I admit; I’ve never paid too much attention to Konami’s Metal Gear series. I am not a stealthy gamer; I’m far too impatient for that, and the hour-long cut scenes the series is renowned for is not my idea of playing a game, I’d just rather watch a movie.
Bearing all that in mind, my first impressions of Metal Gear Rising blew me away.
Let me clarify that for a second; it blew me away because, in the half hour I spent with the game, I never snuck or hid once. Not for a second. It was action and combat almost beginning to end. And the combat was very impressive indeed. This is down to Hideo Kojima passing development from Kojima Productions to Platinum Games; famed for titles such as Bayonetta and Vanquish, have clearly put their signature on the game, and have re branded the classic “Tactical Espionage Action” series to “Lightning Bolt Action”. Kojima, however, has still made sure the series stays true at least in part, by spending a lot of time developing the artistic style, story and characters.
The demo started by throwing me right into a VR Training area, where I was shown how to use what is to be Raiden’s main go-to weapon in the game; his Katana. Basic combat is fairly straight forward, seemingly taking a leaf from the hack ‘n slash school of combat. Hold down the left shoulder button, however, and Raiden will stand still and raise his Katana above his head, while the camera pans round to look over his shoulder. A line appears on the HUD, showing the arc his sword would take, and by manipulating the camera and his hold on the sword, you can direct exactly how he swings his sword yourself. You can even chain multiple slashes together, and enter bullet time, but you cannot move while doing it. Time also doesn’t slow down, and it can be a little clumsy to use, especially when enemies are falling to the floor, but soon enough I was turning VR boxes and wooden dummies into multiple piles of rubble; satisfyingly so.
Soon enough, I had completed the training and I was thrust into the middle of a complex and typically Kojima-esque plot, involving a humanity that has broken free of control of “The Patriots”, and as such has made bounding advances in technology, specifically cybernetics. AI controlled robots are common, as are cyborgs, like Raiden, who are considered normal and human. Indeed, all the human enemies I encountered in the game were cybernetically altered in some way. After a lengthy cutscene and explanation with only minimal musing on the meaning of life, Raiden is dropped into a war torn city and shown his objective, which was clearly intended to be secondary to the action, as by the time I had navigated the flight of steps I was dropped in front of, I was already pounced upon by the first enemies in the game, not even given the opportunity to sneak round them, or evade their attention.
As I mentioned, the combat is nothing new, and has a very hack ‘n slash feel to it, with heavy and light attacks, the odd dodge and counter where needed, and even a ranking system as well. The “Blade Mode”, when you get a chance to use it, is satisfyingly fun as well. It is extremely accurate and responsive, and if you land a hit it seems to guarantee to cut through almost anything in one stroke; guaranteeing a kill, at least on human enemies. I did use it sparingly however, as it does consume energy to use and Raiden stands still while in this mode, leaving him vulnerable.
The main way Blade Mode is meant to be used is to gain more health. If Raiden adequately slices and dices an enemy, he will actually be able to reach into their bodies and pull out their augmented body parts, which he can “drink” to heal himself. There is no doubt plenty of material in that one feature to warrant an internal monologue about morality; and I’m sure that humans and technology will be a major theme in the course of the story.
If I’m completely honest, there was some sneaking involved in the preview, although it was a very straightforward affair. The primary tool involved is Raiden’s visor, that can see through walls and structures, and highlight enemies. From there, you can decide how to engage them, or avoid them. There are no minimaps, and no cones representing an enemies’ field of view, and as far as I could tell, there was no way to peacefully neutralize them, either. The only prompt that appeared when I walked behind an enemy was the kill button, which, makes Raiden spectacularly drive his Katana straight through an enemy’s chest to kill him in one sweep. One thing I noticed, was that although I did this around 4 times, each time it was the same kill animation. I couldn’t say if this was just something confined to the preview, but I would like to have seen at least a couple more animations, for variety’s sake. I can see that one getting old quickly.