It isn't often where I am afforded the chance to go back on something I've said. Not that I can't admit when I'm wrong – then again, who really wants to. But my ego isn't so hyper-inflated that I can't come out and say when I've made a mistake.
Late last year, I wrote a piece in a bit of knee-jerk-ish reaction to Metal Gear Rising's re-branding and developer hand-off; i.e. I did not approve of what Konami was doing. And while I'm not the IP-possessive type who feels that developers owe me everything for their success and should bow to my every whim (why, hello Bioware my old friend), it doesn't mean I'll hold my tongue when something seems wrong. Now that I have spent some time with Revengeance - 15 minutes to be exact – I can honestly say that my initial reaction was off – way off. So off in fact that I wish I could go back in time and punch a slightly younger version of myself for not only doubting Platinum Games, but for not having faith in Hideo Kojima; he trusted this team for a reason and now, I can finally see why.
The TGS 2012 demo begins in a virtual reality training room – the game's way of masking a tutorial – and asks Raiden to cut up a few crates, watermelons, and cardboard cutouts of masked hooligans. As an intro to Raiden's basic form and function, it works. But honestly, it's nothing more than a great big tease of what's to come: the complete evisceration of your enemies.
A cutscene followed shortly after I tore said boxes and fruit to shreds. But seeing as this is a timed demo, and that my Japanese isn't the greatest, I decided to skip the sequence and go right into the action. So let's get started with the controls.
There is a Jump button…although I'm not entirely sure why. The animation comes off as a bit stiff, like Raiden should be able to double-jump but can't; he just goes up and comes right back down. Fortunately, there is what I referred to as the 'Parkour' button. By pressing R1, Raiden gets a nice sprint going. As he comes into contact with objects in the environment, such as crates and ledges, he stylishly jumps and flips as if the obstruction were never there. It all felt very smooth…again, except for the whole jumping thing. Raiden about the map was a comfortable experience. But the real joy of controlling the warrior reborn comes when he goes face to face with a cyborg thug.
'Square' is where Raiden's light attacks, the jabs of the sword slashes, call home. 'Triangle' on the other hand, is reserved for the heavier attacks. Combat is very seamless and lends to the overall finesse of Raiden's style. The 'cut anything' mechanic delivers just as promised. A simple tap of R2 zooms the camera in so that you can better see the fine details of hacking enemies and the environment to pieces. Metal Gear Rising even keeps track of the carnage by displaying the total Parts/Combo on-screen – oh, you shouldn't have, Platinum. And while it's fun to roll up to say, a car, and go all slap-chop on it, shredding an enemy to bits is just so much more rewarding. You can also dial back the crazy and deliver a single precision cut to an enemy, bringing up a prompt to remove their glowing insides thus feeding your power-hungry suit; apparently it's made of Soul Reaver…or something.
Initially the demo treads the familiar ground of an MGS4-type Raiden; a guy in a high-powered suit going against a cyborg army, desperately trying to get at their creamy center. A dramatic gameplay shift occurs however when Gekkos, those mooing Rex/Ray hybribs, began popping up and patrolling designated areas. Overwhelming bags of bolts – though nowhere near as daunting as Ray itself – getting around these mechanical beasts is a patient endeavor, one that highlights a not-so-underwritten element of Revengeance: stealth.
Yes, stealth. This game calls for it, and surprisingly lots of it. At first, Metal Gear Rising's stealth dealings come off as a tad lackluster. Reminiscent of Rocksteady's Arkham games, Raiden can position himself above an opponent and drop down to take them out. I don't get how plunging a sword deep into a dude's spine resulting in a super loud scream that is dulled only by said dude choking on his own blood is supposed to be stealthy, but to each his own. I guess Raiden isn't big on the whole quiet neck-snapping thing.
When you are faced however with a legion of Gekko, you really have to pace yourself and mind your sword slashes. Trust me, you do not want to be on the receiving end of a pack of these things, especially when equally bothersome cyborg guards armed with RPGs are on standby, and are as accurate as Sniper Wolf. Much to my surprise, sneaking passed these elephantine oafs was a lot harder than I expected. I just love how Platinum Games had to balls to place a rocket launcher directly in my path as if to say, 'Go ahead. Pick it up. You know you want to.' And since I'm easily distracted by shiny new things, I snatched it up right-quick and launched a rocket directly into the crowd. My plan totally would have worked had it not been for a complete lack of ammo; seriously, guys, one rocket – ONE! So after a two-minute beatdown, a Konami rep kindly came over and told me I was done…with the game show…forever.
Revengeance certainly feels like it is living up to its name, rising from Metal Gear Solid as a worthy franchise of its own. Platinum Games has done a wonderful thing by giving Raiden a battlefield he is capable of fighting on. Metal Gear Rising does have its MGS nods: the signature '!' sound and BP points to buy new toys and upgrade the old, make Raiden's solo mission feel like an extension of Snake's story rather than a separation. Whatever Raiden was able to take away from his time alongside Solid Snake in Sons of Liberty indeed resonates within the slash-happy cyborg warrior. But the time has come for Raiden to shed his snake's skin and bear his fangs.