The infamous bait and switch that Hideo Kojima pulled on the entire gaming industry, most commonly known as Metal Gear Solid 2, initially led players to despise Raiden for years on end. Jump forward to Metal Gear Solid 4, and Raiden is now a fan favourite. Goodbye to the whinging pretty boy, and hello to one of the most ruthless and bad-arse ninja cyborgs to ever set foot in a game.
If you’ve dabbled with MGS4, you know what I’m talking about. You wanted to be Raiden taking down enemies with a blade in his mouth while missing both arms, you wanted to be ripping through Metal Gears like they were rag dolls. Never played number 4? Give this a watch. Picked up your jaw off the floor? Good. Has Platinum Games succeeded in recreating these insane moments? From what I played in this all too brief demo, the answer is an astounding yes.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance puts players back in control of Raiden, post MGS4, so you know all good stuff such as cybernetic enhancements and an advanced katana are all here. The ‘tactical espionage action’ you’ve come to love from the franchise is taking the backseat in this spin-off, favouring a more Ninja Gaiden-esque action title. Now, for those of you who are hitting up messages boards complaining that Metal Gear isn’t stealth anymore, it’s time to let go, Snake isn’t here. And you know what, that’s good thing. If we’re getting the chance to play as Raiden again, I want to be jumping around the battlefield tearing enemies to bits, not sneaking around in cardboard boxes.
At its core, Rising doesn’t stray too far from the usual hack ‘n’ slash formula. At your disposal you have a basic fast attack and a slow heavy attack which can be used to string combos together. You’ll enter an area, slash down enemies, chuck in a dodge, counter an attack and then kill more enemies. Fairly run of the mill stuff. However, where the real beauty in Rising lies is in the appropriately named ‘Blade Mode’.
Once activated, Blade Mode allows you to line up cuts with your katana with an extreme amount of precision and control. After aiming the reticule, flicking the right stick makes Raiden strike, cutting through his subject like a knife through butter. And boy is it treat to use.
At first Blade Mode does feel somewhat awkward. With the default controls, both the left and right analogue stick control Raiden’s movement and the camera respectively. However once you’re in Blade Mode, the left stick dictates the camera while adjusting the right stick lines up the sword. I often found myself accidentally turning and cutting prematurely due a form of habit of using the right stick as the primary way of changing the camera. No doubt it’s tricky at first, but after my first couple encounters with some cyborgs and a few Gekkos, I was leaving them in a pile of million pieces in no time.
This doesn’t stop at your enemies, the environment can also be cut up as you see fit. Notice a couple guards patrolling above on a bridge? Cut off all the supports and let the bodies hit the floor. Same goes with nearly 90% of Rising’s surroundings. Cars, barrels, boxes, containers, watermelons, the list goes on. Blade mode isn’t all for show though. Strategic cuts through your enemies’ torsos reveal their ‘core’ which you’ll have to absorb these if you want to continue to use it.
There’s something undeniably special about having the ability to cut anything at will or watching a decapitated enemy sequentially drop to the ground. Sure that might sound a tad sadistic, but damn you just can’t help but grin ear to ear. Combine that with some simply outrageous cinematics, tight yet brutal combat, and a dash of the occasional quick time event, Platinum Games have without a doubt captured that same shock and awe originally felt during MGS4’s action set pieces.
Playing as Raiden does bring up one major qualm that I have with Rising; it’s questionable narrative direction. While seemingly unimportant to some, the narrative in the MGS franchise is undoubtedly a critical element and one of the main reasons I personally became such a fan.
Before Platinum Games took the development reins, the then titled Metal Gear Solid: Rising was set to be an interquel. Chronologically taking place between Metal Gear Solid 2 and 4, the game was to serve as a way of explaining Raidens transformation into the killer cyborg we know today. Fast forward two years into development and Rising now takes place after the events of number 4.
If you’ve finished MGS4 (without going too much into spoiler territory), you’ll know that Radien’s journey is without a doubt, finished. Our favourite silver-haired cyborg and a majority of the main cast find absolution and closure at MGS4’s mammoth finale, which attempts to tie up the insane amount of loose ends within the Metal Gear Solid canon.
Throwing Raiden back into the fray feels as though the events of MGS4 were just laid to waste. Why does Raiden need to be fighting again? Why are there cyborgs running around? Wasn’t the threat already stopped? I feel as though that Rising will unwind the conclusion of 4, something that simply doesn’t need to happen given the amount of effort it did to close the series off.
Yes I know it’s a spin-off and even Mr Kojima himself has assured us time and time again that the story is still very much handled by Kojima Productions. However in the back of my mind, I can’t help but be worried that Platinum Games might have stuck their finger in the pie. Vanquish and Bayonetta aren’t exactly prime examples of stellar storytelling.
I do get to play as a ninja who can run up a falling bridge, dodge enemy missiles from a helicopter, run up the said missiles towards the helicopter and then proceed to slice and dice it into many, tiny helicopter bits. So you know that has me wetting my pants in excitement a fair bit. But in some shape or form, I truly hope Rising’s story gives the Metal Gear franchise the respect it deserves.
Style is here in spades, fingers crossed for substance.