Metal Gear Rising: why it really is a Metal Gear

My time with the game focuses on the beginning of Raiden’s slice-’em up. Arriving in Abkhazia, our hero is immediately attacked by a three-man cyborg squad using optic camo, where you’re given some brief instructions on Raiden’s Blade Mode. Squeezing R1 slows the world to a crawl and leaves you time to line up a perfect slice with the right stick. You pick your line and flick the stick for a clean slice through people and objects. This early in the game, Raiden’s combo system is a bit basic. He has a simple five-hit combo with his weak attack on square, and a wider attack and launcher on triangle. But with his options so limited, you’ll want to start cutting.

Scoring a perfect hit through enemies’ spines refills your health, but removing their left hands – where cyborgs store their internal ‘black box’ – enables you to harvest MCFC electrolytes. These juicy innards can be spent on upgrades to get some seriously complex combos in the game’s later stages.

Harvesting health or electrolytes isn’t an either/or situation, though. Find the right angle and you can put a single slice through both the left arm and spine for a perfect kill and maximum points. It’s most easily demonstrated on Raiden’s next victim – a lone soldier you approach from behind in Rising’s brief stealth tutorial. Channel your inner Big Boss by creeping up on him and you get a free slice. It’s then up to you whether you hit with one clean strike or turn the poor sod into human sushi with a hundred fast cuts.

“Of course the technology was difficult to deal with and implement into the game,” says Saito – formerly Bayonetta’s lead programmer. “But we looked more at the gameplay mechanics and if it was fun or not, and that’s something we always look at closely. With action games it just has to feel good – that’s something we strive for.”

Rising isn’t a stealth game, but stealth is important. It’s the manner in which you set up your first attack in a new area, and the only way to free arrested civilians without them being executed by their captors. When you first step out onto the Abkhazian streets you want to move quietly and quickly: it’s possible to take down all four patrolling guards before they make it to the Alert Phase.

As in any Metal Gear game, enemies have three states – Patrol, Caution and Alert. Alert Phase is an all-out swordfight, but break the line of sight or hide under a box and they enter Caution Phase, searching for Raiden without actively fighting. The difference is you’re never looking to avoid Alert Phase, only delay it until your plan’s in place. Most will spend the majority of the game in this state, but precision assassins will want their first moves in every area to be stealthy and skilful.

Hitting the game’s first checkpoint, Raiden faces off against a full-sized Gekko (MG4’s bipedal Metal Gears, boasting the legs of a catwalk model). Cue a huge combo to dismantle the athletic beast, followed by a precision Blade Mode finisher. They might rock the gams of Claudia Schiffer, but Gekkos are just another standard enemy in Rising’s world and it’s not the first time Raiden has cut a mini Metal Gear army down to size.

“Our main vision was to create something only Platinum Games could create as an action game,” explains Saito. “When Kojima Productions was making its game – Metal Gear Solid: Rising – it started seeing the limitations of what its action game [could] do. When that happened, it started referring to Metal Gear Solid 4 and that scene where Raiden battled the Gekkos. That was something Platinum Games could make as an action game, and still fit [it] into the Metal Gear world.”

That’s why, for all Raiden’s gravity-besting combos and sci-fi insanity, Metal Gear Rising still feels like Metal Gear. Never forget that an armless Raiden held back a city-sized battleship with only a sword clenched between his teeth. He’s always been a logic-defying superhuman, and Rising is Metal Gear’s most incredible cut-scenes brought to life in the most bombastic way. The details are there, too – like the exclamation mark mentioned earlier, or hitting select to pull up your Codec screen.

Search around the tutorial level carefully and you’ll find a cardboard box Raiden can hide in. Even Sunny makes a key appearance later in the game. Raiden’s support crew also includes Boris as the boss of Maverick Security, Colonel Campbell wannabe Kevin as your military advisor, Courtney handling your save files and Doktor as your expert on the game’s more outlandish sci-fi tech.

Use your Codec and you get the usual backstory about almost every element in the game, all there if you want to listen… and have a spare 17 hours. Somewhat mercifully, Rising isn’t so heavy on the cut-scenes as previous Metal Gears, and with good reason.

“There’s always been a story behind the action that’s relayed to the players as they played the game,” says Kojima Productions writer Etsu Tamari. “It’s something that I felt needed to be included in Rising, but this is an action game, so the messaging can’t be so blunt. It has to be done through gameplay and understood by the players while they fight.”