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Red Steel 2 Review
The era of the reboot is upon us. Batman Begins wiped out the four prior Batman films, Edward Norton's The Incredible Hulk stomped all over Eric Bana's version less than five years later, and now video games have joined the trend. The original Red Steel left a sour taste in many gamers' mouths as we realized that the Wii couldn't deliver the epic sword fighting experienced promise by its early demos. But with the Wii MotionPlus, and Ubisoft's completely reimagining of the Red Steel universe, a great game has been born. Red Steel 2 has next to nothing to do with the original, but trust us: that's a good thing.
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Red Steel 2 is absolutely beautiful. The framerate is smooth, the environments are detailed, and the colors pack a bright punch. Red Steel 2 easily matches the top-notch graphics delivered by The Conduit, albeit with a comic book, cel-shaded style rather than photo realism. Ubisoft's decision to go the cel-shaded route pays off, since every locale, enemy and animated sword slash play out wonderfully on the screen.
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In two words: visceral and satisfying. There's something extremely compelling about the control scheme in Red Steel 2 that sets it apart from other first person shooters on the Nintendo Wii. It plays like an intense hybrid of The Conduit and No More Heroes, with a dash of Devil May Cry for good measure. Except instead of the random wrist waggles required by the latter, you actually have to make powerful, precise movements to pull off your attacks. Basic sword attacks are performed by slashing the sword vertically or horizontally, or thrusting it forward in a stabbing motion. The accelerometer in the Wii MotionPlus detects how fast you swing, and harder swings will do more damage, knock enemies back, and break armor.
More complex attacks require a combination of specific button presses. You can pull off a Zelda-style spin attack by quickly tapping "Z" and slashing horizontally across the screen. Charge up your katana by holding "A" and "B", and then perform a quick upper-cut motion to knock your foe high into the sky. You can then leap up after him and slam him back to the ground. Stun a foe and you can make the kill with a gruesome finisher. A personal favorite has you grab your foe by the back of his head, jam your gun into his chin, and blast him away.
That said, we can't do this Red Steel 2 review justice without mentioning a few flaws in the control scheme. There are rare moments when the Wii Remote fails to detect your motion properly, or when the camera ends up flailing around wildly. You'll also need to periodically recalibrate the Wii MotionPlus during longer play sessions. Still, these are minor gripes and don't take too much away from an otherwise great experience.
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Red Steel 2 is by no means an open sandbox game. Sure, when you're in a specific hub you're free to wander about that area as you see fit. But once you move onto the next level, you can never go back. Thankfully the game warns you with a "Point of No Return" message so you don't miss out on collectibles, but Red Steel 2 still loses points for linearity.
Your ragtag team of assistants sets up shop in each of the game's areas. Visit these buildings to purchase new attacks for your katana, buy new guns, upgrade your armor, or receive missions. Each hub level has three to four main story missions as well as a handful of optional missions, such as destroying a rival gang's trucks or taking out Katakari death squads.
Combat is broken up by some light exploration. Each hub level has over a dozen tokens and sheriff stars to find, as well as countless boxes, barrels, and safes to destroy or open for cash. When you reach an enemy-infested area, combat music plays and a counter displays below your health bar to let you know how many foes you're dealing with.
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To avoid putting any spoilers into our Red Steel 2 review, let's just say the story is fairly simple. You play the role of the last member of the Kusagari clan, seeking vengeance against those responsible for his clan's destruction. The story is told through very slick cut scenes. All cutscenes are skippable, which is a nice touch for gamers on their second play through. The voice acting is a little bit goofy at time and the story isn't anything groundbreaking, but let's be honest: you're not playing this game for it's fantastic story. You're playing because you want to do a spinning leap through the air and firmly plant your katana into some fool's gut.
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Red Steel 2 is an amazing gaming experience, and there currently isn't anything else quite like it. As for value for money, the game comes packed with a Wii MotionPlus and you're going to get at least 10 hours out of the experience. Really fast gamers who skip cut scenes might manage to wrap it up in eight or nine hours, and players who like to explore and find all the hidden secrets can easily break a dozen hours of gameplay. Plus you can always come back for challenge mode, which has you replay old levels trying to achieve the highest cash score possible.
If you're a Wii owner, this one's a must have.