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'Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance' preview: Raiden goes solo

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'Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance' screenshot

© Konami


Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance shifts the focus away from Solid Snake and stealth, focusing instead on over-the-top arcade action, courtesy of cybernetically enhanced ninja Raiden and his razor-sharp sword.

Developed by Platinum Games, the team behind Madworld, Bayonetta and Vanquish, and with input from Kojima Productions, Revengeance has so far divided Metal Gear's army of dedicated fans, with many unsure about the game's radical new direction.

We managed to spend five hours with Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance's opening, carving our way through a number of early chapters in Raiden's solo adventure.

'Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance' screenshot

© Konami



Classic Metal Gear narrative

Revengeance begins with a typically drawn-out, albeit highly entertaining, Metal Gear cutscene. It turns out that Raiden is now running private security for the Prime Minister of an unnamed African country, until, of course, the baddies show up to spoil the party.

Though not as cutscene heavy as traditional Metal Gear games - at least not in the early stages - Revengeance is still very plot-driven, and in this respect, it feels very much like a classic Metal Gear release.

'Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance' screenshot

© Konami



The characters are typically unorthodox, consisting of charismatic antagonists such as Jetstream Sam, not to mention a walking slinky named Monsoon and a chainsaw wielding wolf with an ample intellect. Raiden's allies, meanwhile, chime in on the radio for philosophical debates about the right and wrongs of war, reading the rather silly script with all the gravity of a grieving widow delivering a eulogy.

If it wasn't for the insane sword-based combat, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was anything other than a full-blown sequel to Metal Gear Solid 4. However, when the talking stops and the swords are drawn, the Platinum Games influence really shines through.

'Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance' screenshot

© Konami



Razor sharp gameplay

Raiden's primary weapon is his sword, although he can use bazookas and grenades in one-shot bursts. The combat itself is relatively straightforward, with Raiden using a combination of light and heavy attacks. A generous number of combos, however, reveals a surprising amount of depth lurking beneath the surface of this rather basic, albeit intuitive system.

Meanwhile, like Gordon Ramsay going to town on a cucumber with a carving knife, Raiden can slice his enemies into lots of little pieces by using Blade mode. Holding the trigger button zooms in on a body part and slows time, affording Raiden the opportunity to frantically chop off limbs, before ripping out spines to recover fuel - he is a cyborg, after all.

Not only does this look cool, but it also serves a purpose, becoming essential for survival when enemies decide that the best way to kill you is to throw cars or fire missiles. It takes a little getting used to, but by the end of our playthrough we were slicing everything that we could.

'Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance' screenshot

© Konami



Further depth is added by the parry system, which sees Raiden counter-attacking by pushing the analogue stick and attacking as enemies are about to strike. Without a dedicated dodge button, the parry move will save your life more times than you'll care to count. Parrying at the optimal time also initiates finishing moves, which see Raiden use his acrobatics to destroy enemies in increasingly elaborate and entertaining ways.

Raiden's abilities aren't just limited to combat, however. Ninja Run sees him sliding and vaulting through obstacles, blocking bullets and climbing walls, all with the press of a button. It's not quite Assassin's Creed, but it gets Raiden from A to B much faster and is also used as the basis for some of the game's more outrageous set-pieces, including one section where he runs up a barrage of missiles before chopping a helicopter in two.

'Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance' screenshot

© Konami



One for the hardcore

With a sword capable of cutting through trees, pillars, vehicles, doors and almost anything else you can think of, Raiden's enemies really don't stand a chance, although try telling that to the game's first boss, a gigantic robotic Metal Gear.

The excellent opening battle is the first of many boss fights that we encountered during our time with the game, preparing us for the sort of challenge that awaits. Make no mistake, Metal Gear Rising is hard, with many spikes in difficulty. Encounters are made all the more challenging by the lack of dodge button and a camera that sometimes struggles to keep up - the bane of all third-person action games.

With Raiden often encouraged to avoid enemy encounters en route to his next goal, we also managed to try out a few of the game's stealth sections. Classic Metal Gear staples like the cardboard box and oil drum make these sections easier, not to mention more amusing, but without the ability to properly sneak and hide, we found that it was usually better to slice our way through.

'Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance' screenshot

© Konami



Despite one or two questionable design choices and an occasionally dodgy camera, we enjoyed our time with the game, calling it a day prior to yet another promising looking boss fight. It's nice to see that the development team has paid the franchise the respect it deserves, both from a narrative and gameplay perspective.

But then with Bayonetta developer Platinum Games at the helm and Hideo Kojima on board as a producer, it shouldn't really come as any surprise that Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance combines thrilling combat with a slightly insane story and even more bonkers cast of characters.

It will have its work cut out competing with the likes of DmC: Devil May Cry, a brand new God of War and Platinum's very own Bayonetta 2, but on this evidence Metal Gear Rising should have no problems keeping up.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance will be available on Xbox 360 and PS3 on February 19, 2013 in North America and on February 22, 2013 in Europe.

Watch a trailer for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance below:

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