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Hands-on: Red Steel 2


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We stopped by Ubisoft's San Francisco offices late last week to spend more time with its upcoming Nintendo platform lineup. Although we'd played many of the same games -- at the same stage of development -- during E3, now was the time to really focus on details. So, first up was Red Steel 2, a game that initially had us smitten with its manga-esque East-meets-West visual style, but failed to impress once we took hold of its controls.

So, once again, we were faced with the extremely short demo / gameplay primer Ubisoft had created for last month's trade show. This second look didn't leave us any more enamored with the mix of sword slashing and pistol shooting, but we were able to get a better idea of exactly what didn't feel right. At the same time, we came away even more impressed by the game from a visual standpoint than when we'd first seen it in action.

Gallery: Red Steel 2 (Wii) | 26 Photos

Let there be no doubt about it: Red Steel 2 is easily one of the best-looking games in the pipeline for Wii. This partly has to do with the visual style itself, one that, like MadWorld's, is light on detail and realism but is heavily stylized. The developer has gone for a clean look, rather than try to force the system to pull off a highly realistic style it is simply not equipped to. The other part is framerate; locked at 60fps, the game is sharp and fast.

Given that it's designed to work exclusively with Wii MotionPlus -- the game's producer, Jason Vandenberghe, says the game was in development before Ubisoft learned of the add-on, and that it changed the design considerably -- we expected (as was hyped just before we played) the ultimate video game sword fighting experience. Yet, for the touted 1:1 accuracy of MotionPlus, we were surprised at just how "canned' the swordplay felt.

We spent several minutes swinging the katana and trying to figure out exactly what the MotionPlus was doing. It was clear that the sword wasn't replicating our every movement with the Wiimote. In fact, there seemed to be only seven set angles to strike at: 12 o'clock, one o'clock, two o'clock and three o'clock; 11 o'clock, 10 o'clock and nine o'clock. Striking also seemed to require a considerably strong (and tiring) swinging motion, but this is something that may be addressed via a sensitivity setting.

Beyond the letdown of the swordplay's feel, we found the precision of the combat's pistol component to be very good -- it's a shame that there's not more to shoot at. During the demo, we encountered less than a dozen enemies, all of which looked nearly identical, the only major difference being that some were wearing armor and others weren't. Killing the latter was more difficult simply for the fact that we had to knock off their armor first.

Holding the A button put us into guard mode, locking the blade in place vertically or horizontally, depending on how we'd been holding it before pressing the button. Deflecting bullets this way was a treat and blocking the enemies' sword attacks (sometimes vertical, sometimes horizontal) felt good, too. But, really, it all boiled down to mindlessly slashing at enemies until they didn't get back up.

The end-of-demo boss -- a variant of the stock enemy wielding a giant hammer -- was defeated the same way in-between dashes to avoid his swings and get into position behind him (his weak spot).

To say the areas within the level we played -- as well as the actual gameplay itself -- were repetitive would be a huge understatement. Red Steel 2 looks amazing, but unless the final game's levels offer up more varied gameplay the experience risks being amazingly dull.

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