When Zone of the Enders came out back in 2001 it was an instant hit, but not for the typical reasons. Many ran out day 1 to buy the game, but couldn’t care less about actually playing it. No, the real reason so many clamored for the release of Zone of the Enders was to play the exclusive Metal Gear Solid 2 demo that was included with the game. In keeping with tradition, the Zone of the Enders HD Collection comes with a demo for the forthcoming Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, which is currently not available on either PSN or Xbox Live.
Metal Gear Rising has gone through a very difficult development cycle. The game was originally known as Metal Gear Solid: Rising and was first announced at E3 2009. After presenting an interesting watermelon themed demo at E3 2010 to show off the game’s unique cutting mechanics, Kojima Productions found themselves struggling to build a full game that revolved around being able to cut anything. They eventually canceled the game, opting to instead hand off development to Platinum Games, the studio responsible for some of the most well received Japanese action games of the current generation including Bayonetta and Vanquish. That pedigree is certainly apparent in the short demo for Metal Gear Rising, and while I’m still not quite sure how the final game will turn out, I found the demo to be quite fun.
Being a third person melee action game, Rising obviously shares a lot in common with Bayonetta, but it definitely has a distinctly Metal Gear sensibility. Even in the short demo, there were plenty of cutscenes with lots of dialogue. While Kojima’s team may not be the ones developing the game, you can definitely feel his influence with the cutscenes and cinematic direction. The cutscenes aren’t afraid to run longer than the average, and the choreography and direction are exactly what you’d expect from a Metal Gear game. The game takes place after Metal Gear Solid 4, and while there are brief mentions of the fall of SOP and its effect on PMCs and the “War Economy”, you won’t be confusing this for Metal Gear Solid 5; this is absolutely a new story.
Gameplay wise, Metal Gear Rising seems very polished. If you go in expecting this be a God of War style game that you can just breeze through with the basic light, light, heavy combo; you’re in for a bit of a rude awakening. Unsurprisingly given the developer’s history, this game shares a lot more in common with games like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta than more western styled melee combat games, and you can certainly expect some challenge. Raiden takes a fair bit of damage when struck and you’ll have to learn how to properly parry to have any success.
The free form cutting that was the core of the original concept is still present in this version of the game, and it adds some interesting gameplay wrinkles. You build up charge for “blade mode” as you kill enemies, which allows you slow down time and make precision sword strikes. These strikes are usually a one hit kill on regular enemies, allowing you to chop them in pieces of any shape or size. Against stronger enemies like Gekkos, blade mode will be nothing more than a regular attack unless you’ve weakened part of their body with regular strikes first, which will then result in the Gekko being cut into numerous pieces as you swing away at the weakened parts. Blade Mode may come off as nothing more than a gimmick, but I found myself enjoying it.
Platinum did take some steps to keep the gameplay feeling like a Metal Gear game, though mostly to the detriment of the experience. There are some light stealth elements at some points, but I found them to poorly executed and unnecessary. There aren’t really any stealth mechanics in the game, Raiden is always standing straight up and moving quickly, so the parts of the game that reward you for killing silently feel like the game is encouraging you to do something it wasn’t designed for. Another nod to the main series is the way inventory is handled, which works just fine. Being able to hold onto health items instead of using them right away is a feature that most games of this genre don’t include, and I found it quite useful.
Graphically, Metal Gear Rising is quite impressive, with the type of really polished looking cinematic effects we’ve come to expect from the series and some impressive character models and environments. A huge plus is the game’s performance, which runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second. I’ve heard the PS3 version has some problems, though I can’t personally speak to that. I played the 360 version and it was constantly smooth and without issue. Voice acting seemed good, and I actually found myself really enjoying the music. It’s quite different from the very movie-like scores you’d find in the main series, but I felt like it fit the game well.
Ever since I heard about the shift to Platinum Games, I have had tentatively high expectations for Metal Gear Rising. Even though Metal Gear Solid 4 was by far the best playing game in the series, it wasn’t quite up to the standards of the best action games, and I still enjoyed the over-the-top craziness of the storyline and the cutscenes far more than the actual gameplay. Ideally, Metal Gear Rising will combine the plot insanity and cinematic prowess of the Metal Gear Solid series with the satisfying action gameplay Platinum is known for. While this demo did not fully convince me that this will be the reality of Metal Gear Rising, it didn’t convince me otherwise either, and I’m still looking forward to the full release with hopes of greatness.