Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a tricky game. Most of those who pick it up for the first time play for a bit before they hit a wall. This is the make-or-break moment: you either get on board with the unusual flow of the combat mechanics, or you don’t. The good news is that the difficulty spike isn’t nearly as sharp as it seems to be. You’ll only see that in retrospect, but hopefully this little getting started primer will prepare you for what’s to come.
Strike, Strike, PARRY
There isn’t a dedicated block button in Metal Gear Rising. Instead you have a parry move that depends on good, but not necessarily perfect, timing. This is by far one of your most useful skills in the game, and it becomes downright essential once you start facing the late-game bosses. To parry, you quickly flick the left stick in the direction of the attacking enemy while simultaneously performing a light attack. Do it early, and you’ll actually see Raiden raise up his sword as he prepares to block. The hope, however, is that you time your parry perfectly enough to initiate a counter, which often leaves your foe defenseless and susceptible to a finishing move (indicated when a button prompt appears on the screen).
Timing-based parry systems can be scary for those who don’t spend much time playing combo-heavy fighting games, but the barrier to entry here is actually lower than you might expect. Parrying isn’t foolproof, as you’re also dealing with occasionally unblockable attacks from your enemies, but mastering this skill is key to improving your survivability.
Blade Mode And Strategic Dismemberment
Blade Mode and using it to sever limbs or perform finishers is another initially tricky feature in Metal Gear Rising. Just beneath Raiden’s health bar is a fuel cell gauge that glows blue when full. You can press and hold the left trigger at any time to activate Blade Mode, effectively turning the left analog stick into an analog control for directional swipes of your sword. Light/heavy attack commands also work in Blade Mode when all you need to do is stand in one place and slice very quickly.
Activate Blade Mode when your fuel cell gauge is full and you’ll see the action slow down significantly (think bullet-time) as the meter starts to drain. While you’re in this state, called Zan-Datsu, a red-bordered hit box appears in the vital locations of any nearby enemies that are weak enough to be susceptible to a finishing attack. Using your left analog stick to adjust the plane of your sword slash (right analog controls the camera), the idea is to swipe directly across the hit box. The easiest way to do this is to line up your strike and then simply release the stick, allowing it to pop back to its center position.
Pull it off correctly, and a button prompt will appear on the screen. Hit that, and you’ll be rewarded with a brief cutscene in which Raiden tears out the enemy’s robo-spine and crushes it, absorbing its sweet, delicious bonus BP, which is Revengeance‘s upgrade currency. More importantly, crushing a robo-spine immediately re-fills Raiden’s health and fuel cell gauges. This makes it possible to quickly combo your way through gangs of weaker grunts, since you can often Zan-Datsu them without first softening them up. You can also recharge your fuel cell gauge by attacking regularly, though it’s not nearly as quick as a successful Zan-Datsu.
All The Pretty Colors
Metal Gear Rising is filled with visual cues that are very helpful in combat. When an enemy is about to attack you, a glint of red flashes across the screen indicating that you’d best prepare with a parry or quickly get out of the way. Each foe brings a different set of attack patterns, so it’s helpful to get the rhythm down for each one so that you can more effectively parry-counter. Watch as well for an attacker to be lit up by a yellow glow; if you see that, run clear quickly as an unblockable attack is imminent. This is less of an issue with the standard-fare grunts, but larger foes (Mastiffs in particular) dish out unblockable attacks frequently, and can quickly chip away at your health if you’re not paying attention.
As you wear down stronger enemies, you’ll note that certain parts of their bodies glow blue once enough damage has been sustained. When the blue glow extends to the torso, that means the foe is weak enough for a Zan-Datsu finisher. If it’s just a limb that’s glowing blue, that means you can sever the extremity and weaken the enemy even further. Your fuel cell recharges quickly enough that it’s often worth expending some of it to take off an enemy’s limb, especially when you’re dealing with one of the bigger threats.
Also keep an eye out as you play for sudden slow-motion moments that blanket the screen in a blue filter. This is a signal to engage Blade Mode, provided that your fuel cell gauge is full. You’ll typically see this happen at pivotal moments of certain boss fights and when you successful perform a parry-counter or initiate a finishing move. The Zan-Datsu attack works the same, though some enemies lack a vital organ to slice across and simply need to be chopped to bits.
At any time, you can hit up on the D-pad to activate Raiden’s AR view. This ability isn’t on a meter, so you can use it freely. It even stays active if you start running around. Striking out with your sword or holding down the right trigger/R2 button to traverse using Ninja Dash will deactivate it automatically, but you’re otherwise free to explore while AR view is up. In addition to highlighting enemies and other threats in the environment, the AR view is also helpful for marking out where collectibles, item boxes, and other pick-ups are, even when they’re on the other side of a wall. Don’t be shy about using this. Anytime you walk into a new location or polish off a gang of foes, switch to AR view to and wander around a bit to see if you’re missing anything.
Tools Of The Trade
As you proceed through Revengeance, you’ll earn BP that you can spend to customize your Raiden in various functional and cosmetic ways. Your best bet on a first playthrough is to dedicate your spending to beefing up attack potential. Focus on improving Raiden’s sword and one other weapon, most likely the Pole Arm, both because it’s the first secondary weapon that you earn and because it happens to be quite powerful. You might also want to look at some of the combo skills, particularly the air parry that allows you to block in mid-air.
Also be sure to conserve your resources, particularly secondary projectile weapons. Health and fuel cell recharge pickups are found fairly frequently, but rocket launcher ammo and grenades are not quite as common. Save these for your big challenges, like bosses and mini-bosses. Also make sure that you’ve always got your health recharge (“Repair Nanopaste”) armed in your support item slot, as this will allow you to use one automatically when your health dips down to zero (you can also use one on your own by pressing down on the D-pad).
Lastly, while it’s not a main focus of the game, try to stay tuned into opportunities to take a stealthy approach. Metal Gear Rising isn’t exactly meant for stealth play, and you actually stand to earn bigger rewards when you mix it up in open combat, but certain sections of the game are made much less difficult when you sneak around and proceed cautiously. Stealth strikes (indicated by a button prompt) always conclude with a Zan-Datsu opportunity, so be sure to turn on Blade Mode when the screen turns blue, provided of course that your fuel cell gauge is full.