When the Wii was first announced there where two game mechanics that everyone got excited for – gunplay and swordplay. Ubisoft answered that excitement with the launch title Red Steel, a game that combined western gunplay and eastern swordplay and excelled in neither. As ambitious as the title was the Wii controller simply wasn’t everything we had hoped it would be.
Fast forward 3 years to the launch of the Wii Motion Plus, the small attachment that brought us a far more accurate motion controller and allowed Ubisoft to give its Red Steel franchise another go.
Aside from swapping between sword fighting and gun fighting, Red Steel 2 has very little in common with its predecessor; it trades its traditional Japanese setting for a cel-shaded old west locale. The game begins with a cut scene of the unnamed hero’s arms tethered to the back of a motorcycle as he is dragged along the desert floor until breaking free, but not before Payne — the leader of the Jackals — steals your prized Sora Katana.
As you attempt to escape the onslaught of Jackals you stumble across your old sword master, Jian, who is being harassed by two gang members. After eliminating the offenders Jian informs you of how important the sword truly is and lends you his katana until you can recover your own.
Everything you do is based on the mission board in the area. There is the main series of missions which progress the primary story and there are the side missions, which will net you extra money (used for purchasing upgrades for your sword and gun as well as new abilities) and provide supplemental story elements. The missions mainly consist of you getting to a certain point on the map while killing everyone you see. It’s a task that sounds monotonous but having the ability to switch between shooting and slicing keeps the battles varied enough to make it a non-issue.
The battles, of course, are what require a detailed look. Does the addition of the Wii Motion Plus fix the issues that plagued the game that came before it? For the most part, yes, the controls do work and put the controls in the original to shame. It does, however, have its share of difficulties as well. First and foremost is the way the game handles switching from gun mode to sword mode. While in gun mode, the Wii remote controls where you’re looking like most other FPS games on the Wii. To switch to sword mode you swing the control like a sword. The problem arises when the game fails to recognize the switch fast enough resulting in the screen jolt in the direction you’re screening.
Another issue is a slight lag between what you’re doing and what’s happening on the screen. The controls are far from unmanageable but it is a little frustrating when your swings don’t exactly match up with what is on screen.
All that said, the game works most of the time and it works pretty well. The battle system is diverse and fun enough to prevent the game from getting stale despite the repetitive nature of the encounters. The setting isn’t as interesting as the urban Japanese setting in the original title, but it’s a far smoother experience even with its few hiccups.