There are few things I love more in the world of videogaming than the brilliantly bat-shit crazy Metal Gear series and the incomparable talents of Osaka-based Platinum Games, unquestionably (in my opinion) the preeminent developer of triple-A action games.
So, as you can imagine, when I heard that Platinum had been brought in to save Kojima’s ailing attempts at turning Raiden from blonde haired mincer into super bad-ass cyborg ninja, my heart gently skipped a beat. Development of such a title had been rumoured ever since Raiden showed up looking all awesome and shit as an NPC in Metal Gear Solid 4 and, despite some positive early demo footage, it looked, for a while at least, that Kojima and co. had hit something of a virtual brick wall in their attempts to bring their unique ‘slice everything’ style of gameplay to fruition.
Wisely, rather than throwing in the towel, Konami and Kojima outsourced the game to Platinum Games and, well, the results, as one might imagine, are really rather special. A perfect mix of Metal Gear-style storytelling and Platinum’s renowned skills in the way of fast paced videogame combat, Rising provides a perfect marriage of two top quality companies seemingly working together in complete harmony. It is the baby of both its parents with each of their individual qualities and traits shining through without ever overpowering or diluting the other. From Metal Gear’s renowned art direction to Platinum’s sly sense of humour and perfectly balanced hack-‘n-slash gameplay, the two companies have combined to create one of this generation’s finest action games and a fitting vehicle for Raiden to finally prove his worth.
Of course, with such classic action games as Bayonetta and God Hand under their belt, it was always going to take something pretty special to make Rising stand out from the impressive Platinum crowd. That something special? Blade Mode and the accompanying Zandatsu technique. The ability to slice up an opponent in slow motion as you align each slice to cut enemies to shreds in any way you see fit simply never gets old and, when combined with the additional challenge of cutting through an enemy’s weak point to initiate your Zandatsu ability, it proves a mechanic both pleasingly technical and wildly enjoyable.
Manage to hit that sweet spot and Raiden, is a moment of sheer ferocity, tears through his opponents chest and rips out their spinal repair units (all enemies are cyborgs/robots, so no need to worry about excessive blood). This move both replenishes Raiden’s health and increases his electrolyte levels which can then be used to fuel the next bout of Blade Mode carnage. Yes, some parts of the scenery inevitably cannot be cut into, but this never gets in the way of the enjoyment with all major props and enemies along the largely linear journey there to be cut to shreds.
Even without Blade Mode, the core combat is slick and engaging with skilled player’s able to cut a swathe through a group of enemies without taking so much as a lick. As you would expect from Platinum, the combat is immediately engaging but hides a wealth of depth for those willing to master Raiden’s impressive repertoire of attacks. Like so many of their games, finishing Rising (especially on the standard difficulty setting) isn’t a major challenge, but to do so with style, or on one of the higher difficulty settings will take a major commitment of both time and effort.
It may only be 5-6 hours long, but Rising, like Vanquish before it, begs to be played again and again, demands that scores be bested and skills improved. From the brilliantly nuanced parry system (there is no block) to the skill required to take the left hand off each and every opponent in the game in an attempt to collect all 30 data stores (about as hard as it sounds), playing Rising is easy, but to play it well is a different kettle of fish altogether. Heck, if you really want a challenge, you can even, with the exception of a few scripted scenes, go through the entire game without making a single kill. You’ll leave a lot of limbless, worm-like cyborgs in your wake, but hey, their little cyborg hearts will still be beating……actually, on second thought, it’s probably best that you put them out of their misery – killer cyborg soldiers have feeling too ya’ know.
As I said though, this isn’t all Platinum; beyond the visual style screaming Metal Gear (as one would expect), there is actually, amongst an array of pleasant little nods scattered throughout the game, a stealth meter for those looking to take a more cautious approach to battle. Of course, the game generally favours and certainly encourages direct combat, but you can actually get a fair bit of work done sneaking around in the shadows and thinning out enemy numbers before embarking on a more direct approach.
Of course, any Metal Gear game worth its salt has to have a potty, politically-driven, melodramatic mess of a story and Rising, despite providing an infinitely more streamlined tale than the standard Metal Gear fare, is still home to a host memorable characters, an array of sprawling codec conversations and a satisfying narrative link to Metal Gear Solid 4: Sons of the Patriots. This will inevitably go over many a head, but for those versed in Metal Gear lore, it’s nice to see Rising doing its upmost to continue on the series’ fine (read: bonkers) storytelling traditions.
While the boss battles and core enemies never quite match the highs that the series has become famous for, those here provide a steady challenge, an always unique aesthetic and most pleasingly of all, some genuinely enjoyable banter. None of the four members of the Winds of Destruction will go down in the annals of Metal Gear history, but the Brazilian cyborg samurai, Samuel “Jetstream” Rodrigues certainly stands out from the crowd, providing a few genuinely memorable moments along the way.
The big draw though is Raiden himself. Struggling with an internal conflict – is he here to keep the peace or is he simply finding an excuse to satiate his own bloodlust? – Rising at its best is a perfect marriage of this core internal struggle and his own increasing ferocity on the battlefield. Yes, there is plenty of chat on politics, private security firms and the nature of war, but despite a few interesting moments, the real narrative highs come from Raiden’s more personal transformation.
It may not be the most visually impressive game of the generation, but given the action on screen, it is a borderline miracle that the frame-rate is as rock steady as it is. Rising, on a purely technical level is quite the achievement. In fact, it’s quite the achievement full stop. The camera does get in the way of the action once in a blue moon and will occasionally lose its shit when performing the Zandatsu technique close to a wall or prop and, despite the enemy design and animations both being top notch, the actual levels can sometimes be a little on the bland side. Still, these minor niggles don’t hinder what is an otherwise top-notch action game and a fitting instalment in the Metal Gear franchise. It may be a major departure for the series in a technical sense, but Rising still feels like a Metal Gear game at heart, comfortably delivering all the quality we have come to expect from this much loved franchise.
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