Shoot him in the head, then cut it off with a three-foot-long sword. Sounds like the best of both worlds, right? On paper, the blade-and-bullet aggression of Red Steel seems irresistible, but learning the complicated controls and coping with the overall sludgy gameplay really get in the way of any visceral sensations.
The most glaring control issue appears when you attempt to navigate Red Steel ’s henchmen-populated levels. Turning your character with the remote feels slow and clunky, especially when you're up against a barrage of bullets. As you attempt to adapt, you’ll experience a few chaotic moments when your character is pointing his gun at the ceiling while you’re desperately swinging the remote, trying to face the action. Fortunately, generous targeting and stupid enemies help make up for this (they'll often walk single file into a stream of buckshot). And, despite the steep learning curve, the shooting is somewhat immersive and satisfying when it all comes together.
Small touches, like tossing grenades and reloading your weapons by motioning the Nunchuk, put you in the middle of the bullet-whizzing action. Especially cool is the time-stopping "focus mode" that lets you take aim at numerous enemies before they can shoot back. If you simply disarm them with shots to the hand, they'll cower away, giving you respect points in the process - more respect lengthens the amount you can stay inside the focus mode. Even the audio cue that emits from the remote every time you reload is a nice, albeit slightly cheap sounding, touch.
Red Steel ’s sword fighting offers a similar hate-it-then-love-it experience. At first, you’ll only be able to slash vertically and horizontally by making these same motions with the remote - these moves don’t always register, so you're more likely to flail about wildly hoping to score a hit. As the story progresses, you’ll learn a variety of parries, dodges and attacks that feel more responsive and add some strategy to the steel-on-steel duels. The "hammer", for example, has you holding the Z button as you thrust both the Nunchuk and remote downward, delivering a devastating dual-sword attack to your opponent.
Other parts of Red Steel are a mixed bag. Levels offer some variety - one has you in the back of a pickup truck riding through a carwash, taking out bad guys along the way - but they often get dragged down by dark and blurry visuals. Fiery explosions immerse you in the action, but clipping bugs and the occasional floating enemy pull you back out. The split-screen multiplayer (for up to four players) is entertaining in short bursts, but mostly feels dated. Actually, let's just call the whole thing dated and be done with it. Next shooter, please.
Red Steel is an average run-and-gunner that wouldn’t deserve a second look if it weren’t for its use of Wii’s unique controls. Pacing is horrible, with levels constantly being interrupted by overblown dialogue. How interesting can a story about an abducted girlfriend be? Double Dragon told that tale in about a second. Most will stay away, but those with some patience and a burning, unyielding desire to shoot something that's not from World War II might appreciate Red Steel’s mix of gun-and-sword action.