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Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

A first slice of Raiden's spin-off series

It's hard to know what to make of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Having been cancelled by Kojima Productions because they didn't know what direction to take the game only to have it revived when Bayonetta dev Platinum Games put their hats into the ring it's pretty fair to approach the first playable gameplay with a bit of trepidation.

Raiden as well is a divisive character. He was entirely the worst thing about Metal Gear Solid 2 as a playable character but he made a triumphant and rather poignant return in Metal Gear Solid 4 saving Snake's skin a few times before and after having his arms ripped off.

Now for his efforts he has earned himself a game and possibly a series of his own as the Metal Gear franchise branches out into all-out action and we'd be remiss if we didn't at least have a look to see what Kojima Productions and Platinum Games have cooked up for us.

The action begins with Raiden on a beach heading to try and stop a coup d'etat in a developing African nation being supported by a rival PMC and things seem pretty comfortable so far. The HUD is very familiar using all the discrete lines and fonts you'd expect from a modern Metal Gear game. The mini-map and radar are there giving that MGS flavour that the game needs. There's even the familiar alert countdown and the iconic exclamtion mark above enemies' heads when the spot you before you want them to.

Controlling Raiden is fluid as well and Platinum have chosen to go with a traditional two-button combat control system. The Square button is for the Wide Attack and the Triangle button represents the slower Strong attack.

The environment is suprisingly destructible. A little too destructible it seems as the only staircase up to the street is destroyed by a few quick sweeps of Raiden's HF Blade forcing a reload of the last checkpoint in order to progress forward.

Up the stairs and we get our first taste of what MGR: Revengeance is all about- dicing enemies into small pieces with Raiden's blade. Combat plays very much as you'd expect a Platinum Games title to play smooth and clean with enough blood splatters to get the heart rate racing pleasantly.

The real fun comes when you engage Zandatsu mode. Hold down the L1 button and the action will go into slow motion allowing you to adjust the angle Raiden sweeps his blade before cleaving his target in two. Slice him in the right place and that will expose his power source which Raiden can use to charge up his energy bar which he requires to keep using Zandatsu mode.

As well as collecting power sources, Raiden is also encouraged by his medic known as Doktor to collect the left hands of the enemy which he can trade for upgrades and new gear.

Zandatsu mode is the game's showpiece feature. Billed as giving Raiden total freedom to slice and dice his enemies more precisely than ever before it is what sets MGR: Revengeance aside from other action titles. It does feel a bit more restrictive than it has been made out to be. Platinum Games have implemented it rather well though and cutting an enemy in two precisely can be done with relative ease in a fairly short space of time.

It is also very satisfying to see an enemy split in two in a shower of blood and the better you get at it the more precise you can be. Slicing different parts of the enemy produces different results. Cutting off limbs will see enemies crawling across the ground to try and hack at you with their machetes or renewing their attacks one-handed so it is well worth experimenting with the Zandatsu mode fully to see exactly what you can do with it.

Further in to the demo the very familiar bipedal walking tanks from MGS 4 appear. Fighting larger enemies such as these can provide more of a challenge especially seeing as Platinum has chosen not include block or dodge buttons into the control scheme. Raiden can sprint and he can also lock on to specific targets freeing up the right thumb from camera manipulation to concentrate on the all important mashing of the attack buttons. Platinum has chosen to use the old Quick-Time Events strategy for dealing with larger enemies. It does work very well in this case, mostly because Platinum have the good sense not to string these sequences out too long and they also result in a the bipeds going down with a satisfying explosion.

What has been revealed of the storyline so far is very much Metal Gear. Raiden reluctantly enters into a warzone chasing after rogue PMC, Desperado and their mysterious operative called Sam. Sam is responsible for assassinating the leader of a small African nation that Raiden was protecting. He also took Raiden's left eye and arm in the attack so his mission has a distinctly personal edge. As a result everything about the game feels as much like a Metal Gear game as it does a Platinum action title.

It seems that Kojima Productions and Platinum Games have collaborated well together to provide a game that combines some intelligently designed action sensibilities with carefully curated Metal Gear Solid canon to create an interesting game that is well worth playing especially for those eager to get a taste of more Metal Gear action.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is an interesting title and a bit of a risk on the part of Kojima Productions, moving away from Snake and the stealth elements that have been the core of the Metal Gear Solid series for so long. If the finished game shapes up the way the gameplay has so far then picking up Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance might prove to be a risk worth taking for MGS fans and action fans alike.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is out on PS3 and Xbox 360 on February the 22nd.

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