By Daniel Lipscombe
All young boys want to be cowboys or ninjas, I was that boy. I could have easily been one or the other on a warm summer’s day; better yet you could be both rolled into one. Imagine a plastic six shooter in your pocket and a cardboard tube sword tucked through a belt loop. Whilst the fictitious bandits dart left and right the six shooters arid gun smoke wafts through the air as the blade is unsheathed.
If only someone could make this fantasy into a videogame – in steps Ubisoft. Brandishing a Wii remote with a fancy new motion plus you can live that dream, although the fantasy didn’t arrive unmarred.
This sequel is beyond better than the first iteration and it shows with every step. The new graphics engine is the stand out winner of this new step in the franchise. With a similar look to Borderlands, the colours are vibrant and each part of the Wild West world appears to be full of character. The characters ooze a charm that is reminiscent of the Sergio Leone movies mixed with a Sci-Fi twist that Hollywood would beg for.
Our mysterious hero is the Clint Eastwood of the plot, a man with no name and a world on his shoulders. His clan is wiped out; you fill his shoes as the last member of the Kusagari and must eliminate the threat of the Jackal gang that has taken over the city. The story opens up in an impressive fashion with our hero being dragged behind a motorbike and is genuinely exhilarating, the downside to this wonderful opening is the monotony that follows.
As the dream of being a samurai cowboy floats out of the window, a reality of mundane questing and repetitive training sets in. Your first training mission is simple, here’s how you swing a sword and guard. It is a little off putting that Ubisoft felt the need to add a young woman in the stereotypical white outfit in a video boxout to teach you how to play. It jars you from the game world and reminds you that you really are a grown man standing in your lounge swinging a piece of plastic and not a katana after all.
The worst part of this training is that it takes forever to end; in fact the first few hours of the game sees you trudging back to the training grounds in order to learn a new move. This becomes such a chore that the idea of swinging a sword becomes dull. Admittedly the motion plus does a great job of making the swordplay fun and the precision of the Wii remote guarantees a wealth of headshots. So the combat should be great and at times it is, but every once in a while the attachment to the game world is broken again when the calibration goes wonky and you r sword is not following your movement.
The sword fighting is enjoyable though, when it works, as each scrape of metal clangs from the Wii remote speaker it brings a smile to your face. The same can be said for the mini game like additions, a favourite would be the safe cracking. Holding the remote up to your ear as you turn the dial on screen and listen to the pins dropping in, it feels like a clever and intuitive mechanic rather than the forced “waggle” that we’ve seen in other games.
The whole game sets out to prove that “waggle” can work and it almost makes it. Red Steel 2 looks and sounds great on the Wii, the waggle works for the majority of the time but with so many promises it’s hard to keep them all. The biggest disappointment has to be the story, it lacks any real focus and with a topic that should be ever so endearing it feels vapid and lifeless.
After your interest has piqued the plot becomes trite under the strain of boring characters and cut scenes. It doesn’t help that the actual mission structure is repetitive and you dread checking the mission board for your next trip around the city. The structure of the game is simple: walk, kill bad guys, train, mission board, walk, rinse and repeat. I was hoping for more from such a rich looking world, in fact the QTE sections were reasonably impressive and I, for once, wanted more of those.
Red Steel 2 is a flawed game, but it keeps you entertained throughout if only because of the shooting and occasional sword fight. The story may be a little bland but the world is absorbing and looks lovely. You may not be living out your childhood dream, but it’s as close as you’ll get.
There was one thing that did hinder my experience and was no fault of Ubisoft. It should be noted to anyone who experiences motion sickness when playing a first person shooter may want to either steer clear of this title or at least give it a try somewhere first. The sickness forced me to take a break every 15 minutes which, of course became a problem.