It’s not surprising that developer Platinum Games, who implemented smoking as a way to distract Russian robots in Vanquish, reinterpreted Metal Gear’s stealth mechanics as splitting heads with a samurai sword. After a one hour hands on with the final build of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, I’m expecting Platinum Games and Hideo Kojima to combine their ridiculous ideas into something terrific this February.
Our demo started off with tuxedo-clad cyborg ninja Raiden sitting in a limo with two other cyborg guards and some prime minister fellow. Shortly after being given the impression that this luminary would help end the war plaguing the region, some ponytailed ninja named Jack and his bald compatriot cut up the entire convoy. The cinematic flair of Platinum Games come to bear, with the perspective of one cyborg body guard being shown as his head was slowly decapitated by one of the attackers with excruciating gravitas.
It was my turn next.
Raiden threw off his tuxedo, revealing his cybernetic body, and I was given control with a handful of faceless sword-wielding enemies in front of me. It took a while to get used to the combat. I was just wailing away with the two attack buttons at first. Then I realized that the melee combos combine a mix of the attack-and-pause style of Devil May Cry with the big intuitive button combos of God of War. It took a while to realize that there wasn’t a block button, too. Rather, projectiles are blocked automatically while running and melee attacks have to be countered by combining an attack button with a directional input; I can definitely appreciate that last bit as a veteran of difficult action games, as it means I never have to move my fingers while alternating between offense and defense.
While you’re hacking up enemies, countering attacks, and even doing stealth kill backstabs on occasion, a left trigger press will send you into slow motion. From there, you’ll be able to use the right stick or the face buttons to manually slice up enemies any way you choose. From slicing craniums in half to send brains spilling out, to flipping upside down and ripping enemy spinal cords out to replenish your health, it feels great. Sure, you might just hack enemies to bits to increase the counter showing how many pieces your foe is in, but cutting off specific parts can net upgrades and bonus points.
I was thrust into a chase scene with Jack and his compatriot after dealing with their flunkies. Holding the run button, all I had to do was move forward to send Raiden flipping over pipes, sliding through cracks in walls, and tip-toe hopping across pylons. It bugged out if I approached a corner or fence at an awkward angle, with Raiden gracefully flipping and rolling into a wall. Whoops.
As much as I appreciated the laser-quick counterattack-heavy combat, I was really put off by the camera. If you aren’t locking on to enemies by hitting the right trigger, the camera lazily tries to focus on what it seems to think you ought to be looking at. Even if you’re locked on, the camera stays at a close range behind Raiden; in a game that largely focuses on group combat, that can be a bit annoying. Sure, you’ll still be able to counter the enemy with a quick reaction when they get close to attack, but I’d much rather be able to see all of the enemies I’m fighting.
The boss battles cleverly integrated the mix of mechanics that Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance introduces and demands of its players: Missiles could be manually cut apart in slow motion to prevent detonation, button prompts elicited ridiculous kill animations, and counterattacks were relied upon heavily. One memorable segment had me doing ninja parkour across the exploding bits of a dying boss before running down a building, dodging missiles, to gut it from head to tail upon landing – ridiculous, but absolutely necessary.
The demo is currently available for download on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 if you’d like to get an early taste of the game. Be sure to check back on Vagary.TV in February for the full review when the game launches on the 19th.