Ah Raiden, many will remember this ‘unwanted’ character from his Metal Gear Solid 2 days. Now he is the lead in his own game – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, a spin-off from the ‘Solid’ series with numerous characters, references, SFX and nods to the series making an appearance to remind you that this is a Metal Gear game because Rising is a very different experience.
Developed by the excellent Platinum Games, renowned for titles such as Bayonetta, Vanquish and more recently, Anarchy Reigns, Rising takes on the studio’s signature style of over-the-top combat. Playing as Raiden, you are part human, part robot and wield a High Frequency sword. You may wonder why Raiden is now a cyborg, although it’s never explained in Rising, apparently the story of how Raiden became a cyborg is explained in the PS3 title Metal Gear Solid 4.
Combat is primarily made up of light and heavy attacks with the X and Y buttons or you can pull the LT to enter Blade Mode, a more precise attack giving you full control over Raiden’s sword. Sub-weapons may also be used but these are rather clumsy and break the fast pace of the action. You can also unlock additional melee weapons which are claimed from fallen bosses, similar to DmC but whereas Dante can hot swap weapons on the fly to mix up weapon styles and combat, Raiden is less capable, with Rising’s combat being more fluid when you stick with just one weapon.
The main emphasis to the combat is Blade Mode. The light and heavy strikes are ideal for taking down grunts but you will need the full focus of Blade Mode to tackle stronger opponents and boss battles. When Blade Mode is active you are rooted to the spot and the camera swings in to Raiden’s shoulder, whilst in this mode you can slash through objects both in the game environment and through enemies themselves – you can literally cut them to pieces which has some impressive effects especially when mixed with the slow motion slide attack. Slow motion is active whilst in Blade Mode enabling you to time your attacks carefully and focus on exposing an enemy’s sweet spot. Enemies all carry nano paste, it’s the cyborg’s life force and by exposing it (usually the spine) you can crush it and regain your health.
Ripper mode is introduced about half way through the game, activating it drains your energy faster than Blade Mode but it is a lot more powerful, enabling you to instantly cut through enemies without the need to wear them down first. Blade mode is a lot of fun, although at first it does take a little getting used too with the whole concept of being rooted to the spot feeling quite a hindrance. Blade mode uses energy which can be replenished automatically simply by attacking enemies or by ripping out their spines to retrieve their nano paste, this does mean you can’t use the ability all the time. The combat may sound a lot to juggle but the different styles complement each other extremely well. Take each element of the combat one at a time and you will soon be competent with Raiden’s new cyborg abilities and a master over his sword skills leaving you to kick back and enjoy some extremely satisfying combat and gorgeous visuals – sparks, lighting effects and motion blurs make this one fine looking game!
The game opts to remove any form of dodge move, instead making you parry attacks by flicking the LS towards an attacking enemy and pressing X. It took me a few attempts to get the timing right but by watching out for a visual cue, parrying attacks are easy to pull off. There are plenty of visual cues in the combat – well you are part cyborg! Attack the stronger enemies enough and certain areas will glow blue meaning that part is ripe for a focus attack.
As you might have worked out by now MGR:R isn’t like previous Metal Gears where stealth was the main focus with a side order of guns blazing. Rising reverses this with stealth being the side order and swords slashing the main course. It’s not that there isn’t any stealth; it’s just not as prominent. You can use AR mode to view where all enemies are and which direction they are facing enabling you to plot a path avoiding them until you can strike from behind. But ultimately, stealth is so diluted that it’s an insult to Metal Gear fans. Avoiding enemies simply deprives you of valuable points which would have been invested into upgrades and it will also leave your overall rating for each mission significantly lower.
No Metal Gear game would be complete without boss battles! Made up from a mixture of characters, boss battles include fights against iconic Unmanned Gears as well as several boss cyborgs. Ranging in size from the very small to the very large, boss battles will challenge your combat skills, sure you can muddle through them but can you master them enough to gain an A or even an S ranking? Made up from a perfect balance of rinse and repeat action sequences, the boss battles never feel like a grind and perfectly blend in QTE sequences that leave you feeling empowered by the brutal damage you have just inflicted. Cutscenes flow seamlessly making the experience worthy of the name boss battle.
The story is told through both cutscenes and through the iconic Metal Gear codec, should you be bothered to stand around and call up the different characters. The overarching story of bringing back the world in to a state of war to fund a war economy went slightly over my head, although I’m sure many Metal Gear fans will enjoy the continuation of themes from MGS4, albeit loose ones. For me the only aces up MGR:R’s sleeve are the combat and visuals, the story is too half arsed with a throw away theme and characters I didn’t care for. The depth into the bigger Metal Gear universe is limited and coming into Rising as an Xbox gamer you will certainly be left with many questions regarding Raiden’s past. That said the combat more than makes up for this and although the story may be completed in around 5-6 hours, there is plenty to go back for: collectibles, VR Missions and higher difficulties which will certainly prove too much of a challenge for some.
If sword combat is your thing then the fast pace action of Rising will certainly give you something new and enjoyable to get stuck into – it’s a bloody good combat game and only aerial enemies were annoying to reach and slice apart. MGR:R is a must for fans of Platinum Games – pitched somewhere between the Anarchy Reigns and Bayonetta, which is certainly no bad thing!