The Metal Gear
name has always been synonymous with slow, careful stealth, and earlier titles have all revolved around this key mechanic with the game’s protagonist being under-powered and attempting to complete missions undetected. Within the opening minutes of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
however, that expectation is totally blown apart. This new game punctures your swim wings, rips off your training wheels, and slams you straight into a learning cliff. No hand-holding, no mollycoddling, no explanation, no warning. This is a Platinum Games title and Platinum don't do pacing and they don't do gentle introductions. Immensely intensive, frighteningly ferocious, and ridiculously over the top futuristic combat action is their calling card. That's Platinum and that's Revengeance
The game starts serenely enough, and begins approximately four years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4
. We are re-introduced to Raiden hiding his new cyborg body in a smartly dressed suit and sitting in the back of a limousine. He is now part of private group serving as the bodyguard to an African Nation’s president. Bodyguards are there for a reason and unsurprisingly, Raiden is immediately called upon to earn his pay and defend the president from an assassination attempt. Thus, the player finds themself immediately thrown into the action in the first of the game’s many fast and furious encounters. Along with a number of cyborg enemies which act as tutorial cannon fodder (or more accurately blade fodder) this first tutorial mission also includes facing off against a mech the size of a small tower block. Catch your breath for a moment, from this point on the pace is unrelenting.
After all combat you are rewarded with Battle Points. These are awarded for style (the style ranking system remains), efficiency, damage taken and other areas, and are given after a staged combat area either during the campaign or in any of the 20 VR missions that can be attempted outside of the story. These points can then be redeemed for special weapons upgrades, new skills, and later on, new armour or cyborg suits. Thus, combat actually becomes the means of earning your keep within the game. If you want to get paid, you’re going to have to fight. Thus, going for stealth kills or even pure non-combative stealth, will earn only a limited amount of points, will ultimately leave you short changed of the in-game currency.
While stealth may have been at the core of other Metal Gear Solid
actually takes the stealth option away from the player at times and forces them to enter staged battles with no other choice than to fight. These forced encounters give the player time and opportunity to practice all of the moves and combos possible to boost their bank balance and upgrade Raiden as much as possible. When you reach the mini-bosses and the main boss battles, there is no way to use stealth or sneak past them, and believe me, when you reach those battles, you’re going to need all of the upgrades you can get.
All that being said, why would you even want to avoid combat? After all, it is the core of the game, and Platinum Games have come up with a masterstroke of sword-based combat. It is beautifully simple, devilishly difficult, and exquisitely executed, all at the same time.
Along with the usual mix of quick attacks, long attacks, and multi-key combos which can be found in most hack-and-slash titles, Platinum Games have introduced a couple of key combat elements. When the techniques all come together it gives the player a real sense of control and immersion in the battle unlike any other game in the genre.
With the absence of any real evade move, block is the first of the techniques that need to be mastered. Without it, you won’t be getting very far in to the game. Blocking becomes your only form of defense, so learn it, and learn it well.
The block in itself is a simple move. This is done by pressing the light attack button and flicking the right thumbstick in the direction of the incoming enemy attack. Get it right and the attack will be blocked, and usually the enemy will be left open for a counter attack. Get it wrong and it will hurt. Admittedly it does some time to learn, and can be frustrating early on. However, when truly mastered, it becomes so intuitive that you will find yourself in the midst of a battle blocking multiple enemies attacking from multiple directions with an instinctive twitch of the thumbstick. It is so satisfying that you feel like you are really wielding the cyber-blade like a true ninja warrior of the future.
Of course, it’s often said that attack is the best form of defense and it’s in the attacking combat that the game reveals its truly unique and brilliant masterstroke. Whilst you have other melee weapons available in the game, it’s your cyber-sword that will be the difference between life and death. Through some sort of pseudo-science explained by Doktor via your codec, the sword is able to cut through just about anything, including tanks and helicopters. You can slice away and reduce your targets you shreds like some sort of demented humanoid blender (Neatly included is an on-screen counter telling you how many parts your victim has been reduced to.). Whilst that simple action alone can be strangely satisfying, the real joy, savage and brutal as it is, comes from using the unique ‘Blade-Mode’ and the ‘Zan-datsu’ technique.
Blade Mode can be simply thought of as bullet time for swords where time slows down and locks the player in a stance. During those brief moments the exact height and arc of the sword swing can be controlled by the player using the two thumbsticks, and that angle can be anything through the whole 360 degrees enabling the player to target some very specific body parts and limbs. Disarming your enemy takes on a quite literal meaning in the game.
Through the previously mentioned pseudo-science, Raiden’s blade needs fuel cells to keep its edge and additionally Raiden needs a fully charged sword to be able to enter Blade Mode. These fuel cells can be easily absorbed by the blade as it cuts through enemy cyborgs, but this is not particularly effective. It is the 'Zan-datsu' technique, which literally means “cut and take”, that enables Raiden to go straight to the ‘heart’ of the matter. Be warned that it requires a certain degree of blade proficiency to perform this, and it’s best left to the player to discover exactly what 'Zan-datsu' actually ent(r)ails. Suffice it to say that there is also a strangely savage satisfaction to be derived here.
Like real swordsmanship, this will all take some time to truly master, and even by the end of my first playthrough, I was not as proficient as I would have liked to have been in all the techniques. I was certainly not the cyber-ninja that I aspired to be but I was certainly getting there, and mastering the techniques and the sword fights remained brutal fun throughout the entire game.
The playthrough itself is relatively short and runs from the tutorial mission through seven game missions. There is a storyline linking everything together, and although not complicated, it plays a secondary part to the action and combat in the game. Along with the events in the missions themselves the story is fleshed out by the familiar cut-scenes and codec conversations that are part of any Metal Gear
title. Fortunately, most of the cut-scenes and conversations can be skipped if desired. All in all, the first playthrough should only take around 6-8 hours.
Most of the missions end with the customary boss battle with the player facing off against one of the elite members of the Private Military Company, Desparado Enterprises, which form the main antagonists within the game. Boss battles and mini boss battles are usually multi-stage with checkpoints in between stages, and all are wonderfully over the top. Players end up running up and down sides of buildings, or using incoming missiles as stepping stones to get to some of the harder to reach bosses. It all looks like it came straight from a Japanese Sci-fi anime, but somehow remains in character for the game. Despite cut-scenes and quicktime events signaling the end of the boss battle, the player still has the personal satisfaction of administering the final coup-de-grace themselves.
I’m happy to say that apart from the occasional camera glitch where the view would get locked at a strange angle, the game ran flawlessly. The graphics were well-presented and the frame rate was maintained at a sufficiently high rate even during intense combat. It’s fair to say that Platinum Games have delivered a title with the same high standard and polish as their previous big titles.
For the achievement hunters, there is the usual mix of story-based, collectibles, and difficulty-based achievements. There are multiple difficulty levels, and multiple playthroughs are encouraged with a whole load of unlockables available in the game. In the first playthrough I managed approximately half of the total for about 450 GS. Getting the full 1000 though might well take some time.
What Platinum Games have created is possibly the antithesis of earlier Metal Gear
games. Whereas the focus of the other games in the series was stealth, with combat as a secondary consideration and usually a last resort, Platinum Games have now flipped the coin to its other face and have completely reversed all this with MGR:R
. The sword fighting mechanic is so unique and yet so intuitive and instinctive to use, it makes the player feel as though he has total control of the cyber-blade and leads to a real feeling of satisfaction when combat is over and slain foes lie sliced and diced in pieces at your feet. Get it all right and you feel like the cyber-ninja that the game really wants you to be, and what a sweet, sweet feeling that is.The reviewer spent around 20 hours with the game, playing through the main campaign, replaying missions, and playing the VR missions. The review copy was provided by the publisher. The weapon of choice was a Razer Onza Tournament Edition. 28 of the 50 achievements were unlocked for 435 GS.