He slices, he dices, he’s Raiden in his very own Metal Gear spin-off adventure. Something which, quite honestly, most people didn’t predict back when they first laid eyes on Raiden’s pale ass back in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, where he became the target of much ire after stealing some of Solid Snake’s thunder. He reappeared later in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, sporting a brand new look and a more serious persona.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance takes place four years after the events of Patriots and stars Raiden in a full-on hack-and-slash adventure. With the release date drawing near, Konami and developer, Platinum Games, released a demo onto Xbox LIVE and the PlayStation Network. We sat down with it with the desire to murderfy on the Xbox 360. Well the results are in, and it doesn’t look good.
It’s clear that Revengeance is not made for fans of Metal Gear. Sneaking around in boxes and covertly taking out enemies is not Raiden’s forte. Carrying a high frequency blade, Raiden slices through enemies as he sets out for “revengeance” (can’t be Metal Gear without befuddling subtitles) against Samuel Rodriguez, a cyborg that had dealings with Snake’s white-haired protégé during the events of Guns of the Patriots.
Raiden is a member of Colorado-based Maverick Security, which sets out to destroy Desperado Enterprises, a group that nearly killed him. Now, Raiden has a brand new body which constantly needs recharging via ripping energy right out of his enemies, such as knife- and gun-wielding mercenaries, and absorbing it.
The beginning story sequence of the demo explains more, but it really can be skipped. Unless you want to witness even more evidence that the Japanese have no clue how black people are supposed to act.
For a title developed by Platinum Games, the team behind the complex Bayonetta, the gameplay is shockingly simple. Attacking consists of a weak attack, strong attack and juggling enemies in mid-air. No, really, that’s about it. Don’t expect gameplay on the level of the stylish Ninja Gaiden or the brutal God of War. The formula breaks down into three actions: confront enemy, attack enemy, move on. Unless Raiden learns more moves throughout the game, I can see Revengeance getting repetitive rather quickly.
Counter attacks are done by tapping the ‘weak attack’ button and holding the ‘LS’ toward an oncoming enemy. However, I couldn’t seem to get it down right. During fights I was able to deflect the blows of one enemy, only to have another hit me dead on, even though I made the attempt to counter. Throughout the demo my countering accuracy was about 50 percent, making it more practical to just strike and run away.
The game’s staple trick is “free cutting,” which allows you to, when holding down the left trigger, slow down time and hack away at enemies along a geometric plane using the right stick. The actual slicing of enemies is technically impressive, as cutting will open an enemy at the exact angle for some satisfying and grotesque kills. Free cutting takes energy which recharges over time.
The free cutting isn’t just for enemies, either. The mechanic can be used against objects such as cars, trees, buildings, boxes and practically anything that looks like it could be cut open. First time players will no doubt have more fun running around finding things to attack than actually fighting mercs. In fact, you may even get a little overzealous as I did when I sliced down a platform I was supposed to hop over to get to the next area. Hell, it was fun anyway.
Other than mercs, Raiden also faces Gekkos, the huge bipedal machines from Patriots. Against Raiden, the Gekkos aren’t nearly as intimidating as they were when they faced Snake. They move quickly, but the slow attacks lose any sense of danger due to the fact that their legs will glow before striking, giving you ample time to get a few hits in before running away. When you damage them enough, a button prompt will activate, allowing you to take out the Gekko in one flashy kill move. There is a finishing move prompt for the mercs as well, but as far as I know it can only be used in free cutting mode.
There is a moment in the demo that lets you try out the stealth combat. To this, however, I must ask, why? Up to this point, Revengeance has as much to do with stealth as much as Kratos has to do with cooking simulators.
The section starts with Raiden using his visor to pinpoint enemy locations. After that, you can take out enemies by “stealthily” ramming his sword through their backs and out their sternums. Stealth kills give the gift of a slow motion cinematic going on so long it almost teases a game freeze. After about three of these — and a good minute of watching Raiden enjoy his human shish kabob a bit too much — I gave up the sneaking and just ran straight in.
In my limited experience with the game, I have come to believe that there is no punishment — none, zero, in any way — for breaking stealth. There was one sequence where if you didn’t take out two guards using stealth, they’d kill a civilian. I didn’t care. After taking out one guard, the other gave the civilian some ventilation, and I took out the second merc. Nothing popped up on my screen telling me I failed some mission perimeter. There was really no reason to rescue the poor NPC or any sense of accomplishment for my heroics.
Yes, you can hide in a box, but when your whole body is a weapon and no one gives a flying fig about how you cut bad guys down, who really wants to go through the trouble?
I’m sure there are some who would see it as a challenge to go Solid Snake on these enemies, but I don’t see it that way. It’s just a desperate move to try and add a stealth element so the game can have some semblance of the games in which it spawned. The only thing I fear from this is a forced stealth mission after spending much of the game not practicing the useless mechanic.
Raiden can pick up several sub-weapons throughout the game. In the demo, I was able to use both grenades and a rocket launcher. Each weapon is equipped by pressing the directional pad and pauses the game. The rocket launcher can kill most enemies in one hit, and should be saved for the Gekkos. But, I suggest ignoring the grenades. Perhaps I wasn’t doing it right, but I don’t believe you can aim with the grenades. Pressing the button causes Raiden to fling them, a little too far, really, in the direction you’re facing. I’m sure there’s a trick to the throw, but I couldn’t get it down, losing most of my grenades in the process.
The final fight in the demo is against a cybernetic dog (think Crying Wolf with a doggie face) wielding a chainsaw on its tail. No, really, that’s what it is. Also, he can talk to you.
Throughout the demo, I ran into very few fights that I would call challenging. The boss, however, was a pain in the ass. When he slashes his tail, you are told to use the counter and, if you’ve paid attention, that doesn’t always work when you want it. The boss has an instant takedown move that’s difficult to dodge, even if you’re running away. What resulted in the end was about four retries before I finally finished it off. Seeing the end of the demo was probably one of the most fun moments I had with it.
As I mentioned, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is not a game for Metal Gear fans. It’s a simple hack’n’slash adventure with an emphasis on simple. The game will probably not impress fans of games like Ninja Gaiden, and it bears little resemblance to Platinum’s excellent Bayonetta.
With the game releasing on Feb. 19, I believe there is still plenty of time for Platinum Games to tweak and polish Revengeance before its release. But if the final product is anything like the demo, then there will be much disappointment to be had. The game is slow, the action is dull, and the free cutting mode is fun for a time. But let’s be honest. Free cutting is technically cool, but so are motion controls. And much like motion controls, free cutting will most likely impress some at first, but ultimately turn out to be exactly what has been speculated: a gimmick.
The game suffers from identity crisis. It wants to appeal to both Metal Gear fans and followers of action games, but unless Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is able to pull a magic trick from its hat after release, it will end up satisfying neither.