They say the pen is mightier than the sword. In that case someone ought to write a really nasty letter to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance star, Raiden. Something like "Dear Raiden, you ruined Metal Gear Solid 2. I was glad to see your likeness shoved into a locker in MGS3, and I wish you died when you should have in MGS4. P.S. I finished MGS2 and your dick is so small I couldn't even see it. Do you even have one?" If that doesn't hurt him, I don't know what will, because that sword thing? He's got that covered. But who am I kidding? I can't stay mad at Raiden. Not when he returned to the later part of the Metal Gear series a cyborg ninja with semi-robot voice and blades lining each of his limbs.
His first starring role since his metamorphosis begins shortly after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4 where he's attacked by a rival Private Military Corporation in an unnamed African country. After being critically wounded, he's rebuilt with an even more powerful body, which you'd think he'd be happy about, but he just can't bring himself to not kill everyone involved to get his titular "revengeance." It's just the principle of the thing, you know?
The E3 demo begins with Raiden acclimatising himself to slicing fruit, as modern ninjas are wont to do. Here we're introduced to the concept of "blade mode" where time stands still as you're able to carefully position your next strike. A circle appears and you select the angle you'd like to begin your cut. Release the analogue stick and you'll fling your sword across its diameter like a rubber band.
Thrilling as lopping off the edges of watermelons is, it's no match for the laser-like precision in which you can amputate foes. Slices build up your combo meter for a higher score, kicking off a satisfying loop of freeze, slash, freeze, slash - and the whole thing is wonderfully empowering thanks to a thunderous sound effect emphasizing each strike. When you finally release blade mode, your opponent's disparate pieces will slide off one another, toppling to the ground in a pile of gibs so clean cut you could serve them as gourmet Soylent Green.
Sometimes a weak spot will appear on a foe, and if you can slice across this swift enough a prompt will appear to snatch a glowing blue fuel cell from their chest cavity. This replenishes the meter used to determine how long you can be in blade mode.
Slicing will be used for more than just combat, though. "There are certain puzzle-ish types of elements in the game where you can cut things in order to unlock different features or paths," explains producer Atsushi Inaba. Regrettably, the E3 demo didn't portray this, as it didn't contain a single puzzle or non-combat implementation.
Another use for slicing is to cut down scenery to topple multiples foes at once. Sadly, this wasn't apparent in the demo, either. When I chopped down the base of the world's smallest Ferris wheel it collapsed, exploded, then vanished into thin air like so much rubble in Earth Defense Force.
For a game with otherwise strong production values, this goofy arcade-like presentation sticks out, but there's a charm to its adherence to stupid videogame logic - after all, an uprooted Ferris wheel would be a pain to fight around. Much like Platinum Game's previous titles Bayonetta and Vanquish, the emphasis here is on cathartic free flowing manouvres and hyper reflexes.
Even outside of the slicing mechanic Raiden is still a force to be reckoned with. He's got light and heavy attacks as well as a kick with a blade extending from his leg. While not glimpsed in the demo, Raiden will have a host of secondary weapons and unlockable combos that should keep things fresh.
Raiden may fight like a ninja, but he's not bound by any ridiculous code and isn't above using more conventional ranged weaponry like, say, a rocket launcher. These are found occasionally and the game effortlessly transitions from a hack-and-slash affair to a conventional behind-the-shoulder third-person shooter control scheme, though the emphasis is still squarely on melee combat.
Elsewhere, traversal is exciting thanks to Raiden's "ninja run," which emulates Assassin's Creed parkour system. Merely holding the right trigger allows Raiden to emit sparks and automatically leap over anything in his way.
Being a Metal Gear game, it should come as no surprise that Revengeance features some form of stealth, though it will be much more aggressive than in previous MGS games. "It's not traditional stealth that has been Metal Gear up to this point, but there is a certain type of stealth that you can use," says Inaba. "With the ninja run you can aggressively close in on enemies and take them out before they notice you."
Platinum Games' mixture of melee combat, light stealth and shooting elements should provide plenty of options, which are expanded further based on multiple paths in each level. "There are many ways to play the game. There's more than one way to clear each stage, more than one way to take out the enemies, so there's a lot of replay value as well," explains Inaba. The demo placed players in an aggressively linear path, but demos and tutorials tend to do that sort of thing, so I wouldn't take that as any cause for concern.
What is worrisome, however, is Raiden's lack of an evasive manoeuvre. He can jump and run, but can't roll or dodge. This was especially awkward when fighting a helicopter armed with heat-seeking missiles. There is a way to parry enemy attacks - which is fitting for the offensive battle style -- but a soldier as nimble as Raiden not being able to quickly dash away feels limiting, at least initially. At least I eventually got my revenge(ance), carving a union jack into the offending craft.
We'll have to wait to see if Platinum Game's Metal Gear spin-off can live up to Platinum's previous action classics, but getting people excited to play as Raiden is quite a feat after his initially poor reception. Now the question remains, will fans clamour over the chance to play as Otacon if he gets cool robo-ninja abilities? If it's anything like this, I see no reason why not.