Remember how awesome "Red Steel" was going to be, and how the amazingly immersive mix of first-person shooting and motion-controlled swordplay promised to take action games to an entirely new plane?
And remember how none of that happened at all?
Oh, you do? Well "Red Steel 2" would rather you didn't, because three years later, all those empty promises finally have a game on which to hang their hats.
Fundamentally, what "RS2" does is similar enough to its predecessor to bear the franchise name. It's still a first-person shooter and motion- controlled swordfighting game cobbled together as one.
Platform: Nintendo Wii
But everything about "RS2's" methods stands in stark, and entirely welcome, contrast to its predecessor.
For starters, and maybe finishers, it's just plain fun. Unlike the first game, "RS2" allows players to switch between gunplay and swordplay whenever they want instead of when the game dictates, and Ubisoft puts all the pieces together to make what should be a complete controller nightmare into a slightly unwieldy but astonishingly pleasant ride.
The cursor-based shooting feels considerably more intuitive this time around, and switching from gun to sword and back, while inevitably a bit disorienting given the disparity in control styles, works plenty well enough to avoid becoming the source of frustration it so easily could have been.
Though some inevitably won't like it, Ubisoft's decision to not just support but flat-out require Nintendo's MotionPlus controller attachment pays off enormously on the swordplay side. The game guides players' movements to a small degree, but overwhelmingly, striking, thrusting and parrying are mapped precisely to how players hold the Wii remote.
The extra precision allows "RS2" to introduce a surprisingly large arsenal of sword fighting moves as the story advances, and the combat is very gratifyingly active _ arguably to a fault if active gaming isn't your thing. Lazy flicks of the wrist won't suffice the way they did in the first game, and if you can't get into the idea of swinging the remote with the full might you would a sword, you should just find a game that isn't as committed to the Wii's original vision as this one so satisfyingly is.
Superficially, the story isn't much different. The bland, overly serious storyline from the first game is scrapped in favor of an exuberant mix of Asian cinema, post-apocalyptic dark comedy and spaghetti western, and "RS2's" narrative structure now breaks down, "Borderlands"-style, into bite-sized missions that players eventually can accept by the handful.
The "Borderlands" approach extends to "RS2's" visual presentation, which combines realistic and cel-shaded graphic design to create a game that would look good on any system and stands head and shoulders above most of its Wii counterparts.
That the art style also suits the storyline and action so perfectly -- everything about "RS2's" approach in all three departments seems developed with a brazenly fun- first spirit in mind -- certainly doesn't hurt matters.