Ubisoft’s modern-day samurai story Red Steel is one of the most eagerly-awaited Wii titles – and for good reason.
You can wield the Wii Remote like a sword and engage in on-screen clashes that would put Kill Bill to shame. Or you can hold it like a gun to spray a room full of bad guys with machine gun fire, simply by aiming the freehand controller at the screen.
Red Steel stunned audiences at E3 2006 with a demo of its massive potential; when we learned how the game put you in the role of an American in Japan, on the trail of a mafia boss who kidnapped your girlfriend.
While Red Steel’s story takes place in the US and Far East, the game is being coded right here in Europe at Ubisoft’s Paris studio, by a 100-strong team who have worked on such diverse projects as Far Cry, Splinter Cell and even Rayman.
Calling the shots in Paris is the game’s producer Marie-Sol Beaudry, who we caught up with recently for the following exclusive interview:
Nintendo of Europe: Red Steel was one of the first Wii titles seen by the public. When did you start working on the game, and how closely did you work with Nintendo?
Marie-Sol Beaudry: “We met Nintendo at E3 2005. They wanted a third-party team to work on a first-person view game for the Wii. We only got basic info about the concept of the controller and the relative power of the console. At first, we worked with real remote controls as we hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t received any Wii controllers. So there was no technology at first, only ideas, and this was a very fresh and new development process!
“Then we spent about two to three months just imagining how you can use and play with the controller and the buttons. The goal was to explore all the kinds of movement you can imagine with a remote control in your hand that would represent a device. They [Nintendo] wanted to focus on the moves that are possible to do in reality.”
NoE: And how is the development process going now?
MSB: “We just discovered the built-in controller speaker feature around E3 and we are now working on how to use it for single and multiplayer.”
NoE: The unique control method of Wii allows the player to be more immersed in the game than ever before. In what sort of ways did you incorporate this into Red Steel, in terms of gameplay and storyline?
MSB: “The whole concept of the game is built around the controller and the fact that you feel you have the weapon in your hand. As it is a new way of using and feeling a sword or a gun, the player has to master it. That is why the game takes place in Asia where the notions of mastery in combat are very important. A gun requires the player to become more and more precise in his shooting whereas with the sword, you will learn several techniques of fighting.”
NoE: ‘Respect’ plays an integral part in the gameplay. Can you explain how this benefits the player?
MSB: “As a true samurai, you will be able to master your techniques so well that you can choose between killing and neutralising your opponents. A defeated opponent will show you respect and give you either bonuses like ammunition or information about a situation.
“Respect is also important in the storyline. When you arrive in Japan, you are just an American and you aren’t taken seriously by the Japanese mafia. To defeat Tokai, the guy who captured your girlfriend, you need the support of another clan. To make them rally to your cause, you need to gain their respect. Therefore you must help them against Tokai and change their opinion about you.”
NoE: We’ve heard that during the game the player will learn new moves from his mentors. Can you explain how this will work? What sort of moves or combos can we expect?
MSB: “During the game you can train your skills at the dojo to get more efficient at sword fighting. As you progress through the game, your mentor will teach you new techniques to defeat your opponents.”
NoE: Apart from all the positive reviews, did you also get any negative feedback after E3, and if so, which parts of the game are you still polishing the most after the E3 version?
MSB: “We knew that a part of the audience, especially the hardcore gamers, would be bewildered by such a different type of control method; and a few people reacted negatively. We are still working on the controls to make them accessible and fun to any kind of gamer. Obviously, we are still working on optimisation and graphics improvement, too.”
NoE: During E3 there wasn’t much you could say about the multiplayer mode. Do you have any more info now?
MSB: “It is still in progress. Please be patient and you will know very soon.”
NoE: Will the game support Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, so that players can go head to head online?
MSB: “Nintendo has not announced its plans for online; you will know very soon.”