Hands-On: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
While January was somewhat of a drag in terms of new releases, February is shaping up to once again make us question what is more important; food or games? One of February’s most interesting titles is Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, the upcoming Metal Gear spin-off featuring everyone’s favourite cyborg ninja, Raiden. While this particular title has changed considerably since it’s fist announcement, Platinum Games have taken into their stride and done with it what they know best; straight up fast and frantic hack and slash action, which seems a perfect fit for the cyborg dominated future setting. With a playable demo being released yesterday on Xbox 360 and PS3, I sat down more than once to give Raiden a test drive. Be warned, many watermelons were harmed to bring you this story. Many.
Before jumping into the Private Military conquered world that Revengeance is set in, the demo introduces you to Raiden himself, teaching you how to control the lightning fast cyborg ninja. This in itself was exciting for one sole reason: the precise cutting mechanic that has basically carried this title since it’s reveal a few years ago. Even after Revengeance was transformed into a hack and slash title, this one interesting mechanic remained and it’s great to finally get a chance to test it’s speed, accuracy and, most importantly, how much satisfaction it gives to players. After chopping up far to many watermelons and one too many cars, I can honestly say it’s a well implemented and functioning feature. You enter “Blade Mode” by holding down L1, using the analogue sticks to control the camera and the angle at which you want to cut. Releasing the cutting angle stick executes the move, and while it may feel weird at first you’ll quickly come to terms with this often scarily accurate mechanic, slicing multiple paths through enemies in mere seconds.
The short tutorial also introduces you to light and heavy attacks, mapped to square and triangle respectively, but the raw power behind these attacks only becomes apparent when you unleash them against other cyborg soldiers. Story-wise, the game takes place after Metal Gear Solid 4 and deals with some of the fallout following the failure of the Guns of the Patriots system. Private Military Corporations are still on the rise, with Raiden working with a peace keeping corporation known as Maverick Security Consulting. The story kicks off after a mission goes horribly wrong, with a rival private military attacking the company Raiden was instructed to protect, resulting in the death of major political figures and the loss of Raiden’s one eye and left arm. A short cyborg surgery later, and Raiden is an even deadlier force to be reckoned with, eyeing out revenge on those responsible for his injuries and subsequent political take overs around the world. The premise isn’t something exactly new when it comes to the Metal Gear franchise, but it’s nice to see Platinum Games carving out their own narrative without the reliance on past iconic Metal Gear figures. In a nutshell, the Metal Gear name doesn’t appear to be used as a narrative crutch, but that’s just from the initial story opening.
One thing that seems to have survived the transition are lengthy cutscenes, and frequent ones at that. After the tutorial you’re treated to a rather lengthy introductory sequence, followed but another one after you dispatch three cyborg soldiers in an easy encounter. But I soon realized, the real meat in Revengeacnce doesn’t come from it’s story premise, but rather it’s exhilarating action. Platinum Games are no strangers when it comes to hack and slash titles, and it shows immediately when you fully unleash Raiden. Light and heavy attacks feel weighty and powerful, with each connecting strike feeling extremely satisfying. The flashy visuals that complement the action are also a treat for the eyes, although the surrounding environments are nothing really to write home about just yet. But considering most of my time in the demo was spent slicing through enemy soldiers, it didn’t really make itself known as a huge problem. Slicing through cyborg soldiers and Geckos alike is a fast and exciting affair, and slowing down time using “Blade Mode” brings the the killing frenzy to a grinding halt, allowing you to take aim and watch your High Frequency blade dismember your foes in gruesome style. It’s not only satisfying, but also required to stay alive. Slicing enemies through a red target allows you to extract a glowing blue spine which awards you with health and additional energy, which powers Blade Mode. Finding a balance between normal combat and Blade Mode instances is paramount to survival, although there weren’t that many challenges present to really put it to the test.
Some moments in the demo had splashes of traditional Metal Gear gameplay which are sure to be far a few between but nonetheless fit in well with the hack and slash action. Stealth is still an option when to comes to approaching combat, but it’s made clear that you cannot progress through Revengeance by sticking to the shadows. You might be able to take down one or two foes with silent attacks before alerting everyone else, prompting that all to familiar alert tone that Metal Gear fans will immediately recognize. The idea behind Revengeance is fast, in your face action, so again don’t look to Revengeance for hardcore stealth mechanics that were present in previous games, because you won’t find it. However, it is still nice to see that you have more than one option available to you when approaching combat, despite the fact that it will eventually boil down being exposed and having to deal with enemies in a more direct manner.
The demo closed off with a rather challenging encounter against the game’s first really boss. LQ-84i is a wolf-like mech with a chainsaw for a tail, which was certainly put to good use as I died multiple times before coming to grips with Revengeance’s most irritating feature (or so I thought), the Parry system. Up until the boss fight, timing counter-attacks and parries were either extremely easy or not required at all. Enemies give off signs before executing their attacks, allowing you to quickly move in their direction and press your light attack to initiate a parry. There is where the problems began, as the game more often than not mistook my parry for a light attack. This became a rather alarming issue against LQ-84i, who made quick work of my errors and put me down in no time at all. After my retires I slowly began to understand the parry system and how it actually functioned, relying on rather precise timing rather than simple button presses when prompted by enemies. This somewhat reassured me that Platinum Games aren’t build an easy hack and slash title for people to fly through, and the parry system alone could lead to some interesting depth when it comes to large scale battles.
Considering this demo is already rather old, being the same demo released with the Zone of the Enders HD Collection in December last year, there might still be some small changes to the final product that will only be seen when the game releases later next month. Thankfully, the demo did a good job of convincing me that although this isn’t the Metal Gear Rising most people hoped for when first revealed, it is still a game that hack and slash fans should be looking at with wide eyes. I’ll still reserve final judgement for when the game actually releases, but this short time with Raiden has certainly left me with a sense of excitement for the game’s release on the 22nd of February. The demo is openly available on PSN and Xbox LIVE, so be sure to give it a go and let us know your thoughts.