E3 09: Hands-on with Red Steel 2

You and I probably feel the same way about Red Steel. I didn’t like the first one, and only the promise of Wii MotionPlus controls managed to get me interested in Red Steel 2.

We all saw the live demonstration of the game at Nintendo’s press conference, but I hit the show floor earlier today with a clear goal in mind: find Red Steel 2, play it, and find out if the enhanced motion controls make the franchise as tactile and enjoyable as it by every right should be.

Hit the jump to see if it delivered.


The issue with the swordplay in the first Red Steel was that all the attacks were really just button inputs mapped to specific Wiimote waggles. When you waggled in a not-quite-right way, the attack wouldn’t go through as you intended. This led to a lot of frantic, angry waggling as gamers across the world grunted, “why the fuck won’t it recognize my swing?!”

The main difference with Red Steel 2 was that I found myself grunting, “why the fuck won’t it recognize I’m swinging really hard?” 

There’s one-to-one sword control, but only sort of. Attacks don’t register unless you swing the Wiimote at a certain speed and breadth, and many of the enemies I faced were totally immune to everything but “strong” sword attacks. This meant that, rather than finding that my attacks weren’t registering, I found that they were registering — but that I wasn’t swinging hard enough. 

When I began swinging harder, the game started feeling a little bit more fun. It’s marginally enjoyable to have your actual swings turned into differently-angled sword swipes — especially when you get to cut up some wooden cutouts at the beginning of the demo — but the combat just isn’t that interesting. You parry attacks by holding the A button and holding the Wiimote vertically to parry horizontal slashes, and vice versa. And yet, I never really felt like I was getting into true sword duels — it was more like I was pitted against a bunch of idiot goombas who only occasionally threw out a strong attack that I had to block. 

By the end of the demo, I faced a remarkably stereotypical boss wielding a Big Goddamn Hammer who could only be attacked (all together now:) after he swung his hammer and missed, leaving his back open to gunfire and sword swipes. 

The lack of gore also made each kill pretty unsatisfying. There are cut scene-esque finishing moves that can be activated by dodging toward an enemy, but it’s no fun to see your onscreen avatar jam his sword into a dude’s neck when (A) you didn’t actually do anything to execute the guy yourself apart from activating a cut scene and (B) there’s no blood whatsoever.

Overall, I was surprised at how disappointed I was with Red Steel 2. The Wii MotionPlus controls definitely make it feel different from the original — they just don’t make it feel different enough. Then again, I only played a single level. Perhaps the full game uses the MotionPlus in more interesting ways.

Anthony Burch