Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Hands On Preview
This ain't your daddy's Metal Gear!
I was really worried about Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. It was originally known as Metal Gear Solid: Rising, and was announced in 2009 as an Xbox 360 exclusive. A troubled and protracted development cycle almost ended in cancellation before the project was given over to Platinum Games. We may never know the full story about how an Xbox 360 exclusive designed by an in-house team hand-picked by Hideo Kojima became a multiplatform game developed by Platinum, but I can at least say that my worries are gone. Metal Gear Rising may not be what people have come to expect from the Metal Gear series, but so far I’d say it’s an impressive game in its own right.
Set four years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4, advancements in cybernetic technology have completely altered the theater of war. People like Grey Fox from the first MGS and Raiden are no longer unique specimens, but are in fact the norm within the Private Military Companies that fight proxy battles for countries that can pay their retainers.
Raiden has retired from active military duty and has joined up with a peace-keeping PMC called Maverick Security Consulting. After losing a battle to a cyborg swordsman that works with a rival PMC known as Desperado Enforcement, Raiden undertakes a mission to stop them from leading a military coup in the country of Abkhazia.
It’s very clear from the moment you hit start that this isn’t your daddy’s Metal Gear. Oh, there are certainly elements of the series—long cutscenes and codec conversations are still present—but Raiden makes it clear that not only is he not concerned about sneaking around, he’s out to kill. It’s an interesting transition for the character that brought the concept of a “no kill” possibility to the series in MGS 2. Long gone are the days when Raiden would turn his blade to simply knock out a guard; now he’s all about dicing his enemies into neat little chunks.
If you’ve followed this game at all you know that the big new game mechanic is the “Blade Mode.” At any time, you can hold the L1 to go into a special aiming mode for Raiden’s High Frequency blade. This slows down time to allow you to line up your slashes with the right analog stick, and if you’re really good you can seriously cut enemies and objects down to size before they can hit the ground. The level of detail in this cutting mechanic is impressive, even if the HF blade conveniently can’t affect solid structures or anything else that would break the levels.
This may sound unnecessary. After all, once you’ve sliced a guy from shoulder to hip what’s the point in cutting him again? Well, there are a couple of good reasons for it, but yeah, it’s pretty superfluous when you stop to think about it. Raiden’s new body has turned him into somewhat of a cybernetic vampire; in order to replenish his constantly depleting energy reserves he needs to absorb nano repair units from his enemies. These are generally in the center mass of your foes, so some precise cutting is needed to get to them. You can replenish yourself from most enemies, including the multiple Gekko walkers you encounter.
You’ll also want to try and deftly remove the left hands of humanoid enemies, as they contain vital information that Doktor, a member of your support staff, is interested in obtaining. He says he’ll provide you with upgrades for the hands you collect, but this mechanic wasn’t present in the demo I played. I did find it rather difficult to remove the appendage in question when I was in the heat of battle, but it’s something that I’m sure will come with practice.
It should be pretty clear from all this talk of cutting that Revengeance isn’t about stealth but is indeed an action game worthy of the Platinum pedigree. Raiden moves quickly, slashes, jumps, and juggles with the best of them. He can pick up ranged weapons on-site, but even a rocket launcher seems boring when compared to the precise controls and engaging multiple enemies at a time. You sometimes have opportunities to stealth kill, and the Alert and Caution phases are still present when you get spotted. But these seem more like simple concessions to stalwart Metal Gear Solid fans than a core part of the experience. I can see a scenario where Raiden will need to be sneaky at some point in the adventure, but lightning fast action is the order of the day here.
It’s always a good sign when I play a demo and I’m frustrated when it ends. That’s a good indication that the game has hooked me and I want more. I was concerned that this game would be a disaster. It very well still could be; it remains to be seen if the sword mechanics will get old, or if a Metal Gear story not told by Kojima will be any good. But I have faith in Platinum Games, and the small slice of Metal Gear Rising I experienced was enough to make me want more. In an already jam-packed February release schedule, Revengeance should stand out just fine.