Ubisoft’s Red Steel 2 lacks a certain something. What is it now? Oh yes. Fear. Self-doubt. The insecurity you’d expect from the successor to an underwhelming launch title, the confidence issues that ought to attend on flying the flag (once again) for grown-up, growly, hardcore-leaning action gaming on the Wii.
You could write a book (or at least a couple of paragraphs) on the things Red Steel 2 isn’t afraid of. Crates, for starters. This game doesn’t care that you’ve bisected, blasted and high-kicked enough cuboid storage units to fill that warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It doesn’t care that you were precision-popping oil barrels to incinerate nearby enemies from your third birthday onwards. Both cliches are here in abundance. Red Steel 2 never tires of them, nor of the twinkling coins and juicy MGS-ish ammo packs they invariably contain.
It’s not afraid of formulaic level structure, either. It doesn’t mind in the slightest that its sand-papery steampunk environs readily boil down to a handful of hubs and square-cut combat arenas, held together by frayed lengths of Cheesy String plot and passably screened loading transitions. It’s not afraid of telling you to go rescue women with unnecessary cleavage (or for that matter men with unnecessary cleavage), or of talking head cutscenes, or of nuke-X-number-of-Y side quests. It’s not even afraid of QTEs, though it possibly should be.
Red Steel 2 doesn’t have the time to be afraid, see. It’s too busy being the finest, most intelligently assembled example of Wiimote combat the console has to offer. And in return, it asks that you not be afraid. Afraid of Nintendo, that is. Afraid of what the Kyoto giant has wrought of the gaming ecosystem. Afraid of a future that includes three major motion sensitive gaming devices and a healthy population of SD screens.
It wants you to keep your cool during play, too. Moving between our God of War 3 review build and Ubisoft’s “Red Western” has been painfully enlightening. In the former, after all, you can lay down frenzied, earth-shattering hundred-hit combos without any marked increase in heart rate. Try the same trick in Red Steel 2 and they’ll be picking bits of shoulder tendon out of the sofa cushions for years to come.
The game inspires a more considered, thoughtful approach not only by way of such familiar tactical quandaries as ninjas who can knock bullets aside, or hammer-wielding juggernauts with impenetrable frontal armor, but because actually, literally waving a blade at somebody in a damaging fashion is hard. Even when you’re a cowboy-samurai crossbreed with a highly intimidating neckscarf, and even given the developer’s decision to split proceedings between rigorous 1:1 control and scripted, accelerometer-triggered actions.