Have sword will travel; Hands-on with Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Metal Gear Rising RevengeanceAlthough once nearly dead, Konami and Platinum Games’ Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is back with a, well, a vengeance. I have to admit that I have had grave misgivings over this game, but they were all due to the history of the property rather than the game itself. In 2010, Kojima Productions cancelledRising after it came out that the development team was having trouble finding the right balance and couldn’t settle on a firm direction. It sounded like it was a mess. Then Platinum Games came in an saved it, but that just meant it was going to be released, not necessarily good.

The important thing to know about Rising is that the game is based on the mechanic of sword combat. Everything else is just details. Thankfully the mechanic is a good basis to build a game on.

Rising is a full-on action game. The stealth mechanic that defines the Metal Gear series has been abandoned in favor of a much faster paced experience. The main character, Raiden, is a shark; he can never stop moving or the game is dead. There is always a very direct path for you to follow – or at least that was the impression the demo gave, and that fits with the style Platinum Games has shown in its previous releases.

metal-gear-rising-revengeanceThere is a frenetic pace to Rising. There are a few collectibles that make exploring the limited areas beyond the direct path worth exploring – including a handful of enemies hiding in cardboard boxes ala the classic Metal Gear hiding spot – but for the most part the game wants you pushing forward at all time.

You have two ways to attack. The first way is through button strikes. You have the traditional heavy and light attacks along with a parry and jump, but the real feature that deserves attention is the “blade mode.”

When you hold the left trigger or L2 button, the game slows down. With the right analog, you then control the arc of the swing. At first it takes a moment to realize the amount of control you have with this method. If you slowly move the indicator, you then need to pull the stick back then let go to swing. It feels clunky and awkward, but that is not how you are meant to play.

The idea is to attack quickly. Once you grasp the fundamentals, you can initiate the blade mode and quickly dissect an enemy. There is a counter that appears and you can track the number of cuts you make, which later helps to factor in to your overall score for the level. If you are fast enough, you can quite literally cut a human enemy into dozens of pieces in seconds. The game is also incredibly gory, and cutting a human to bits or just doing a single, powerful stroke opens them up and shows you their insides. Metal Gear Rising in an incredibly gory and grotesque game, but it is so over the top that it doesn’t really seem as horrific as you might think, and it is actually fun to try to get as many strokes in as possible.

Metal Gear RisingBut human enemies are not the only ones you will face, and you don’t even need enemies to slice and dice things for that matter. You will frequently face off against mechanized enemies, including many from the Metal Gear Solid series. Finding their weak spots is key, and once you do they can be chopped to bits. Some enemies will also require a secondary means to defeat them, like the rocket launcher sub-weapon you have, but it seems to be a set up to finish the enemy with the sword. You can also lay into just about anything from cars to pillars, tanks to tables.

Movement is also a major part of the game. Raiden has the ability to do a “ninja run”, which means that by holding down the proper button and running, he will begin a parkour-like sprint over any obstacles in his way. This, like the manual sword attack, uses up energy, which can be recharged by collecting energy packs dropped by defeated enemies.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is not Metal Gear Solid 5 (or even Metal Gear Solid 2.5, as the game takes place after MGS 2 but before MGS 4), but it does have a place in the series. It is a fundamentally different game from the other Metal Gear titles, and the stealth-action has been abandoned for something completely different, but despite that it still bears the influence of Hideo Kojima, who remained on the game as executive producer.

The sword mechanic is what will win over or lose fans. As a devotee of the Metal Gear franchise I may be a bit biased, but I personally thought it was exceedingly fun and I look forward to playing more of it in the future. The over the top action may feel a bit like a button mashing hack-n-slash to some, and in many ways it is, but the finely tuned sword mechanics mixed with the Metal Gear mythology make this game worth paying attention to as its February 19, 2013 release date nears.