Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has a development story almost as perplexing as its subtitle. Originally, the game was supposed to be Metal Gear Solid 5 developed by a new Konami team without Hideo Kojima’s involvement. The game would have focused on the Boss and the Cobra Unit, but that was scrapped due to inexperience and no Kojima. Thus, the development team had another idea for a game about Raiden telling the story that connects Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty to his appearance as a cyborg ninja (ninborg or cynja) in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriot. This Raiden inbetweequel became known as Metal Gear Solid: Rising and Kojima announced it in 2009 in a keynote speech at the Game Developers Conference. Then, the news coming out about the game was distressing, eventually leading to its cancellation…sort of. Kojima then tinkered with the idea of hiring a development team who had more knowledge of action games, specifically the sword cutting action featured in Rising. This idea led to Kojima approaching Platinum Games to take over the game.
The new direction of the game with Platinum resulted in a story change. Now, the game’s story takes place after MGS4. With a team shift and a new story, the game was renamed Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and was announced at the Spike Video Game Awards in 2011. Since then, news about the development has steadily came out and the game actually has a release date, so the chances of it being silently canceled again are no longer an issue. More importantly, evidence of the game and gameplay exists with a Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance demo that was included with the Zone of the Enders HD Collection (an irony that the HD reintroduction of the ZOE series would also be bundled with another demo to a game from Kojima’s more popular child). Platinum Games is developing the title with Kojima Productions producing it and Konami publishing it. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance will release on Feb. 19, 2013 in North America on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (and Feb. 21, 2013 in Europe [PS3/Xbox 360] and Japan [PS3 only]).
The demo has a brief tutorial mission that teaches the player how to use the deadly Blade Mode effectively. The Blade Mode is one of the two main gameplay elements. It is a free form slicing mode using the analog sticks to aim a blue area plane then strike down using the other analog stick. The tutorial hinges at the beginning on players’ cutting cubes up as much as possible before the objects fall to the floor. Anything that turns orange when in Blade Mode will be cut when Raiden slashes. After the cubes, Raiden has a precision mode training where several enemy dummies pop up and he must eliminate them using Blade Mode and targeting highlighted weak spots. Once the player has gained that trick, they must kill an enemy while avoiding a hostage further honing the precision of Blade Mode. Blade Mode is tremendous fun and it is exciting trying to cut enemies and objects into confetti. It takes a bit to get down, but once the gamer gets the hang of it, it is no problem switching to it in battle to slow down time and go to town on enemies with extreme brutality.
The rest of the gameplay is a bit more straightforward, which is why the tutorial ends at Blade Mode. Raiden can chain combos using light and heavy attacks. The combat is quick and fluid, which is not a surprise considering Platinum Games’ background. One of the most delightful animations is when Raiden does a longer combo, as he goes to kick an enemy he switches the sword into his heel-foot claw and slices them using a kick. It is so brilliantly weird and indicative of what a master cyborg swordsman can do with his fancy technology. Switching between tradition combos and slashing to Blade Mode is a bit tricky at first. Eventually though, it becomes second nature to the point where the player mixes between the two like a pro. Utilizing Blade Mode in battle is key because it uses up Raiden’s energy meter (the amount of times and duration that he can use Blade Mode), and the only way to recover health and energy is by using Zan-Datsu. Zan-Datsu moves, done by using Blade Mode, allow Raiden to steal body parts and other items when prompted by an on-screen icon. The combat is addicting and it is a thrill to play as Raiden while he cuts through hordes of enemies.
Other moves that Raiden has at his disposal are a reconnaissance visor that changes the landscape display giving him a sense of enemy location and battle information. It is the way Raiden can use some measure of stealth. In addition, Raiden can use Ninja Dash to flit about quickly on screen to dodge enemies and get the upper hand before initiating battle. The game also features a parry system that has a steep learning curve (probably less for experienced action game fans with quick reflexes). When in battle, a red targeting sight will appear slightly before an enemy will attack, pressing Square (for PS3 users) at the right time will parry the attack and respond with a combo attack. This becomes vital during the end mini-boss battle between Raiden and Bladewolf as parrying is the only to avoid his sawtail attack that deals massive damage. Not parrying or using Ninja Dash effectively during the battle will make things tough and eventually lead to death.
There are plenty of details that speak on Raiden gaining sub-weapons and upgrades during the game. In the beginning of the demo, the lead scientist for Maverick Security Group tells Raiden to try to cut off the left hand of enemies to gain the data stored in it. By collecting severed left hands and turning them in, Raiden can buy upgrades. This means that Raiden will gain some extra items and become stronger throughout the game by harvesting enemy body parts. During the mission by opening boxes or destroying them, Raiden collects items like grenades or a rocket launcher, which he can use in addition to his High-Frequency Blade. It gives Raiden a bit more variety to his arsenal and the combat.
The Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance demo is plenty of fun and indicative of what the game will deliver upon its release date. Fans of fast paced and hack-and-slash action games will be pleased, as well Metal Gear Solid fans because it still feels like a Metal Gear game despite development from Platinum Games. The main thing about Metal Gear is the questions it poses about different philosophical quandaries especially pertaining to war. Without fail, Metal Gear Rising will pose some questions about the nature of what is human and what it is to be human in a world with a proliferation of technology. Essentially, what is it to be human when anyone can be part machine or a cyborg? With Kojima and Metal Gear, it will be a mix bag of the obviously shallow and surface observations of pop psychology and the rarer, but more lasting deep philosophical quandaries on the beginning and end of humanity when augmented with technology. These questions are incredibly relevant to the world today where technology is evolving and progressing at amazing leaps. The classic sci-fi notion of a cyborg as being a human with a gun arm or robot legs is antiquated. Today, a cyborg is simply someone who has a smart phone (be it Apple, Android or Windows). While it is not an embedded technology, the reliance on these phones has gave them almost an additional limb. Plus, if someone from today was to travel back in time, not simply to 1890, but 1990 with an iPhone 5, they would be considered a wizard. The sophistication of this technology is so far advanced from what people knew just 20 years ago that it would simply be magic (even a Motorola Razr would seem like witchcraft). What Metal Gear Rising, in addition to other games with a similar bent in 2013 (Remember Me, WATCH_DOGS and CD Projekt RED’s Cyberpunk 2077), will help pose to gamers are questions about where their humanity ends and technology begins, or if there is even a distinction between the two anymore. The real question will be is the technology that we use everyday becoming more human.