Red Steel 2 review

  • The engaging, intuitive combat
  • Strong visual style stands out on Wii
  • Smooth, responsive controls
  • Occasional hiccups in those controls, though
  • Lots of repeating missions
  • Loading screens can really drag

Forget Red Steel. 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.

Before we get into the story, or the lovely old west visuals or the moody soundtrack, we have to start with the kickass combat. As an FPS, most of the game is spent shooting and slicing enemies, but instead of taking cover or simply holding the trigger down until the bad guys die, Red Steel 2 forces you to use all of its diverse sword attacks, each of which is activated by a different flick of the wrist or swing of the arm.

We know, that sounds awful. But it’s not. This is probably the first action game on the system that uses motion for great effect, enhancing gameplay to a point that’s simply not possible with a standard controller.

Consider this:

Above: Pop a guy into the air with a vertical flick

Above: Leap into the air after him, slashing while he floats

Above: Then send him crashing back into the ground with a downwards thrust

Above: Oh hey, there was a guy waiting behind you – a simple button press and horizontal slash one-hit-kills this sneaky baddie

Above: Another guy tried to rush you head on, easily dispatched with a knockdown attack and then run through

Above: And then the last guy gets his neck broken. Boom, you just killed four guys in one minute, with all the flair of an anime superstar

About four hours into the game, you’ll have a wealth of sword moves at your disposal. The devs knew how outstanding their combat was, so it’s easy to purchase and upgrade each of these devastating abilities to their fullest. With so many motion-specific ways to dispatch enemies, it’s the most empowering sensation we’ve had on Wii. 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.

In fact, the combat is so well done that we can’t really make the age-old complaint of “even with all these moves it’s easier just to waggle the remote until everything dies.” Foes raise their guard and constantly alter their stance, forcing you to mix things up. It’s hard to convey in words, screens or even video, but trust us, when you clear a room of 13 enemies without taking a hit, you’ll understand.

It’s not 100 percent flawless though – despite several targeting configurations, we couldn’t find one that always kept us facing the enemy we wanted, leading to a few deaths we feel were unwarranted. Furthermore, the distinction between weak strike and strong strike is literally how hard and wide you swing. This means you need plenty of space and can’t relax while playing, so those with a fear of excessive Wii-waggle will need overcome their phobia. Plus you have to endure plenty of in-game reminders of how to play.

Above: Right, I know

Above: Oh… OK

Above: Jesus, really?

Above: ZOMG real people??

Har har, an easy target for sure. But the lessons are well taken, because they explain the most crucial aspect of the game. And at least they’re better than the original game’s tutorial images.

Above: Remember these idiots?

Now then. How about the rest of the game?

The Old Future West of the East

The first Red Steel was a generic, ugly shooter with a bit of clumsy swordplay thrown in to placate Nintendo’s motion mandate. Red Steel 2, in direct contrast, is a gorgeous cel-shaded take on a futuristic Wild West with a bit of feudal Japan thrown in. 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.

Above: Though you’re always in some kind of desert, there are still moments of color and genuinely impressive architecture

That said, no more than 10 minutes into the game and we couldn’t help but draw direct comparisons to Borderlands (for the sci-fi, cel-shaded desert) and Firefly (for the space Western-meets-Asian-influence angle). Even Steel’s music is invocative of both properties.

Above: Red Borderfly 2!

Above: Oh, huh, yeah those do look alike

Above: Yikes

We don’t mean this as a knock against Red Steel 2 – these are favorable comparisons, as we love both Borderlands and Firefly. The look and feel is so similar that we’d dare say Steel 2 is Borderlands if it had a single-player story, something it could have really used.

Fine, here’s the bit about the story

You’re the last Kusagari. Some bad guys have killed your people and now you, as a former outcast, must take up your sacred sword and exact your revenge on the evildoers that made you extinct. There ya go!

Above: Here's the bad guy. You are now motivated

You’ll stab, blast and slash your way through 8-10 hours of hyper-violent (yet T-rated) vengeance, most of which is handled through missions acquired on various bulletin boards. There’s no persistent overworld or hub area, so it’s totally linear – each area has its own board with its own missions, so once you leave an area there’s no going back. You have to fulfill the story missions to advance, obviously, but there are also several side quests that are great for filling your pockets with cash for the upgrade stations. Sadly, most of these optional missions are repeated in each area (tear down “Wanted” posters, fight gangs, find X hidden items), but they’re laid out in such a way that you’ll complete them all without much extra effort.

Above: Take a mission, kill some guys, come back etc

Normally we’d deduct points for a game relying on such simple tasks over and over, but again the combat is so engrossing and always evolving that we loved the chance to use new abilities or earn money to buy upgrades for the far-less-interesting guns. It’s true that everything boils down to “kill some guys, find some stuff,” but the same could be said for every other FPS on the market, and at least here there the fights are engaging enough to make us forget how linear and plain the arc really is.

But it’s not like there’s no excitement in the story – the tale does set up some honestly enthralling moments, like scrambling across a speeding train while ninjas jump all over your ass, fighting a boss with a lengthy QTE as he tries to buck you off his truck or the tense one-on-one duels with rival clans. The first-person view, range of moment and shaking camera reminded us a bit of Mirror’s Edge, though you’re not nearly as nimble.

Little stuff that adds up

While the combat, visuals and controls are tops, there are naturally a few unrelated issues that keep Red Steel 2 from scoring any higher. First, the map is borderline useless, as there’s no way to look at a full view of the area you’re currently in. Over time you can learn the lay of the land and follow the green arrows to your destination, but if you’re scouring for four totems or 10 wanted posters, odds are you’ll end up walking in a big circle. Highly irritating and easily fixed with a basic map option.

Above: There’s also a lot of loading, so get used to this door 

Then there are the “whooa look at me, I’m using motion controoool!” moments that reeked of old ideas. Stuff like flipping levers and cracking safes, mini-game type things that handle just fine with the new MotionPlus accessory, but stick out against all the other, better implemented controls.

Above: Flipping switches will always be boring. Sorry 

Aside from a bit more mission variety, there’s little else to complain about. In a sense this is the game Wii’s motion control promised all those years ago, and had the console launched with this game instead of the original, the third party scene could very well be a different place. We’re not trying to oversell the experience here, as this is no BioShock, Modern Warfare or Halo – but judged solely as a Wii game, this is flat-out exceptional, and more importantly, it's just plain fun.

Is it better than?

The Conduit? Yes. High Voltage touted impeccable FPS controls and a multiplayer arena just as robust as the big consoles with their 2009 shooter, but in the end all it’s remembered for are bland environments and the fact no one really wants an online FPS on Wii. Steel has better controls, prettier graphics and is simply a better game.

Red Steel? Oh god yes. We don’t want to beat this dead, rotting, barely recognizable corpse any longer, but there’s just no comparison between the two. Ubi might as well have called it “Sci-Fi Samurai” and removed all connections to the abysmal original. Don’t let the stigma of this three-year-old turd scare you away.

Metroid Prime Trilogy? No. For all its achievements, Red Steel 2 doesn’t compare to the atmosphere and length of any one Prime game, let alone all three. However, the aiming and shooting controls, something that Prime has held over all over FPSes heads for years, are about the same, which no small feat for Ubi. Obviously Prime’s a larger, less linear experience, so consider that too.

Just for you, Metacritic!

The first let so many down, while part two succeeds in just about everything it set out to do. 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. If you’ve given up on Wii shooters, here’s a reason to rethink your stance.

Mar 22, 2010

More Info

Release date: Mar 23 2010 - Wii (US)
Mar 26 2010 - Wii (UK)
Available Platforms: Wii
Genre: Action
Published by: Ubisoft
Developed by: Ubisoft Paris
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Animated Blood, Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes, Mild Language
PEGI Rating:


  • guiarherodrummer1998 - September 5, 2010 1:31 a.m.

    finally. This game makes me proud to be a Wii owner. Even better. I'm renting this on Sunday!
  • Kuraik767 - September 2, 2010 5:09 p.m.

    As uch as I liked the first one, this one is a let-down. better motion controls doesn't make up for cartoony graphics, futuristic cowboy samurais, and only five guns.
  • fartinapot - June 18, 2010 6:59 p.m.

    Me again. You know the part on the bottom that asks you to type in two words? I made a mistake and tried to post my comment, then this came up: "Ooops- that's not what was written in the image. You may be a robot. Try again" If you think I'm lieing, try it for your self. "You may be a robot." Whats up with that??
  • fartinapot - June 18, 2010 6:54 p.m.

    I got this game 5 days ago. It is so awesome! The graphics are great. The story line could be a little better, but who cares. It's good enough. I just like using special attacks and blowing up trucks. There is also this one cool part where this guy named payne tries to kill you. I'm not going to tell you how he tries, but it is so cool to watch and play. this game is fun and I think that a 9 is a correct judgement.
  • fartinapot - May 12, 2010 9:21 p.m.

    I can't wait to get this game. I don't have a wii yet, but I'm saving up for one. This will be one of the first games I will buy.
  • fartinapot - May 10, 2010 9:21 p.m.

    This game looks awesome. I am going to get it for sure
  • DrJanitor - April 22, 2010 9:18 p.m.

    Bought this from GAME (online) at bargain price of £20 - it's awesome! Played only about an hour so far but the combat seems limitless in its originality. Very impressed - and it's only the second brand new game I've bought for Wii in the past year (NSMB being the other)
  • AyJay - March 25, 2010 8:26 a.m.

    I think they kept the Red Steel name because, face it, Red Steel is a fucking badass name.
  • mdiaz033 - March 24, 2010 7:53 p.m.

    recaptcha 113-112 cells :/ anyways, i thought this was going to fail but congrats to wii
  • leemass21 - March 24, 2010 5:19 p.m.

    godofps3 the only reason it doesnt have multypaler in is because they didnt have time to put iin and i no what you mean i was wondering why aswell untill i say an interview with thier creative director.
  • leemass21 - March 24, 2010 5:07 p.m.

    i completed mirrors edge in less than 8 hours an that was on normal and devil may cry 4 took me 8 aswell u must b a pritty crap gamer videoman. aliens vs predator is 5-6 hours long and the only game iv had for the 360 thats took me longer than 10 hours is ff13 and lost oddesey.
  • leemass21 - March 24, 2010 5:03 p.m.

    to vigeoman what are you complaing for 8-10 hours is good most 360 games your lucky if you get 8 hours owt ov it, iv already preorderd redsteel 2 can't wait to play it bin waiting for this gaame since a heard it was being made.
  • philipshaw - March 24, 2010 3:38 p.m.

    Great review Brett, you just gave me my first Wii game to go out and buy in like a year
  • Blackout1881 - March 24, 2010 10:51 a.m.

    YES!!! I was really banking my decision of buying the damn system on this game. I may very well purchase one sometime soon. Honestly if a Wii game is called great by Brett Elston it's probably pretty good, just sayin.
  • n00b - March 24, 2010 2:15 a.m.

    @vigeoman isn't god of war 3, Brutal Legend, Dante's Inferno, Devil May Cry 4, Mirror's Edge,etc with in the 10 hour mark? most games now a days are within 10 hours with that said i don't like to pay full price for a game that is that long (with out no multiplayer) im definitely getting this, but when it gets a little bit cheaper. Plus I can get motion plus in time for when the next zelda comes out.
  • CH3BURASHKA - March 24, 2010 12:43 a.m.

    Didn't expect it to be THIS good. Very interested to play this... on my friend's Wii.
  • Cyberninja - March 24, 2010 12:32 a.m.

    i am glad to say i am looking forward to more wii games than ps3 games this year this is the start of the takeback where nintendo stops having the caual image and gets the hardcore image back just in time to fill the hardcore void that move and natal will leave i love irony
  • Tyboy - March 23, 2010 11:45 p.m.

    DAMMIT! i was depending on this to get a bad score so i wouldn't have to buy it... why do all the good games have to come out when i have no money?
  • Triton7K - March 23, 2010 11:02 p.m.

    Ok, now I'm REALLY happy I got a Wii in February! The game looks amazing, but does the Wii MotionPlus come in every Red Steel 2 box, or do I need to get the crappy Wii Sports Resort to get it?
  • QWERTYCommander - March 23, 2010 10:45 p.m.

    @GodofPS314 I agree. They're almost nothing alike. But a 9!? Wow. I've been looking forward to this, and it actually met my expectations. Most of the games I look forward to get 6.0 or lower.

Showing 1-20 of 44 comments

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