Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Hands-on (PS3)

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I’ve seen and heard a lot about Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance but I always knew that I’d have to sample the game for myself before I could ascertain how it compared to the main Metal Gear Solid series and Platinum Games’ previous titles such as Bayonetta and Vanquish.

Thankfully I got a chance to do just that this past weekend by playing through the demo that was included with the Zone of the Enders HD Collection. This inclusion took me back in time twelve years when the hotly anticipated demo for Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was bundled with the original Zone of the Enders on PlayStation 2.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Screenshot 5

I played the MGR: Revengeance demo on PlayStation 3 and tried to keep in mind that I was playing code that was over two months’ old. Despite the age of the code, the two levels that are included in the sample felt surprisingly complete and I didn’t notice any obvious bugs or technical issues.

The demo kicks off at what I assume to be the beginning of the game when you’re greeted with a wall of text explaining that MGR: Revengeance takes place four years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4 and that Raiden lost an arm and an eye during a battle with one of the operatives from the PMC (Privatized Military Company) Desperado Enterprises. Raiden’s body is thus heavily augmented and his cyborg status allows him to perform a crucial role for a PMC called Maverick Enterprises.

Your first task is getting to grips with the game’s controls during a tutorial stage. You’ll learn how to go into precision mode by pressing L1 so you can target specific areas of an enemy’s body with your blade. Later in the tutorial level there are cardboard cut-outs of soldiers holding hostages, so trying to slice the former without injuring the latter will test how adept you are at using the right analogue stick to control the angle of your blade when in precision mode while adjusting the direction Raiden is facing with the left stick.

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Once you’re done with the tutorial mode you’re strapped to a rocket (this is Platinum Games after all) and ‘fired’ at a coastal city where Raiden’s first objective lies. After landing on the shore it immediately becomes apparent that the game plays and feels very different from a traditional Metal Gear title due to Raiden’s swift, fluid actions and ability to jump to higher surfaces. Many of the objects in the landing area can be sliced and diced, including certain trees, metal structures, barrels and cars. One of the more interesting moments occurred when I cut through a barrel vertically and had to run into it for the two parts of the barrel to separate.

The level layout in MGR: Revengeance appears to be fairly structured based on this opening area. There are invisible walls preventing you from going off the beaten path, and these walls press in even tighter during combat. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it allows the background artists to pack plenty of environmental detail into each level, such as foliage-covered dunes in the distance. The game’s textures may not be as crisp as they are in MGS4 but this allows MGR: Revengeance to run at a silky smooth 60 frames per second that reduces controller latency and makes Raiden’s frenzied sword swipes during combat all the more exhilarating.

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Speaking of combat, the rest of the demo essentially revolves around making your way through the city streets as you encounter PMC troops that don’t take too kindly to your presence in their territory. These consist of cyborg soldiers and the bipedal Gekko units first seen in MGS4. You can dispatch them with a few swipes of your katana, and when their health is low enough you’re able to slice them up using precision mode. Combat is very fast-paced as was the case in previous titles by Platinum Games, and interestingly Raiden can pick up sub-weapons such as grenades and rocket launchers that can be used in conjunction with his sword by holding down L2. There are also lots of combo attacks and special moves that I’m still trying to wrap my head around, such as sprinting towards an enemy and sliding between their legs – providing you with the opportunity to go into precision mode and attack them from a novel vantage point.

The demo ends with a boss battle between Raiden and a wolf-like robot called LQ-84i that has a massive chainsaw attached to its tail. This encounter requires you to parry by pressing forward and square at the correct moment in order to open up a brief window to launch a counterattack. LQ-84i calls in some cyborg reinforcements a couple of times during the battle which allows you to recover your health by grabbing their electrolyte-rich spines or picking up Repair Units which they drop when they die.

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It’s worth mentioning that you can call your Maverick Enterprises contacts for tips during tough battles or at any time during gameplay to learn more about the events and people around which the game revolves. I was pleasantly surprised by just how many optional Codec conversations there are during the demo as this kind of obsessive attention to narrative detail wasn’t something I was expecting from an action title developed by Platinum Games.

My impressions of the Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance demo were ultimately very positive and I can’t wait to invest a substantial amount of time exploring everything the full game has to offer. This could very well be Platinum Games’ best offering yet, especially given the rich source material that lies behind the company’s latest title. The gameplay in MGR: Revengeance feels fresh and exhilarating, and the story seems impressively well-developed based on what I saw in the demo. While the game’s characters and script seem a little flat compared to the best Metal Gear Solid titles, the action is undeniably brilliant and is perfectly pitched at both casual and expert players.