, and end up in a zen garden. It’s fitting to the mixed style of combat, which requires seamless switching between your gun and katana to take down increasingly skilled enemies. The story mirrors this, in being something about a tribe called the Kusagari of which you are the sole remaining member, and some evil guys (possibly called Jackals) who are trying to kill you, or maybe you’re just trying to kill them. I don’t know, as the plot is bad and I never really paid attention to it.

Where RS2 shines, however, is the combat. WiiMotion+ allows it to do what it needed to do initially- the 1:1 sword movement makes combat inventive and fun, while the point-and-shoot gunplay is as good as any I’ve experienced on the Wii. Blending motion and button commands allows you to pull off skills like the matador, or guillotine, or unleash your Kusagari powers with the Eagle aerial strike, Tiger block, and others. Upgrading your pistol and katana, and buying new guns allows you to experiment with new attack combinations. Is it better to rush that machine gunner and perform a quick guillotine strike to bring him to his knees and finish him with a stab through the gut, or to stay behind a pillar and take crackshots at him with your pistol before he can fire back? With as many options as you can imagine, the combat stays interesting far longer than the story or the hodge-podge setting.

Overall, the game is a great way to kill time or to relieve stress; it’s pleasing to find out that most of what can be done with skillful strikes can be done just as well by simply swinging the WiiMote as hard as you can at an enemy repeatedly. The game is no masterpiece: the story and characters are comically bad and the graphics and setting, while fitting the intention of the creators, are hard to grasp. What the game does exceptionally well, however, is letting you feel like a badass gunslinger from the old west, and a master swordsman straight from the heart of feudal Tokyo at the same time. The controls serve as an example for future Wii games, not the least of which is the upcoming Legend of Zelda title, Skyward Sword, which I hope lives up to the exhilaration RS2 gives when slashing through hordes of enemies.

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