It’s probably a bit of an odd statement, but I don’t think Metal Gear Solid’s gameplay is all that great. Stealth is hardly my favourite thing and I wouldn’t call MGS’s the best of the bunch; I find the boss battles and the more action-packed segments to be much more fun to play than crawling along the ground in amongst the bushes, but it’s ultimately the story that keeps me coming back to the world of Metal Gear.
Which is why I was a bit cautious – as we all were – when Metal Gear Rising was revealed, then still including the Solid part of the title. it looked like a massive departure from previous games in the series, perhaps holding back on the the all-important lengthy cutscenes and an intricately woven plot.
And that’s, basically, what Rising is. Platinum Games have completely delivered gameplay-wise and the sword-wielding Raiden is an excellent character to play as, in turn making the game an absolute blast to play. Slicing up enemies and sprinting around gives it a great feel – Raiden is a powerful protagonist this time round and some of the moves he pulls off are awe-inspiring.
Thankfully, the deep plot hasn’t gone anywhere either, judging by some lengthy calls and cutscenes that I didn’t really understand with the little background information on the game that I have. The fact that it’s set four years after MGS4 gives Platinum much more freedom with the story, which can’t be a bad thing.
Oh, and the sneaking is still there. Well, sort of: there’s no lying down and crawling along the ground, it’s more about running along behind enemies and quickly slicing them up or performing a brutal stealth kill before they can alert nearby foes.
Those enemies range from standard troops to large Geckos – robotic bipedal creatures which are a worthy opponent for a cyborg ninja. There’s no arguing that this is a Metal Gear game, from the style (complete with caution and alert warnings) to the setting it still feels in line with the previous games, even though the gameplay has radically changed.
Controls in Rising aren’t too complex, based around a standard third person control scheme, with square and triangle (or equivalent) for a quick but weak or strong but slower attack respectively. There’s no defined block button, instead you’ll have to time a flick off the left stick and a press of a button to parry your foes’ stronger attacks, though you are giving a fair warning of incoming attacks.[videoyoutube]Since the camera is controlled by the right stick, Raiden is unable to use his blade in the same way he did in MGS2, so Platinum have introduced a feature named Blade Mode. By holding L1, the camera moves in closer, and you’re able to release a high-speed flurry of attacks that can slice enemies into pieces. It’s also very useful for precise attacks, as you have enough time to set up a slash at the perfect angle.
Being a cyborg ninja has its downsides though, as Raiden will have to recharge his body by cutting up enemies in Blade Mode and collecting their energy by tapping a button to collect glowing blue internals.
The playable section showed off enough to get a good taste of the game – a cutscene followed by a few battles here and there, some sneaking gameplay and even a boss battle with a large, wolf-like robotic enemy. This battle proved a challenge, but was a very good representation of the game, showing Raiden’s moves to their full potential.
Rising is a good looking game, too; it’s a lot more brutal and gory than previous games in the series, since Raiden can cut through enemies up as if they’re vegetables on a chopping board. Environments are solid and animations flow well, too – it’s all really quite impressive.
So, it’s still Metal Gear: the story is there, the enemies are there and the world is very much the same. But it’s definitely different from Metal Gear Solid – and it could perhaps even be better if Platinum do it right. If it’s not better, though, there’s no doubt that it’ll still be a frantic, fun and somewhat unique entry into the series.