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Red Steel 2 Preview: Whack-tastic Fun

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I like to think I come to every new game with a clean slate – but Red Steel was so bad, I couldn' help but be pessimistic about what to expect from Red Steel 2.

After five minutes with the demo though, I take back everything bad I ever even started to think about this game. It's almost completely unrelated to the first one besides the name and the revolver/katana gameplay – and it's blessedly awesome in several ways.

What Is It?
Red Steel 2 is sequel only in name to the 2006 Wii launch title, Red Steel. The first person combat is similar and the weapons are the same, but the story takes place in a completely different setting and the player is a different character – and it's a Wii Motion Plus exclusive. Details are scarce on the exact story other than the reveal about it being an alternate reality where high tech cities are safe but the open desert is dangerous. The primary inspiration for gameplay comes from desperado films like Yojimbo, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly or Six String Samurai; so we can expect a nameless lone hero in an East-meets-West setting dominated by gangsters.


What We Saw
I played through the demo, which appears to be the tutorial of the main game.

How Far Along Is It?
Red Steel 2 is due out "this holiday season" which could mean late 2009 or early 2010.


What Needs Improvement?
Targeting is a bit twitchy: You have the ability to lock onto enemies with Z and switch between targets just by tapping Z – but in melee situations, this can lead to confusion. For example, you could be locked on to an enemy and succeed in killing him. You'd press Z to lock onto the next enemy right beside him, however, because you killed your targeted enemy, the game will auto-select the closest enemy – which might just be the guy behind you instead of the one you were trying to target.

Have to keep the remote anchored: It could be because there were so many other active Wiimotes in the room, but I felt like if I didn't keep my Wii Remote pointing within a narrow field in the center of the screen, the controls wouldn't work right. For example, there's a blocking mechanic where you have to turn your "sword" (read: Wii Remote) in the direction opposite of the attack (horizontal blocks vertical, etc.) – but if you start to block with your Wii remote pointing somewhere outside that narrow field (because you just finished a horizontal slash for example), the hero would just sort of freeze instead of blocking and I'd have to re-center my remote at the screen to before trying to block or attack again.


What Should Stay The Same?
Tight Shooting Controls and Authentic Sword Swings: This is the first game I've played that makes the Wii Motion Plus feel like a godsend. The targeting reticule for the revolver barely wobbled even when I was wheeling sharply right or left to shoot at enemies or glass bottles. It also seems like the game can tell the difference between an actual horizontal slash and a lazy sort-of-horizontal slash that's actually more like an upward diagonal slash. Best of all, the game can read the strength of a slash, which feels so satisfying when you're delivering a strong vertical slash to the head of an armored enemy. Just be sure to actually wear your wrist strap.

It Looks Fabulous: The character designs and animations were smooth and the colors popped. I know there's not a lot of visual intensity to a dusty desert town, but the sky, sand and occasional fiery explosions looked really good.


Safe-cracking mini game: You can find safes in a level and crack them open for money to upgrade or buy weapons. The way it works is you hold the Wiimote to your ear to listen for the tumblers clicking as you turn the dial of the safe in the game with the Nunchuck. Sure, it might look a little silly – but I'm pleased to see the Wiimote's speakers being put to good use. And what kind of Western would it be if you couldn't crack safes?

You Can Deflect Bullets With Your Sword: Win.

Final Thoughts
I thought my bias against Red Steel 2 from not liking Red Steel would be canceled out by my bias in favor of Westerns and that I could pretend to be objective about this game. But truthfully, my love of Westerns and the sheer amount to which Red Steel 2 appeals to it overpowers any memories of Red Steel, so I have to admit I'm biased in favor of Red Steel 2.