Hope you are all in for a very nice evening, whether it's going out with friends, having family visit, or just hiding indoors and playing some video games - here's to a great if all-too-fast 2010 and what we hope will be an even better 2011. With that out of the way, I wanted to slip in my last game review of the year.
Red Steel 2 was one of those games that I think slipped under the radar a bit. It got pretty good overall scores from professional game sites, and overall players seemed to enjoy it, but I'm sure Ubisoft had been hoping for better overall sales. There were a few things probably working against the game though - from the Teen rating, to its requirement of Wii Motion Plus to the underwhelming public opinion of the first game. Now however, might be a good idea to pick this one up if you have had any interest in it. I've been seeing this game relatively cheaply on a variety of sites now, most Wiimotes come with Motion Plus, and many people now already have the Motion Plus, due in part to Wii Sports Resort. And don't let the name fool you - this game may share some principle ideas from Red Steel, but it's not a sequel and the quality is much, much higher.
Graphics - 10:
The game oozes style with its unique visuals - combining the Old West with Eastern/samurai influences. There's a flat, cartoonish look to the graphics that is not my personal favorite, but it works for the game and runs at a beautiful clip. I've read that it runs at 60 frames per second, and I don't doubt that. The engine used works well, never showing pop-in or tearing of any kind. The colors used are also vibrant most of the time. I would have to say overall, this is probably one of, if not the best-looking Wii game I have had the pleasure of playing to date.
Sound & Music - 7:
This was a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, the sound effects got the job done without ever being overwhelming - or terribly memorable. The music was quite good however, as I found myself on several occasions pausing and thinking how cool/atmospheric it was Like the graphics, the music was among the best I've enjoyed for the Wii to date. So why not a higher score? Well, the voice acting. It was bad - almost to the point of irritating me at times. I've heard some people say that it was an intentional choice to make it campy in order to compliment the cartoony graphics, but if that's the case then I think it was a poor design choice. In a game where your actions are so immersive, having voice work that takes you out of that feeling of 'being there' hurts a lot in my opinion. I'm usually a huge fan of voice work in games as much as possible, but here it was more detraction than advantageous.
Gameplay: - 8:
There is a lot of positive to take away from this part of the game. The Motion Plus is beautifully realized here. The sword motions are well-represented on the screen. This is no Wii Sports Baseball where clever animations hide the fact that controls are not precise - here your sword stabs and slashes all respond very nicely. There are times the motions are misread, and it can be somewhat frustrating when it happens, but I can't even say for certain that the game was misreading it - or if I was just being a bit too frantic in my handling of my weapons during some of the more chaotic combat scenes. I will admit I enjoyed the swordplay a lot more than the gun mechanics. Pointing and aiming is fine, if a bit too touchy at times, but swinging, blocking and counterstriking were a lot more fun for me personally. It should also be noted - this is not a game for sitting on the sofa. A lot of Wii games can be done sitting down - do not count this among them. I'm sure you could, but you'd be cheating yourself in doing so. You should be moving your arms about as you square off with a group of thugs. That being said, some people really rebel at the 'get up off of the sofa' ideal, even if they have a Wii - one of my buddies at work is like that. The controls do not work nearly as well from a seated position in my opinion - you have been warned.
Intangibles - 5:
The game takes a sizeable hit here for me. For all of the things done right above (except the voice work) - the game is just too short. I think I beat it in about thirteen or fourteen hours. There's some challenge stuff to add to it, but not much and with a lack of online modes, once you're through the story - there's just not much to do beyond that. I also enjoyed the early part of the game more than the latter quarter or so. The progression system is nice, allowing you to improve in a variety of ways such as new techniques, but by the last quarter of the game or so I felt too strong. I do not recall many fights at all that challenged me - I was just mopping the floor with all of the bad guys by that point. Lastly, the storyline of the game itself was somewhat lacking - I was completely into the gameplay and the combat, but it felt like the mechanics deserved a better game around them. I was doing a lot of contracts and side adventures more for the sake of the combat than any sense of story or game progression. If the experience could be slightly refined and dropped into a much longer, deeper storyline, I think we'd have an all-time title here.
Overall - 7.5:
I really wanted to give this game a higher overall score. I bought it shortly after it released, and it was one of those games that sat on my game shelf several months longer than anticipated. Once I gave Red Steel 2 a chance, I thoroughly enjoyed it - but with its lack of replay value, it's now in my stack of games to be traded in sometime in the next couple of weeks. It's one of those titles that if you can pick it up cheaply, it's worth a play and will give you a couple days of solid, entertaining action. It's not one that you'll put away and forget - in fact I'll likely recall Red Steel 2 fondly for some time to come. However, I can say right now that I have little interest in picking it up for a second round of adventure, diminishing the title's long term value when I have plenty of other games to play still. For those considering this title for kids, there' a bit of language and there's plenty of violence to be had - though this may be where the cartoon style is a boon. It doesn't strike me as visually 'worse' than some of the more action-oriented cartoons you find on TV nowadays.