We recently attended a preview event with a few upcoming games on show. I drew the short straw and got a hands-on with Red Steel 2 to write up. Or at least that’s how it appeared at the time. In all honesty this game caught me by surprise. Having been burnt by the first game, I really did not expect much at all. The first Red Steel was a Wii launch title, and while not a terrible game it was certainly not great (or good) either. It was bogged down by some performance issues and controlled relatively poorly. One would think that a game switching between a sword and hand gun would be perfect for the Wii, but alas the lack of fidelity in the Wiimote controls were really brought to light and the game suffered for it. Red Steel 2 was built on a new game engine and requires the Wii Motion Plus peripheral. The demo I played through ran silky smooth. My research indicates that its locked at 60 frames per second, and it looks great.
Red Steel 2′s look is fairly unique and blends Asian and Western elements in a really cool way. From what I can tell it is set in the present or near future but has a big western (as in cowboys western) element to it. The protagonist is dressed up all cowboy too including the hat. The level I played through looks like a western town, but has Japanese writing all over the place. The world has a semi-realistic feel to it, but is stylised with a cell shaded/graphic novel look thrown on top. Frankly it looks great.
The demo starts with you lying in a desert and you can see your ankles being tied. The next thing you know, you are being dragged behind a motorcycle and smash through cacti and other painful looking objects. You dispense of the fool on the motorbike and get his revolver. The first part of the demo has you navigating the environment. There are context sensitive jumping and climbing portions. Overall the controls are very reminiscent of Metroid Prime 3. That’s is to say intuitive. Because it uses Wii Motion Plus, it means that you have camera control even when your Wiimote is off-screen. The further you move it from the screen the faster it rotates. After a bit of scaling and climbing you acquire your katana and then it’s all on. The sword controls feel pretty good. It has near 1 to 1 controls, and from my brief demo they feel responsive. You hack and slash as you would imagine, but the game also takes account of the strength of your attacks. You need to cut through some objects to progress, and a light slash just doesn’t do the job.
The enemies are also a fusion of western and Japanese. The demo had 3 or 4 different enemy types with different attacks and weaknesses. You can lock on to (and switch between) enemies which keeps the camera focused on them while you swing away. Switching between the gun and sword is really smooth. You use the gun by pointing on screen and hitting B. If you make a slashing motion it holsters the gun pulls out the katana. You can use the katana to do vertical, horizontal and diagonal attacks, and you can block/parry by holding the A button while keeping the sword in the right position. I messed around with the two weapons a bit and found switching between the two very easy. For example you can shoot an enemy in the leg (which causes him to fall to his knees) then finish him off with the katana. Some enemies have armour which makes shooting at them fairly pointless. These need strong katana attacks to break off their armour. The last enemy was a mini boss of sorts wielding a big mallet. He has a lot of armour on his front so you need to attack him from behind. It also introduces you to the sprint button. While locked on to an enemy it makes it pretty easy to circle strafe and manoeuvre around enemies.
As I mentioned at the start, I really had very little interest in this game. And by little I mean NO interest. However after playing through the demo, I will almost certainly be picking it up. It has a great look to it, and controls really well. I had a lot of fun with Red Steel 2 and look forward to playing more. Below are two videos of the developer going through the same demo I did along with some commentary.