There seems to be a gap between what you can do and what you will do. Altering your active weapon (the gun you whip up with B) on the fly lets you mix swords, revolvers and shotguns into a balletic spectacle, but it doesn’t come easily. Our fighting style is more of a flailing dust cloud with the odd bullet ricocheting out into a nearby fence. Getting your head around hot-swapping and using lock-on to your advantage is tricky in a way Wii games rarely are – a scheme to be mastered, rather than waggled through.
Ubisoft is keen to give you space to master these controls. Not open world, but far from linear, Red Steel 2 is built around a hub system – missions take place in maps accessed from a few central locations, such as a canyon-based mining outfit. From here you select mission order, take side missions or just go looking for a scrap. Vandenberghe says he’s a big fan of replay incentive – a hint of a challenge mode, perhaps, albeit one nipped in the bud by a silencing look from the PR babysitter.
Fans of the original Red Steel (and by fans we mean victims) will recognise seeds planted there grown to fruition here. In Red Steel, Harry’s Bar let you pick the order of four – count ’em! – missions; a scheme dwarfed by Red Steel 2’s freedom (it’s suggested you can enter levels even if you have no objectives there). More interestingly, stints in the Otori Dojo learning sword combos have become safe house visits with purchasable upgrades.
In canyon-land, local gun nut Sheriff Judd welcomes you into his shack to exchange gold for weapon upgrades: damage, ammo capacity, decreased reloads… (We’re hoping Vandenberghe’s verbal sound effects will be unlockable.) Katana fans can fork out for power moves (advanced sword techniques): the aforementioned eagle lift is the first, joined now by shockwave – a kind of samurai force push. We’re sure you’ll find creative ways of combining it with those steep canyon walls.
Although you should spare a thought for Vandenberghe as you send men screaming into the abyss. Being an American on a largely French team, he’s seen his vocal talents hijacked for dialogue and death gargles. “I spend most of the time killing myself in combat,” he tells us melancholically.