‘Red Steel’ flails; ‘Just Cause’ fails to fulfill mission

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Just Cause 2
(Xbox 360/PS3/PC)

For a sequel that no one asked for, “Just Cause 2” stands out among free-roaming action games in a way that the original didn’t.

As you jump from a helicopter at the start of the game, free-falling into an enemy base, the first thing that stands out is the scope of the game’s world. It is enormous. You will often fly a jet from continent to continent as you travel to your next mission; these trips offer both an amazing spectacle and a sense of boredom as a result of the prolonged lack of action (although there is a “warp” system introduced early on).

The missions themselves are woefully outdated: The escort mission with brain-dead A.I. rears its ugly head from 2003, along with amusing yet frustrating-to-control air races that recall “Pilotwings.”

The strengths of the game are the scope of the world and the ways you traverse it with a grappling hook and parachute, allowing you to become your own makeshift parasail. Better yet is the grappling hook’s ability to tie any two objects together. This opens the combat up to all sorts of hilarious antics. Link an enemy to a gas canister, shoot it and watch it fly off along with its victim. Unfortunately, it’s only a matter of time until you exhaust the possibilities and wish there were a better game to embody such impressive settings and clever ideas.

Grade: C+

Red Steel 2
(Wii)

I really enjoyed the first “Red Steel,” the hyped and criticized Wii launch title that experimented with first-person motion controls years before “Metroid Prime 3.” There were many flaws — mainly, the swordplay — and “Red Steel 2” addresses almost all of them.

Somehow, that’s not enough to make this sequel much of an improvement. This is partly because of the fact that it is no longer novel to have a first-person shooter on the Wii, and anyone who owns another console will find the game to be a very shallow experience compared to its contemporaries. The game comes bundled with the Wii MotionPlus, Nintendo’s awkward attachment to the controller that makes it perform like you thought it would when you first purchased the console (mostly because of its improved tracking of wrist positioning and movement). It can be both fun and tiring to swing your remote around for hours, pulling off sword combos and juggling enemies in the air with your six-shooter until your wrist goes limp.

The game attempts to entice the player with loads of collectibles and upgrades, but it’s not enough to veil the fact that the mission structure, enemy design and level design are unimaginative and redundant. You’ll be given new weapons and sword techniques, each more difficult to execute than the last, but all the game needs to do is give the player a new challenge and a sense of urgency to keep him or her engaged. These are problems that a peripheral system like MotionPlus can’t fix.

Grade: C+