All Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance articles start the very same way. There’s simply no avoiding Rising’s initial teething problems. So much has been made of the game’s protracted incubation period, it’s prolonged, unanimously anxious early development and its revised status as a Kojima Productions AND a Platinum Games Raiden game, that there’s literally no point in referencing these introductory issues anymore. The problems inherent in the game’s original incarnation have all but defined the project to date, which is a real shame, not least because Rising is really ACTUALLY happening this time, has a concrete launch date and, most significantly of all, we’ve actually played the game. And while everyone thinks they know exactly what Rising is, what is should be and what it should have been, you actually don’t. Until you get your hands on Rising’s Raiden and his innate and omnipresent ability to artfully butcher his antagonists, you might not be able to see something that opponents to this revised Rising might well struggle to stomach, that being, that Rising has all the signs of a bloody good game in making and a game worthy of the Metal Gear moniker that precedes the Rising and Revengeance in it’s title.
Rising is unapologetically mental. Raiden has an enhanced high frequency katana in his mechanical vice and chopping the enemy into any number of delightfully diced segments is as enjoyable as it is technically impressive. Blade Mode is the all consuming stand out mechanic here, allowing for Raiden to dish out a selection of precise strikes and cuts to the enemy and the surrounding environment with lightning bolt pace and precision. Blade Mode is brash, is unanimously effective and is the most satisfying way of delivering “death by sword” upon your enemy. In saying that though, it’s not particularly easy to actually execute the kind of freeform accurate slicing synonymous with the gameplay trailers that have been in circulation over the last few months. At first it feels rather clunky and it can be somewhat taxing to negotiate. The mechanic comes across as a controlled sword flailing interpretation of bullet-time. You’ll be required to work both analogue sticks at the same time with the left trigger and you’ll have to gauge and negotiate some rather tricky angles and aspects. This isn’t aiming with a crosshair in the traditional sense. It’s a lot more engaging, but significantly much more difficult in its deliverance of death. There’s teething issues when you first play around with Blade Mode, but after a few minutes it should start to click somewhat. Practice makes perfect.
Combat is not limited to Blade Mode. You can initiate the enemy with traditional hacking and slashing, kicks and melee attacks, and although we didn’t really get to play around with them too much in our playthrough, Raiden will be able to engage the enemy with more traditional Metal Gear weapons like the Stinger missile launcher. It isn’t just all offensive though, you’ll need to master blocking and parrying if you want to stay on your feet, especially when you have two Gekko’s attempting to stomp on your face. At this point in our playthrough, things got quite mental – Platinum Games mental. We were caught up in a close quarters scuffle with a couple of Gekko’s and a handful of enemies, quickly abandoning any notion of fancy kills with Blade Mode and reducing ourselves to flailing blindly with the hope that there’s a swipe in there that can topple the mechanical mooing Gekko from flattening Raiden. If you’ve played Bayonetta or Vanquish, or any other Platinum Game for that matter, you’ll know exactly what to expect. Multiple enemies on screen, exaggerated kills and relentless aggression define the gameplay. The game throws everything at you and if you absorb it and don’t react, you’re just another dead lightning enhanced robot ninja. This is more Platinum than it is Kojima Productions. It’s still a Metal Gear game, but is doesn’t feel like one. It’s more akin to the aforementioned Bayonetta and Vanquish than it is anything else, feeling like a weightier brash robotic version of the former.
In saying that, it still retains a sense that you are interacting with something that exists in the greater Metal Gear ecosystem. The fact that it features characters and enemies from MGS4 is an obvious point of reference, but it also carries itself like a Metal Gear, both in terms of presentation, intensity and importance.
Our demo ended with a boss battle, one of Metal Gear’s most celebrated enterprises and if you’ve always wondered what a chainsaw through the chest attached to the tail of a robot cat felt like, you need look no further. This is classic Metal Gear, a patient battle with an impatient boss, requiring the player to think around the enemy instead of simply going in all swords a swiping. This boss is a particularly tricky customer. Who knew bringing a sword to a cat fight would render the blade bearer disadvantaged?
Between dodging chainsaw tails, enemies will corrupt the boss space and one of the other rather cool showcases of Raiden’s dynamic cutting comes to pass, the “Zan Datsu” cut and take feature. Raiden can deliver a swift finishing move that allows him to rip the innards of his sawn enemy from his body, regenerating his energy and health. It’s fantastically satisfying to tear someone’s spine out. You won’t get sick of this.
Even though you’re primarily dealing with cyborgs and robots, it’s still a rather gory, gruesome and bloody experience. Impaling a Gekko with your sword for example, guarantees plenty of spillage and splatter of the old red stuff. It’s unashamedly gritty, much like Raiden himself. Raiden’s personal struggles, past horrors and innate fears means that some four years on from Metal Gear Solid 4, Raiden still struggles to get to grips with his personal realities – with his katana and it’s blood stained sheath his only therapy. Raiden, more than ever before, is an insular dark killer and is on the cusp of something deeper than anything the character has ever explored previous.
To say that Rising is finally living up to the hype would be something of an innocuous and blind statement. One could argue that there was never any hype to begin with as many were judging the game because it flew out of their immediate Metal Gear comfort zone. On our play-test, one thing is for certain – Rising packs one hell of an insane experience. It has a hell of a lot to offer, regardless of its past difficulties. Kojima Productions’ and Platinum’s gamble looks like it’s going to pay off.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is available in Ireland on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 from February 21st 2013