Dust off your MotionPlus units, people: Red Steel 2 is here and it's nearly everything we wanted it to be. You see, this is an excellent swordfighting game but it is slightly held back by some odd design decisions that take the shine off what is overall a very accomplished title.
You're a swordfighting gunslinger out to avenge the death of your clan at the hands of the Jackals with the help of MotionPlus, a gun and a very sharp piece of metal. Thankfully the combat is executed very well. While the opening hour of Red Steel 2 is a bit of a drag, once you're into the meat of the game it's very enjoyable stuff with the MotionPlus unit translating your arm movements beautifully.
What's most impressive about the combat is how physical it is. Many of the Jackals you encounter have armour that's only penetrable by hard slashes or special techniques so you have to swing the Remote pretty hard to break through their resistance.
A Cut Above
Where the enemies you face aren't particularly varied, the range of attacks you have at your disposal certainly is. By the end of the game (we clocked the end credits at about 10 or 11 hours), you are the master of an impressive range of moves. And though the tutorials are a little jarring, you are still learning new attacks even eight or nine hours into the game.
As well as the MotionPlus swinging, there's also a rush attack which allows you to quickly dodge attacks to either side. Special Kusaragi Powers and Hidden Strikes pile up on top of these as you buy them from the hub areas. And don't forget finishers too - when a Jackal is on his last legs, you can either move in with a stabbing motion or use one of your special techniques. The game rewards you with cash for both flashy combos and for grabbing the collectibles in the world.
Barring the occasional lock-on problem, Ubisoft has pulled off the swordfighting in real style so it's a shame that the rest of the game isn't quite up to these extremely high standards.
While Red Steel 2 is a fine looking game, there's some pretty average levels and mission design at play here. You spend a huge chunk of the game picking up new missions and heading out to do battle from a central hub. You spend almost as much time getting from A to B as you do taking part in the fun stuff.
They missions also rarely get more interesting than 'find and defeat gang' or 'find this object'. Side missions usually consist of collecting hidden loot. Pretty uninspiring stuff. We also would have liked to have seen some more traditional shooter-style sections thrown in as the gunplay is very tactile but tragically under-used.
Still, these grumbles don't detract from the overall experience too badly. Red Steel 2 looks superb and after a wobbly first section settles into a very enjoyable first person action romp. It's a gameplay experience unlike any other, and that needs to be applauded.
This is an edited version of a review that appears in issue 55 of Official Nintendo Magazine. To read the full 1000-word version with more in-depth analysis, extra boxouts and screenshots, pick up issue 55 of Official Nintendo Magazine which goes on sale on Friday 9 April.
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