Available on Xbox 360 and PS3 (version reviewed)
Do you need a reason to feel excited about Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance? Well, here come two. Firstly, this is the first all-new Metal Gear game to hit a home console in nearly five years, and while this one has a different star, a different genre and even a different developer, it’s still been made under the auspices of Kojima productions, and it still carries the hallmarks of the Metal Gear saga. Secondly, there’s the matter of that external developer. Revengeance is the work of Platinum Games, the team behind the underappreciated sci-fi shooter Vanquish and the masterful Bayonetta; still the finest hack and slash action game to appear in this generation.
Metal Gear meets Bayonetta
That’s important, because Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is nothing if not a hack-and-slash action game. Stealth and espionage are out of the window along with regular Metal Gear hero, Solid Snake, with the action now focused on impressively violent swordplay and the hero role usurped by Raiden, the surprise star of Metal Gear Solid 2. The Metal Gear series has already seen Raiden transformed from ashen-haired newbie operative into a deadly cyborg ninja killer. Revengeance takes that process one step further, taking Raiden down his darkest road yet.
The game opens with an attack on the head of a progressive African state, and Raiden’s brutal and disfiguring defeat in combat. It then tracks Raiden through operations in Eastern Europe, Mexico and Colorado, as he investigates the shadowy dealings of a military corporation and its cyborg agents. The story isn’t quite as complex or twist-heavy as your average Metal Gear Solid, but all the signature elements are there; the eccentric bosses, the carefully planned set-pieces, the surreal sense of humour. Want endless radio chatter between the hero and his back-up team? Lengthy ruminations about peace, the lives of henchmen or the nature of a killer? Cardboard boxes? You’ll get it all here.
Block and Counter
Meanwhile Platinum brings its own unique talents to the table. Platinum’s genius has always been in stripping the mechanics of a genre down to their raw components, then reconstructing them in weird and wonderful new ways. For an example, just take how Bayonetta took the combo-based combat from Devil May Cry and reworked it into an exquisite blend of creativity and timing, or how Vanquish grabbed the slow-moving cover-shooter and completely transformed it with high-speed motion. Revengeance takes the same approach to how you hack, slash and block, with a smart system of inter-related mechanics that merge into some very satisfying combat.
Button-mashing will get you approximately nowhere. First you need to master the block, engaged by pushing the pad towards your enemy at the same time as tapping the quick attack button. Blocks keep your enemies on their toes, and allow you to lash out with flurries of quick and heavy attacks. Keep the R1 button pressed and Raiden goes into ninja run mode, dodging incoming ranged attacks and some of the heavier attacks from giant combat mechs, while dishing out his own rapid-fire slash attacks.
The joy of Zandatsu
The best bit, however, is what the game calls Zandatsu. Build up your sword’s energy guage and you can trigger a slow-motion Blade mode, where you can position each horizontal or vertical slash with incredible accuracy. At this point weak points and gaps in armour will be highlighted, and by slicing through a certain point you can pull off a cut-and-take manoeuvre, slashing right through your enemy’s body and tugging out a pulsing blue organ, which Raiden then crushes to recharge his health and energy.
Common or garden Zandatsu happens on the ground, but hits its most spectacular when Raiden weakens the toughest enemies and gets the chance to execute a special move. If you wanted a game where you got the chance to literally slice your foes into bits, or where you can swoop down on a giant mech before ripping out its robot guts, then here it is.