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Critical Reception: Ubisoft's Red Steel 2

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Ubisoft's Wii MotionPlus-enhanced shooter Red Steel 2, which reviews describe as "the most improved sequel of all time."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Ubisoft's Wii MotionPlus-enhanced shooter Red Steel 2, which reviews describe as "the most improved sequel of all time." Red Steel 2 currently earns a score of 81 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Brett Elston at Games Radar rates Red Steel 2 at 9 out of 10. "Forget Red Steel," he says. "The first one, that is. It was a heavily hyped mess rushed out for Wii's 2006 launch, one that failed to deliver on all its promises (precise aiming, intuitive swordplay, competitive graphics). Its deficiencies put the first of many dark clouds over Wii's third party offerings, making the prospect of a Red Steel 2 less than enticing. "But that's exactly why you should forget the first, as this completely overhauled sequel is easily the best FPS on Wii and a wonderfully shocking example of how damn good a Wii-exclusive shooter can be." Elston finds that Red Steel's combat has been greatly improved in the sequel. "With so many motion-specific ways to dispatch enemies, it's the most empowering sensation we've had on Wii," he writes. "The combination of button presses and gestures is definitely not for the casual – this is seriously hardcore, with a generous number of combos, finishers, counters and sidesteps, each necessary to claw your way through the game's remarkably capable thugs. Mapping this many moves to a controller just doesn't seem feasible." The franchise's graphic style has also been overhauled, to better suit the Wii's hardware capabilities. "The first Red Steel was a generic, ugly shooter with a bit of clumsy swordplay thrown in to placate Nintendo's motion mandate," Elston recalls. "Ubi's learned that you can't do 'real' graphics on Wii, so it chose a style and played to Wii's strengths. The result is a clean, smooth game that's possibly the prettiest on the platform, and definitely one that's been given a lot of thought." "The first let so many down, while part two succeeds in just about everything it set out to do," Elston notes in conclusion. "Maybe it's the bundled MotionPlus, maybe it's just better programming, but we left Red Steel 2 thinking it could be the most improved sequel of all time." Jordan Deam at The Escapist gives Red Steel 2 an 8 out of 10. "Lured in by the promise of visceral motion-controlled swordplay [with the original Red Steel], early adopters instead experienced a hodgepodge of uninspired combat, ugly visuals and, most damning for Nintendo's fledgling console, utterly broken controls," he says. "What might have been a rousing proof of concept that the Wii could offer a unique twist on the first-person shooter instead offered evidence that the system was really just an underpowered gimmick. "Now, nearly three and a half years later, Ubisoft has released less a sequel than a do-over, this time with the added precision of the Wii Motion Plus add-on. It's little surprise that the controls have tightened accordingly. What's more shocking is that nearly every other aspect of the game has improved as well." Deam explains that Red Steel 2's combat is much more satisfying than its predecessor's, and requires a greater degree of strategy. "In Red Steel 2, both your sword and your arsenal of firearms are available at all times," he writes. "Some enemies are heavily armored, making them impervious to bullets until you land enough blows to slash off their chestguards; others pester you from a distance with machine gun fire even as you confront other melee combatants. This setup forces you to develop and execute a strategy on the fly or risk repeated failure." The small environments and straightforward objectives make gameplay seem limited at times, however. "Thanks to a quest system that is almost too streamlined and a mini-map that never leaves your objective in doubt, you begin to notice what a narrow path the game puts you on even through supposedly open-world environments," Deam notes. "The game world is broken into discrete chunks separated by largely invisible but occasionally annoying loading screens, and it reuses the same sections multiple times, meaning you'll often get a curious case of Deja vu without being able to remember why an area looks so familiar." "Ultimately, though Red Steel 2's level design may reek of compromise, its swordplay easily compensates for those shortcomings," Deam says. "And when the combat is this good, a couple extra seconds of load times just doesn't seem that important." GameSpot's Carolyn Petit scores Red Steel 2 at 7.5 out of 10. "Aided by the Wii MotionPlus accessory, Ubisoft has overhauled the Red Steel franchise," she begins. "While it's far from flawless, it's a dramatically better game than its predecessor and offers the best excuse yet to swing a Wii Remote around as if delivering sharp, merciless death to your enemies." "Red Steel 2 scraps the yakuza theme and contemporary setting of the original, replacing it with an aesthetic that combines the Old West with a sprinkling of Asian architecture and advanced technology," Petit says. "Your nameless hero is the last of the Kusagari, a clan who protected the people of the Red West from the marauding biker gangs that infest the region." The narrative's potential never fully develops, however. "Unfortunately, the characters are underdeveloped and the story is nearly incoherent," Petit writes. "For example, the mission description will tell you to do something, but often, it won't be especially clear why you're doing what you're doing. You also learn so little about the main character and the villain that it's impossible to care about the quest for vengeance that drives the story forward." In addition: "A turn of events near the end of the game that's meant to stoke the fires of your rage falls completely flat, and the final battle along with the subsequent ending are almost shockingly underwhelming." "But the combat is the real draw here, and thankfully, it's pretty good," Petit continues. "Red Steel 2 doesn't try to precisely match your movements. Rather, various general inputs make your character perform moves from his repertoire. You can swing horizontally or vertically or stab with the remote to perform a standard attack, with a wider horizontal swing resulting in a stronger attack you can use to break through an enemy's guard posture or destroy any armor he might be wearing." "It's a memorable experience while it lasts, thanks to its interesting setting, great visuals, and frequently exciting combat," Petit concludes. "Red Steel 2 isn't going to usher in a golden age of motion-controlled action games, but it's a solid enough game in its own right to be worth playing regardless of how you feel about the potential of the technology."

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