Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Hands-On Preview - Cut From Different Cloth
Written Monday, December 10, 2012 By John Robertson
Within Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance's first 30 minutes you've fought the Metal Gear Ray, witnessed a cyborg take down a behemoth-class tank singlehanded and learned that the sword you’re wielding is capable of slicing anything and everything into pieces. Hundreds of pieces.
If you weren't sure before, you can be sure now: Revengeance is an action game through and through. No punches are pulled. Subtlety is a dirty word.
This should come as little surprise, of course. For starters, you're playing as Raiden; the white-haired cyborg ninja and seminal misfit of the Metal Gear series, known for appearing at random and saving the day in a flurry of blood and steel. Secondly, this is a Platinum Games creation; the studio that gave us the monochromatic gore fest MadWorld and two of this generation's finest action games in Bayonetta and Vanquish.
Raiden and Platinum seem as though they were custom made for one another. In a five hour session there was never a moment of downtime or reflection, both character and gameplay combining to serve up an unyielding smorgasbord of set-piece moments, ever-evolving enemies and so-whacky-they-work plot points. Raiden has generally been portrayed in a mysterious light up until now, but Platinum seems to be looking to illuminate him in as visceral and violent a manner as possible.
Tutorial optionally completed, your first experience of gameplay is to tackle a giant Metal Gear Ray. Far from a simple introduction, this fight against the six storey mechanical beast is a demanding battle that forces you to use a high percentage of your overall core move set. On the first attempt, playing on 'normal' difficulty, you'll probably die. You wouldn't be the first...
Without wanting to give too much away, victory is earned by taking out the thing's legs before jumping impossibly high and hitting it with all you've got between the eyes. No one said this was going to be realistic, and it's great that it's not.
Just when you think you've won, Ray comes back. Bad guys always comes back... It's standard practice in anything featuring a hero and a villain. The second round is even harder than the first because of the comparatively small combat arena and greater speed required of you to avoid becoming a grisly pool of blood on concrete.
The dual-round fight is the quintessential example of the pace being delivered here. Periods of heavy action are punctuated by exhilarating cut-scenes featuring simple quick-time events, followed by calmer dialogue scenes used to further the narrative. Then you're back in the action and doing it all over again. From what we've played, there's barely a minute to think.
Thinking, however, is exactly what you're going to need to do. Core gameplay is a mixture of light and heavy attacks, combined with a simple parrying system and the game's centrepiece 'free blade' mode. It's not easy and you do need to be patient in learning the techniques and attacks that are essential for survival. Attack as defence is the best way to go, striking enemies that are about to strike throws them off-balance and provides valuable opportunities for you to prevent them from ever lifting a weapon again. Alternatively, you can play it cool and wait for them to come at you before launching the perfect parry and following up with a counter-attack.
Stronger enemies usually offer the chance to vanquish them by employing a special technique that pops up as a quick-time event. As many battles involve you tackling numerous enemies (five or more), ridding yourself of the biggest threat early can literally be a lifesaver. However, due to the intense pace of the game, that's not as easy as it might otherwise be. Missing the button prompt is common practice amid the flurry of activity, forcing you onto the defensive back foot more often than an action game usually asks of you. This is no button masher, that's for sure; fail to defend properly and you'll not see it past the first couple of chapters.
If you do manage to hit all of the button prompts, you have the chance to inflict terminal damage by using free blade to chop your target into as many pieces as possible. Holding a trigger button and slicing away on the analogue stick gives you one-to-one movement control over Raiden's sword. The results are gruesomely wonderful with limbs, torsos and other miscellaneous body/machine parts succumbing to the strength of Japanese steel.
Bigger enemies can often survive such an onslaught and lose little more than an arm or leg, seriously crippling them for the rest of the fight and buying you some breathing room to focus your attention on another threat. During the first few hours these 'bigger' enemies included the aforementioned Metal Gear Ray, a robo-dog with a chainsaw for a tail, a fancy looking tripod packing a flamethrower, various forms of attack helicopters and grotesquely muscled giants of men with a love of mimicking the 'Hulk smash'.
It's all delightfully camp in the typical Metal Gear manner, like a James Bond movie directed by Robert Rodriguez and starring The Rock.
Certain sections give you the option of avoiding conflict by trying to stealth your way past foes using the tried and tested cardboard box method. Whilst slowly tiptoeing under the hood of your recycled brown shield provides fun novelty value for a short time, it feels wrong in a game like this to be bypassing combat at all. Raiden is loaded with so many flash moves that it's a shame not to use them. Besides, resisting the urge to fight results in your earning less Battle Points at the end of the chapter which limits your ability to upgrade moves/weapons/health and makes things more challenging later down the line.
That's the overriding impression of Revengeance: it's a challenging game. Perhaps those first few hours are easier to get to grips with than they are in Bayonetta, but it's certainly not far off. Watching someone play and listening to the mad bouts of frantic button pressing makes it seem like a typical button-masher, a game that anyone could pick up and 'win' by simply diving in with reckless abandon. That really is not the case. Calm, thoughtful attacks must be executed at speed to succeed, they must not be executed at random.
Given that Revengeance is absolutely nothing like the kind of thing we're used to seeing from a Metal Gear game, it will be very interesting to see whether or not fans of the series buy into what Platinum Games is trying to do here. What's for sure is that the mechanical gameplay elements bear no resemblance to one another at all, they could hardly be more different. On a different note, however, the overblown characters, convoluted narrative and general air of worldwide threat is present and correct.
This is more Platinum Games than Metal Gear... Your personal outlook on the two will determine if that's a welcome development or not.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is out in February 2013.