Raiden, in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, carries a sword as his only tool, and as swords go, it's a nice one. It crackles with a kind of blue electricity, and it can cut through almost every available object in the world, from barrels and crates to palm trees and iron fences.
And with such a tool in his grasp, it's not hard to see why Raiden would fall prey to the law of the instrument. Cutting is his currency, and in this Metal Gear spin-off title, Platinum Games and Kojima Productions have sent Raiden on a spending spree. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, of course, started off as Metal Gear Solid Rising, but Hideo Kojima's Kojima Productions just couldn't get it into a state where he felt it was a quality game. Fortunately, Platinum Games (the makers of Bayonetta and Vanquish) were happy to step in and do the job and, from my time with the game's first trio of missions, it looks like they've done a great one here.
Kojima's company is still responsible for the game's script, story, and cutscenes, and it's true that what's in the game when control's taken away from the player is very Metal Gear Solid-esque. Revengeance is definitely a Metal Gear game in terms of its narrative, from the wild over-the-top characters and script, to the goofy sidebar radio chats and trademark alert sounds. Early on in the game, Raiden is given a beating by a villain named, for example, Jetstream Sam, and it's that fight that costs him his eye and his jaw, turning him into the ninja we know (and love?) from the game's art.
Outside of the story and dialogue, however, the show belongs to Platinum Games, and the influence of a game like Bayonetta is very clear. At the lowest end of things, Raiden has strong and light attacks that build up into combos, and he can also "ninja run" over obstacles and through enemies. The beauty of the game, however, is when you start wading into the deeper pool of the combat. Raiden can block enemy attacks with his blade by pushing the left stick towards his enemy and parrying with a light attack, and that move, when timed correctly and then upgraded into a counter attack, is very powerful indeed.
At its highest levels, then, the game's combat is one non-stop flurry of blocking, chopping, and grabbing, with Raiden constantly breaking down one enemy after another, slicing them into bits, grabbing their spine, and powering up again to take out the next foe.
Platinum does mix up the action by providing different enemy types. Standard cyborg soldiers are essentially just fodder, while the game's creepy little third-armed tripod creatures attack en masse and are bisected just as quickly. There are bigger enemies later on, however, including gorilla-like creatures with a more substantial defense, and of course robotic Metal Gear walkers to hack away at and take down spectacularly.
Rising has a tendency to be difficult, sometimes prohibitively so. Some will appreciate its punishing moments, though, especially when each section grades a player's performance. But after the fortieth or fiftieth time of battling a robot dog whose attacks you can't seem to block because you just can't get the timing right, things may get frustrating.
Despite that gripe, so far Rising is a stellar action title. Both Platinum and Kojima Productions have clearly committed their own special talents to the title, and though the spin-off's origins were reportedly rough going, the end result is a very smooth mix of the Metal Gear franchise and Platinum's action expertise. Considering that Konami was showing off an essentially complete version of Revengeance at the press event this week, the only other thing I'd like to cut is the waiting for this game to hit the shelves in February for the Xbox 360 and PS3.