E3 06: Red Steel

Nintendo, as always, has the bases covered. Sooner or later, the Wii will be home to Mario, Zelda and Metroid - not to mention Starfox, F-Zero and a whole bunch of other series you've loved before. Problem: Metroid Prime doesn't quite deliver balls-out first person action, as great as it is. So when Nintendo realized it needs a kick-ass shooter to show people what the Wii is capable of, the company dialed up Ubisoft. The result? Red Steel, a game that casts you as a hard-boiled American tearing through the seedy underworld of Japanese organized crime.

The first time you get your hands on the Wii's controller and point it at the screen, it's obvious how well-suited it is to first person shooters. As you move with the joystick on the "nunchuck" attachment with, you simply point and shoot with the main wand, taking out a whole room full of enemies in less than half the time you could using the analog stick to aim on PS3 or Xbox 360.

But that's nothing to do with Red Steel; that's going to be the same in any Wii shooter. No, what's cool about Red Steel is the way the yakuza-themed story ties into the gameplay. For whatever reason, our red, white and blue hero can freeze time once you fill up a meter on the screen. Fairly typical, certainly. But once you do, you can pick what part of the enemy to attack. Say you have a room with four thugs standing, waiting to blow you away. You can tag each on the head, body, arm, leg or weapon. A head or body shot is going to kill, once time starts back up. Leg or arm will wound. But if you take out the weapon... the guy will be disarmed. Apparently, at this point, yakuza honor dictates that he has to join your crew. While the Ubisoft staffer showing the game couldn't specify what the bonus is to this, she did divulge that it's "good." That seems believable enough.

Besides the shooting action, there's also swordplay. You'll grasp the blade in your hand and duel - and the same rules apply. You'll use the Wii's nunchuck controller attachment in your left hand as a short blocking blade and the right hand, main controller, as a large slashing katana. If you can take out your opponent's weapon and get him by the neck, he's yours. Either way you play it, Red Steel has the looks and the gameplay chops to be worth checking out, and we're eagerly awaiting a chance to play a more complete version of the game.

May 10, 2006