Game an homage to westerns

2010-03-21 20:06

San Francisco - A Red Steel 2 sword and gunplay video game hitting the market on Tuesday pays tribute to the nameless hero carved into film legend by director Sergio Leone.

The title capitalises on enhanced motion-sensing controllers for Nintendo Wii videogame consoles to let players virtually wield samurai swords in battles with vicious thugs who have overrun a fictional desert town.

"In many ways this character and this world is my personal homage to Sergio Leone," Ubisoft creative director Jason Vandenberghe told AFP while providing an early go at the game in San Francisco. "It is very melodramatic, which I love."

Leone, who died in 1989, was famous for "spaghetti western" genre films starring a young Clint Eastwood as a "man with no name" who outsmarts and outshoots unsavoury characters in cowboy towns.

'East meets West'

The video game plays out in a fictional "East meets West" setting in the US state of Nevada. Players take on the role of a banished clan member who returns home to find his town taken over by biker thugs.

The key weapon is a samurai sword realistically wielded by slicing, jabbing and blocking with Wii Motion Plus controllers.

"An impressive fusion of Eastern and Western influences, Red Steel 2 aims to bridge the gap between casual and hardcore players," said Scott Steinberg, head video game analyst at TechSavvy Global.

"The game should offer a compelling mix of sword/gun-play that gives the player a greater one-to-one connection to what's happening on-screen and sense of overall empowerment."

Red Steel 2 is the first swordplay action video game customised for Plus devices that ramp up the precision of Wii controllers.

Improved realism

"It really makes that much of a difference," Vandenberghe said. "With the Plus it is swing and bam, simultaneous action. You believe it."

Ubisoft jumped early into making games for the Wii, releasing the original Red Steel when the consoles debuted in November 2006.

The original title sold 1.4 million copies and Vandenberghe is convinced the improved realism of in-game swordplay will win new fans for the franchise.

"There is something about this kind of game play that activates the Conan brain," Vandenberghe quipped, referring to a barbarian hero from a fiction book series made into a film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"When you hold the Wii-mote and whack; I see again and again that it unleashes the barbarian inside people."

Wii has been criticised for lacking the processing and graphics capabilities to handle action games that can be played on Microsoft Xbox 360 or Sony PlayStation 3 consoles.

Other players

"We are bringing a fun action game to the Wii," said Vandenberghe, who guided the creation of Red Steel 2 in the French video game star's Paris studio.

"I fundamentally believe that if you make a good game and it is only available on the Wii people will buy it."

Sony last week unveiled a motion-sensing controller that it hopes will boost interest in PlayStation 3 consoles.

PlayStation Move wands will hit the market in time for the year-end holiday shopping season and aim to tap into a zest for motion-sensing controls that made Nintendo Wii consoles marketplace superstars.

Microsoft is getting into the motion-sensing controller game with a Project Natal release slated for later this year.

Natal will let Xbox 360 players control in-game action with pure body motion, eliminating the need for wands or other hand-held gadgets, according to early glimpses at the technology.