Preview: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

I never understood the appeal of pineapples on a pizza. It just sounded odd and, well, wrong. After all, who wants to mess up cheesy goodness with fruit? This was, of course, before I was held at gunpoint and emotionally blackmailed by a group of close friends to give it a taste. Needless to say, I haven’t looked back.

What in the name of the la-li-lu-le-lo does this have to do with Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, you might ask? Well, everything. You see, back in 2009, when the game was first announced, it was helmed by Kojima Productions, famous for the Metal Gear series that’s cinematic to the point of almost being a movie. Plus, they incorporated plots so twisted that they released an entire encyclopaedia on PSN after Metal Gear Solid 4 hit shelves.

Fast forward to 2011 and Kojima Productions reveals that Platinum Games, the fine folk behind Bayonetta, Vanquish and Anarchy Reigns, would be  developing it. A studio known for their balls-to-the-wall, high octane experiences that are essentially arcade-like in design, collaborating with another known for exactly the opposite? Pineapple meet pizza meet skeptical writer.

The demo has you in the role of Metal Gear Solid 2 protagonist Raiden, who sports cybernetic augmentations thanks to having an unfortunate run in with a private military corporation (or PMCs as they’re called in Metal Gear lore) who left him for dead. He traces their location to Abkhazia in the Caucasus, where they’re planning a military coup. It’s during the briefing of these events that you see the influence of Kojima Productions; they’re reminiscent of the pre-mission briefings in MGS4 with attention to detail that would make your head spin. And while they’re a little drawn out, they manage to keep your attention and do well to showcase the support team that’s backing you up as you slice and dice your way around war-torn streets.

When you’re on the ground, you’ll be subjected to cut-scenes explaining bits of the story, characters and whatever else appears to need exposition. It feels like overkill, especially since one of these pop up after you’re done decapitating just two soldiers (i.e. a few moments after you begin the mission). However, since the preview encapsulates early sections of the game, it would be interesting to see how often things are over-explained by the medium of cut-scenes.

Once the game lets you play it, things change drastically. You’re no longer frozen in front of the screen waiting for things to happen. You’re making things happen yourself, and with judicious use of the square and triangle buttons that dole out weak and strong attacks, you can unleash hell on your opponents, both cyborgs and mechs alike. Throw in Blade Mode that lets you slow down time and use the analogue stick to paint the direction in which your katana flows, and you have that slick, sweet arcade-like brilliance that Platinum is known for.

Before you know it, you’re pummelling an assortment of cyborg soldiers and mini Metal Gear Geckos in style. The controls are empowering and barely take a couple of moments to get used to. It ends up feeling reminiscent of 2009’s Vanquish, with combat convalescing into an intricate ballet of blades, bullets and gibs. All in all, a ton of fun.

And if you prefer thinning the numbers before going out blazing, you can stealthily pick off your enemies. A tap of a button enables Ninja Dash. This lets you find the path of least resistance around a bevy of troops, letting you put them down rather easily before you’re discovered and the alarms go off (much as they would in an MGS game).

After most of the city was in shambles, I was squared off against the game’s first (and the demos only) boss. An AI-powered mechanical wolf with a chainsaw aptly named Bladewolf. Putting the beast down involves well-timed use of parrying that disables it, allowing you to use stronger attacks. It was a fast and frenetic affair that was punctuated with philosophical discussions about freedom between Raiden and Bladewolf. Yes, the kind of thing you’d expect in a mainline Metal Gear entry, and a nice touch to boot.

While our initial impressions are impressive, marred only by the lengthy explanations that take away from the action, we’re hoping that there’s more hacking and slashing than sitting and watching. As it stands Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance carries traits from both developers. It brings together the art, graphical and cinematic finesse you’d expect from a game made by Kojima Productions along with the fluid, fast-paced fun that Platinum Games have made their own this generation. An unlikely combination that could possibly work. Much like pineapples on pizza.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is scheduled for release on 22nd February, 2013 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

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