Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a game that almost died an early death. Kojima Productions reached a dead where they didn't think they could do the game justice and had apparently cancelled it. Then it was given over to Platinum Games, of Vanquish and Bayonetta fame, to finish. It was always based around cutting things from the start, but the move to Platinum completed the move from stealth action to full on hack and slash. This annoyed some Metal Gear fans, who were disappointed with the move away from the series' stealth roots. However, as a spin-off, this game should be taken on its own merits.
The protagonist of Metal Gear Rising is the oft maligned Raiden, principle protagonist back in MGS 2. Admittedly he was never as cool as Snake, but I personally liked him, despite the fact it seems most other hated him, or at least disliked the fact that he displaced Snake. Raiden in this game is fairly similar to the character we know from previous entries. Filled with self doubt and haunted by his past, he spends most of the game questioning himself and what he does.
Now, I don't want to spoil anything, but I will say that some of the events in this game cause Raiden to reflect on his past since they hit pretty close to home. If you didn't like Raiden beforehand, this game is unlikely to change your opinion on his personality. If you did, then the game fleshes him out as a character.
Raiden is aided by a support team, none of whom are especially well filled out as characters. They exist mainly to tell you where to go and why, and that's about it. The antagonists are very much in keeping with the Metal Gear tradition. Their motivations are cartoonishly evil, whilst also being a not so subtle dig at capitalism, which isn't a new theme for the series. The enemies mostly use their speeches to Raiden, goading him about his past. It's all melodrama and angst, but it fits the series and the genre.
Of course, more so than the previous Metal Gear games, the focus is on gameplay, with cut scenes kept short and to a minimum for the most part. And the gameplay is where Rising shines. It's easily identifiable as a hack and slash, but it also does enough differently to be fresh.
If you played Metal Gear Solid 4, you probably remember Raiden occasionally showing up in a cut scene, doing some fancy tricks and chopping up massive robots and such. If you're anything like me, you wished those sequences weren't cut scenes. If that's the case, this is the game you've been waiting for.
The sword fighting is intuitive and powered using two buttons for the most part. Simply press X to use your main weapon, and Y to use the special weapon, string them together for combos. Not exactly ground breaking, but why fix what isn't broken? The moves you perform are very stylish, and incredibly well animated. Then again, having played Bayonetta this doesn't particularly surprise me.
The combat is for the most part fluid and exciting, although it can occasionally become a little bogged down with too much parrying. The parry system works by pressing X and pushing the left analogue stick towards the attacker. It's an intuitive system, although it did take me a while to master it fully. It turns out you have to press the analogue stick every time you wish to parry, you can't just hold it in the direction. I don't seem to remember the game making that clear.
In fact, that is one of the minor niggles I have with the game. It's tutorial is really a little lacking. It essentially tells you X to attack, hold LT to go into Blade Mode, and now go and cut some people up. That's it. There's the occasional little pop up telling you about one mechanic or another, but it's not particularly clear. Maybe some people would see this as the game not holding your hand, but this is not a Dark Souls type experience where trial and error is the key. The game should let you know it's ins and outs a little quicker.
Perhaps the most notable feature is the Blade Mode. You may remember the first tech demo that was showed off at E3 years ago, in which someone finely chopped some water melons. Well the game may have changed a lot in the following years, but that has remained. Raiden can go into blade mode, which slows down time and allows you to finely select where to slice, letting you select exactly which limbs to remove from your opponents. If the enemy is damaged enough, you can also perform a Zandatsu, which involves slicing your opponent in a certain spot, and then ripping out their fuel cells, which are usually stored in your cyborg foes' spines. Doing this refills Raiden's health and energy, as well as looking cool. The animation does start to grate after a while, though, since chances are you'll see it a lot.
The environments aren't anything we've never seen before but they do their job, and they are by no means bad. It's fairly clean and the sort of near future setting that's been used quite often. Clean metal corridors and lots of glass. Occasionally in some corridors the camera can be a little constricted, occasionally leading to enemies landing cheap hits from behind. This can be a frustrating experience, especially if you have just parried a series of attacks and are readying for a counter. Most of the time, however, this can be averted by keeping good track of how many enemies are in the area and where they are.
Rising's textures are sharp and crisp and there's a good amount of detail in the game. Special attention has been paid to the armour sets that Raiden and the bosses wear, and some of Raiden's amour sets look excellent. The Gray Fox suit in particular looked great, although that could just be due to nostalgia. Animation is smooth and does a great job of keeping up with the action. Rendering the insides of enemies during blade mode must be fairly strenuous work, yet I never noticed any slowdown in the frame rates during my play through.
The quality of the music in Rising is very much a matter of opinion. Most of it is very firmly in the J-rock genre, and so your enjoyment of it will likely hinge on your opinion of said genre in general. In terms of sound effects, though, the game is pretty good. There's a lot of metal on metal in the game, so it's a good thing that the sound designers did a good job on making swords clashing sound exciting and real. The voices are a mixed bag. Problems with Raiden in 2 have carried over to this one, so if you don't like his voice there, you won't now.
In the end of the day, you probably know whether Rising is a game you will enjoy or not. It's a great game, and certainly well made, but if you have never enjoyed hack and slash games before, this probably won't be the one to sway your opinion. If you play every hack and slash going, then you will more than likely enjoy this one. It's a great example of the genre. It has a similar camp story, it's gameplay is smooth and fast, and the combos are fun. With the VR missions and collectibles in the campaign, there's plenty to keep you busy in Rising, so if it's your type of game it's definitely worth a buy.