Set to launch in early 2013, the coupling of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance with DmC: Devil May Cry is likely to give action videogame fans the time of their life. Just as Ninja Theory’s makeover of Capcom’s beloved franchise is set to give fans exactly what they wanted but never asked for, so to is PlatinumGames’ work on Metal Gear preparing to be as groundbreaking as it is overly convoluted and swimming in science-fiction schlock. After all, this is the Kojima Productions way, and fans wouldn’t accept anything less.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is an out-and-out action videogame. Just as God of War and the aforementioned Capcom franchise have modernised the scrolling beat-‘em-ups of yesteryear, so too have PlatinumGames made themselves a name with fast-paced hard-hitting balls-out action. And as such, it would be remiss of the developer to deliver anything else in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, a title that the studio reportedly saved from the reaper himself. It comes as little surprise then that Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is full of silky smooth combat mechanics and grandiose set-pieces positioned against some immaculately presented backdrops, with some of the finest minds in the business pouring their all into this new arm of a treasured franchise.
Representing this style in its truest form is the Ninja Run: a simple mechanic that makes getting from A-to-B the most stylish action that walking could ever possibly be. Clearly inspired by the Assassin’s Creed navigation system, the player simply moves the left analog stick in the direction they wish to run while holding down the R1 button (on PlayStation 3) and Raiden while leap over low walls and crates, duck under pipes and pounce through windows, even wall running up short vertical inclines when presented with them. However, despite this all being automatic it doesn’t take the feeling of freedom away from the player; it is still your ability to locate and aggress areas that Raiden can traverse that makes all of this possible, and as a misdirection will often see your sprint come to a sudden halt it’s obvious when your skills aren’t up to the challenge.
The combat system is also undeniably cool, with heavy hitting and swift attacks setting the player up for time-slowed manoeuvres which let them slice enemies apart. Players can also line-up attacks manually by holding L1, with a line appearing on the screen to show where the blade will strike. Quickly wiggling the right analog stick launches into Free Blade Mode, where the player can command direct strikes of the sword which are met with a near 1:1 execution. This is simply a fantastic device designed to evoke a feeling of masterful gameplay: it’s almost irrelevant where the player hits, but the fact that the enemies get slashed-up visually in accordance to where the player strikes offers a remarkable sense of empowerment.
One of the key aspects of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance’s combat system is your defensive manoeuvres. If Electronic Theatre used subtitles as taglines for previews, in the case of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance ‘Parry is Your Friend’ would be it. Pressing towards your opponent in conjunction with the Square button will either simply block an enemy attack or – if your timing is perfect – knock them back and open them up for a retaliation. All enemies have different timing requirements and larger (or more powerful) foes will place different demands on the player for every unique attack they possess.
There are a number of additional touches which many players will simply take in their stride, but upon deeper examination they’re significant design decisions that make Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance such a boldly satisfying experience. Players can just slay foes with normal combos and watch as they fall lifelessly to the floor, but manually executing the Free Blade mechanic will reap greater rewards. Further to this, attacking a centralised point (highlighted by a secondary reticule on-screen) will offer either a very short QTE followed by a dazzlingly smooth animated finisher or a tear manoeuvre on the Circle button which gifts the player a life bonus. These features coupled with the intelligent automatic targeting (a circle with ‘TGT’ in it appears on the enemy that the player will strike), automated stealth kills and the upgradeable skills list result in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance offering one of the most impressively comprehensive combat systems ever seen in a videogame.
Player can acquire Battle Points (BP) in-game as well as through bonuses at the end of combat sequences and levels. BP can be spent on upgrades in the customisation menu, with additions to the body, weapons, health, fuel and skills accessible at any point (though the player must restart from the last checkpoint after a purchase). It’s a familiar system but as it’s never forced upon the player it’s more than likely that upon reaching a tricky spot – of which there are many – the player will have accrued enough BP to purchase a new ability or health extension, thus offering them a new opportunity for successfully overcoming the fight they had previously been struggling with.
The current-generation of hardware has seen the action videogame love affair mature, thanks largely to the roots laid by the God of War series at the tail end of the previous generation. Through titles such as Bayonetta and Ninja Gaiden 2 the scrolling beat-‘em-up model has been pulled in many new directions and despite a significantly smaller audience than first-person shooters or racing titles, the genre has found just as comfortable a resting point on modern hardware. This means it’s now the job of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance to reinvent such progress and make it feel fresh for gamers who may not usually invest in such twitch-based gameplay. Based on that which Electronic Theatre has seen, you’d be a fool to bet against it doing just that.