You expect downloadable content to add to the main game. But for the first hour or two of Jetstream Sam, Platinum's campaign prequel for the superlative Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, that new content feels hard to find. Every environment and enemy features in the main game and the songs are familiar. A few new cut-scenes seems like one hell of a way to use a 2.5GB download. There is a big addition, of course: Sam himself.
Sam Rodrigues is Revengeance's most fabulous enemy, a cocky Brazilian with a fighting style halfway between jiu-jitsu and samurai - backed up by a smile that could slice a tank in half. The boss battle against him is classic, a desert duel for the ages. Jetstream Sam is a prequel explaining how and why he ended up working for the bad guys. It's one long chapter that takes Sam from sewers to the top of a skyscraper, with three boss battles and five VR missions interspersed, and as in the main campaign each difficulty setting changes up the enemy numbers, placements and types along the way. You can, if you're really trying, run through this in significantly less than an hour, but to talk about it in these terms would miss the point completely.
The focus of Jetstream Sam is in giving Revengeance players a new toy, a playable character who bears little relation to Raiden. Anyone who buys this will have finished the main game and so be in possession of a powered-up cyborg ninja with multiple weapons and a moveset that enables constant aggression; to play as Raiden is to always be on the attack, dashing from foe to foe in a flurry of deadly blows and perfect parries.
To begin with, Metal Gear's VR missions are little more than a lab-coated sort of field training. You're transported to some abstract, detail-less room and clinically led through the basics away from the noise and distraction of the game world. Each mission isolates a different aspect of the game (sneaking, sprinting, slicing and so on) and, through sparse instructions and with flickering sound effects, presents a challenge to lead you through apprenticeship towards mastery. By creating a safe place in which to fail and grading your performance, Metal Gear's VR missions act as a crucible in which to hone your technique and gain the necessary muscle memory for use in the 'real' game world, with its concrete and cardboard, its nooks and shadows.
But after the basics are learned, Metal Gear's designers have historically used the VR Missions as a space to let their creative imagination run more freely - either introducing humour, parody or exaggeration to play with the game mechanics in ways that the storyline disallows, or to present more stringent and specific tests of your abilities.
As such, this particular set of 30 punchy VR missions for Metal Gear Rising (the first of three planned downloadable add-ons for the game) reveals something of creator Platinum Game's true personality and spirit. It contrasts in interesting ways with the 300 VR missions originally created by Konami for Metal Gear Solid in 1999.
After recovering from the last boss of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, you may need a cold shower. Yet as the credits roll the elation acquires a funereal tinge, a sadness that action movies have just been superseded. Revengeance is the future of high-octane entertainment, a game that blasts out of the gate and simply doesn't stop until the final strike hits home - though there's plenty of slow-mo along the way.
Revengeance is a Metal Gear offshoot in the form of a fighting game, by Osaka's Platinum Games, that tries to muscle in on the turf of Devil May Cry, Ninja Gaiden and Platinum's own Bayonetta. The combat system is defined by two big decisions. The first is that blocking and parrying are handled by the same timed button press and directional input - rather than, as is more usual, being separate tools. The quality of your timing dictates our hero Raiden's defence; go too early and he'll block the attack with no advantage, hit it just as the attack lands and he'll parry into a devastating counterblow that leaves most enemies wide open.
The parry may sound similar to that in other games, but none has ever made staying aggressive so fundamentally important to combat's flow. It is a design choice with a message: in Revengeance, you find a way to keep Raiden on permanent offence, or you die.