Red Steel 2 as an experience is most perfectly embodied by one solitary word in particular. It is a word that has yet to be recognised by the Oxford English Dictionary, and is a word that for many people, still qualifies as irksome dude-speak that anyone with any decorum would avoid using in any situation, but it has never been more appropriate than in this one. Because Red Steel 2 is a thoroughly badass videogame.
The visuals are appealing, sure – helping to depict a strangely haunting, cel-shaded ghostworld that marrs the Old West with contemporary Japan – but it is the gameplay, and the most well-rounded and satisfying first-person control scheme since Metroid Prime 3, that really excites. This isn’t some half-baked waggle-a-thon that only requires the odd flick of the wrist; it is a fully-fledged swordplay simulator. The in-game menus frequently remind you to use your whole arm rather than just your wrist, and you’d better take heed quickly. Especially when the power-sensitive strikes, that are required to knock the armour from some of the later and more formidable enemies, comes into play.
The original Red Steel was a game that earned plenty of goodwill on its initial release, primarily because it was the very first of its kind. Players were so enraptured by the novelty of the Nintendo Wii (and Red Steel’s core mechanics) that the slightly sketchy controls, washed-out visuals and repetitive gameplay were easily ignored. It was clearly a title hamstrung by its desire to pitch-up in time for the Nintendo Wii’s worldwide launch, and many players were eager to forgive it for that. Red Steel 2 asks for no forgiveness, and you’ll never need to grant it any.
For one thing above all, the sequel is a model of perfect sustainment. Besides boasting a learning curve as perfectly structured as its control scheme, the game builds upon itself constantly, right up until the rip-roaring finale. New moves are drip-fed to players throughout the game (with most of them doubling up as finishers) and many of those techniques become essential for beating the tougher assailants. The game is constantly shaking itself up, and its an approach that is oddly akin to strong, well-structured storytelling.
The actual storytelling itself is no great shakes, but the plot never even attempts to get in the way of the action, and you’ll be thankful for it. Guns undoubtedly play second fiddle to the swords (largely because harder enemies use their blades – as do you – to block incoming gunfire) but the shooting aspect is never less massively enjoyable, with the WiiMotion Plus demonstrating how much faster, and how much more intuitive, it can be. Kneecapping an enemy with a bullet before steaming in for a finisher never gets tiresome, there are hidden Sheriff’s Badge marks littered around the environments for impromptu target practice (and cash bonuses) and the more powerful unlockable weapons become helpful allies when you’re drawing your final breaths in battle later on.
Red Steel 2 is also incomparably user friendly. The game’s hub-world maintains a forward momentum and keeps things efficient, frequent save points (even during the infrequent QTE sections) dismantle any instances of potentially needless frustration, and the platforming is all taken care of for you. As a package, it is almost faultless. It never takes your attention for granted, its got mucho replay value, and it is a massive testament to how downright enjoyable the controls are that many people will never stop grinding the background for cash; as hacking wooden boxes, payphones and trash bags to pieces never loses its appeal.
In the simplest terms, Red Steel 2 is easily the best action game available on the Wii, and is an experience so fresh and original that it is impossible not to recommend in the highest possible terms.
Watch the Red Steel 2 trailer here…