It's a chilly December day here in New York City. Ubisoft has stopped by with a copy of Red Steel 2, forcing me to adhere to a strict embargo, one that ends in a brand new decade: February 22, 2010. I hope with the new decade comes flying cars, robot servants and -- perhaps more reasonably -- a better version of Red Steel 2.
You see, here in 2009, Red Steel 2 continues to control poorly. Once again, Red Steel fails to capitalize on the dream of "1:1" sword controls, as Wiimote swings still translate into predetermined animations. Although Red Steel 2 requires the MotionPlus accessory, the game doesn't demand precision or finesse; all enemies are seemingly killed the same way: by stabbing them in the back. Battles are largely reduced to waiting for an enemy to attack, dodging and then swinging wildly at the enemy's weak point. Any other method seems ineffective, with gun play serving a largely decorative purpose. (Enemies seem to block every shot you fire.)
The level design seems to have taken the same inspiration as the enemies, which is to say, "none at all." The level I played through was a sandy dojo. The cel-shaded look took advantage of the Wii's limited capabilities, and the game ran at a pleasantly smooth clip, but I couldn't help but feel lost (and bored) moving through room after room of drab brown colors. There's some interactivity with the environment: you can cut down bamboo shoots to expose hidden treasure chests, for example. Still, you can only look at the same room over and over again before you inevitably begin to wonder if the Flood are about to come rushing in.
Red Steel 2 may have received a cosmetic makeover from its predecessor, but it's still lacking a key element: fun. Perhaps 2010 will change all that, and I'll be able to enjoy an inspired version of Red Steel 2 ... on my space ship, with my robot buddies "Chuck" and "Max." I can't wait for 2010!
Best of luck,
Editor's note: This preview is based on a work-in-progress build of Red Steel 2 played December 9, 2009 at an Ubisoft press event.