"Under the sword lifted high, there is hell making you tremble. But go ahead, and you have the land of bliss." These words were once penned by Miyamoto Musashi, the historical Japanese ronin famous for the development of the advanced sword fighting technique Niten Ichi-ryu.
We mention them here at the forefront of this preview because throughout our demo playthrough of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance two things were made lucidly clear. The first is that swords are horrendously vicious weapons capable of endowing startlingly gruesome power. The second? That Platinum Games know how to make you truly feel like you are a fluid nucleus of that power.
Construction of Rising is spread between both Platinum Games and Kojima Productions. The former handles the development, while the latter, with its Metal Gear heritage, takes on the game's narrative. Set four years after the cataclysmic events of MGS4, we're set to take on the role of rebuilt cyborg ninja Raiden. The death of The Patriots at the end of Metal Gear Solid 4 means that Raiden, who was indoctrinated into warfare as a child soldier in Liberia, is out of work. Not one to apply for a job slicing kebabs for a local Turkish food van proprietor, our blonde hero decides to join up with a private military security company called Maverick Security Consulting.
After losing his arm and left eye in an ambush by a US mercenary group known as Desperado Enforcement, Raiden is rebuilt and sent on a mission of revenge. Or indeed, Revengeance.
There's a huge cast of fascinating, utterly implausible bad guys...
Naturally, being a game in the Metal Gear franchise, this involves interfacing with a huge cast of fascinating, utterly implausible, bad guys. The main villain appears to be Sam Rodrigues, a rival cyborg of the Desperado Enforcers with an odd fascination with Raiden's high frequency blade. We'll also get to tongue wag with a host of Raiden's Maverick mates, though Rising's Codec is a lot more streamlined than MGS's infamous insta-skip aural bilge pumps. The return of the Codec isn't the only thing Rising has in common with its forebears. Iconic sound effects and equipment return, while enemies like lubricant-filled mini metal gear geckos stride about waiting to be diced. Scouring the Japanese info sheets from Tokyo Game Show reveals that Sunny, the little girl from MGS4 is also set to show up. Will other MGS characters show up?
RISE AND SHINE
As we wait for our hands on with thenew build of Rising, a startlingly leather-clad Japanese lady recommends that we play it on the easiest setting, as it is actually quite hard for first time players. We scoff andselect Normal mode, confident in our katana abilities, having given Raiden a run for his money at GamesCom earlier this year.
We do quite well initially, too. Raiden's Ninja Run ability, activated by holding down a shoulder button, lets us dash across levels, leaping up buildings with more grace than Ezio Auditore and Spider-Man combined. Utilizing Blade mode, slowing down time and carefully aiming our sword swipes is slightly trickier at first, though we quickly learn how to optimally disentangle our opponents' spinal columns, ripping out their nano-repair units to refill our own health. Always a handy skill to have.
Stringing together combos is gleefully fluid, we leap atop a Gecko and stab its head into a fluid leaking metallic mess before swooping down and impaling a helpless guard with a blade held in the cleft of our feet, all in wide-eyed rapture. There's a certain tension to battles as well, especially when fast-moving Geckos are involved. It's only when we get to the first boss fight, a dog-shaped robot with neural implants and a swinging chainsaw for a tail, that we realise our scantily clad guide's advice was perhaps on the money. LQ-84i is incredibly hard to beat, flying around the increasingly destroyed environments tearing up the concrete and generally laying us flat (in chunks) faster than an irate ninja after three tinnies of red bull laced with Pro-Plus. We loved it.
Whether or not Mushashi-sensei would approve, Rising takes the theme of intense OTT sword-play and ninja-runs with it, not stopping until every jaw in the vicinity has truly dropped.