Pros: Solid combat, nice looking.
Cons: Useless story.
Few sequels have less to do with their precursor’s than the action game Red Steel 2, which tosses out the original’s premise, setting, visual look, and gameplay structure, keeping only the use of swords and guns and the words “red” and “steel.” Throw out those two words, and not a single person on the planet would realize the two games were related.
Combat: Swords, Guns and Thugs
The game begins as the unnamed protagonist is dragged by motorcycle through the desert. After breaking free and taking care of his tormentors, this hero sets out to take out the plethora of thugs patrolling the streets of the town of Caldera.
Combat is a mix of gunplay and swordplay. The original Red Steel was essentially a first person shooter that occasionally, inexplicably turned into a sword dueling game, but in this sequel, you can smoothly transition from one weapon to the other. Press the B button and you fire your gun, swing the Wii remote and you swing your sword. It’s an admirably simple and elegant approach.
In order to make swordplay as accurate as possible, Red Steel 2 requires the use of the Motion Plus add-on. This decidedly lessens the frustration of other Wii games involving swinging something; the sword may not perfectly reflect your every movement, but it comes quite close.
As you play through the game, you are able to purchase new weapons and new combat moves, such as the ability to send your enemy into the air with an upward slash, jump after him and stab at him on the way down. The game also offers defensive moves, but I have never in my life learned to block properly in any game I have played, so all I can tell you is it is possible to win fights with a mix of dodging and aggressive attacks.
Presentation: The Bare Minimum
Unfortunately, the battles are placed in a game with no narrative momentum. Red Steel 2 contains so little in the way of story that it feels like no story at all. A couple of characters who train you and give you information occasionally offer a monologue in which they explain the game’s back story or tell you what is currently happening, but the game is really just a matter of going where you’re told and killing anyone you meet. The game is a series of missions, some required, some optional, and there is no real sense that you are moving through a story.
There are also some non-combat elements. To crack safes, you hold the remote up to your ear and turn it until you hear a click, press A and turn again. That’s pretty clever, so it’s unfortunate that the game lowers the difficulty to zero by popping up a notice to press A when you’re on the right spot. You can also keep an eye out for sheriff’s badges floating in out of the way places that when shot give you money to buy weapons and bullets. There are also a few Quick Time Event sections in which you simply have to perform an indicated action. Mainly you’re just mowing down a variety of bad guys.
Visually the game is quite nice, using the same cartoonish style that worked so well in the No More Heroes games. The game is set in a rather anachronistic version of Nevada that has the feel of an old-fashioned western, with a score that evokes Sergeo Leone films, but includes the use of Japanese swords and takes place in either the present or the close future.
Multiplayer: No? Really?
I have to confess here that I stopped playing the game at about the halfway point, not because I didn’t want to continue but because my years-old repetitive stress injury started acting up and I need to rest my hands and get some physical therapy before I can play any more games. It’s possible the story becomes more interesting later on, or some fabulous new game element is introduced in the second half, but I would be surprised if anything coming will profoundly effect my opinion.
While playing the game, I thought that it was almost ideally designed for multiplayer. There are a lot of places to run and you can even climb up ladders and the sides of the buildings (although the game won’t, for some reason, let you climb during fights). I think it would be terrific fun to have free-for-all combat with Red Steel 2’s unique controls, but alas, the developers seem to disagree, as the game is single player only.
Verdict: More Fun Than the Original, Although Not Much More Memorable
It might seem daft to make a sequel to a forgettable game, but the original Red Steel sold fairly well, simply because it was a Wii launch title that offered an unusual way to play. Red Steel 2 continues that tradition, offering improved gameplay that offers an experience unavailable in any other game. If the words “red” and “steel” continue to promise a unique experience, then I say the developers should keep using them, even if the next game involves shooting and stabbing one-eyed zombies in outer space.