Michael Urban has already done a balanced and informed dissect-ation of some of the features of the upcoming Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, but today we’re going a little more in depth into some of the special features of the Konami/Platinum game. What follows is a dissection of dissection – hacking away at Raiden’s blade.
You may think at first glance that Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is going to be a simple hack and slash game. You’d be partly right, from what we can already tell from the demo code, which I was allowed to play at the Australian distributer’s office (disclosure: it wasn’t an event, but I was offered a glass of water, which I refused). One can play it as a hack and slash game, dashing from point to point, cutting up all the bad dudes with your basic attacks. There is that. But you can, and you’ll want to, go deeper. The dismemberment physics is what allows this in MGR:R.
Many games have featured dismemberment mechanics – the Dead Space series is famous for it. Dead Space has nothing on this.
I’ll do a quick comparison of the two, since the Dead Space series is the most convenient example. In Dead Space, using carefully placed shots from your plasma cutter you are able to dismember enemies along the beam of energy. Except you don’t. Not really. It’s more like the enemies are connected by a series of joints that, when damaged enough, fall apart. It’s a clever illusion, but not true 100% directional dismemberment.
With Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, we have something much closer in approximation to true directional slicing. Enemies and objects partition at exact angles, following the motion of your blade with a perceivable level of precision. This allows for direct, accurate dismemberment of enemies and destruction of property from both your normal attacks and your blade-time attacks.
This must surely be no small feat for such a smooth and good looking game, to have as many objects in a world directly interactable in the physics engine as it does. That console hardware has been able to achieve the level of interactivity that it has is to be admired, even at this stage of the console cycle.
There is a lot of depth to play with here. Enemies react to dismemberment, enabling you to strategically – and literally – disarm an opponent, or remove a foot or two to give yourself some time to regroup. This versatile slicing mechanic is tactical, if not immediately always useful, as the gameplay so far encourages quick fights and combos which is just as easily achieved through mashing the X and Triangle buttons.
What I wasn’t aware of, until the kind PR guy that was walking me through the demo informed me, was that you can also use this dismemberment on many in-game objects, including world structures such as bridges and ledges. I hadn’t even though to try that, because the idea of being able to use the destruction in such a widespread way was completely unheard of in my gaming vocabulary. Sure, we occasionally have to shoot a lock off in a game or something, but MGR:R allows you to slice bridge supports right through, completely destroying the structure and felling the above structure. This trick also works on walkways, allowing you to drop guards and Gekkos down to your level, or even drop the level onto the guards, damaging them in the process.
In its current form, environmental destruction is rather rough. Smaller objects that you slice, such as bins or cars, will retain the angles of your sword swings, however if you cut down a bridge or overhang, the resulting demolition is a pile of generic and quickly disappearing rubble and not the full former structure, apart from the sliced bridge strut. This is a little gamey and distracting from the realism of the cutting, but we are still on demo code and it might change in the future.
As a result, the level design has to be clever. The person walking me through the demo was displaying the dismemberment to me at the beginning of the demo level and accidentally (on purpose) sliced through the staircase you were supposed to use to get up to the higher level. Fortunately, the level design was versatile enough to allow Raiden to scale a nearby wall using the ninja run ability, but none of this was explained by this point in the demo, meaning possible confusion for a player going into the level cold. This pathing style continued through the rest of the demo, with the player allowed to destroy parts of the environment, but always being able to find a way ahead. Hopefully, this mechanic will enhance level design, rather than limit it, but either way it will no doubt be a challenge for designers to overcome.
As for other features of level design, there were one or two smartly hidden secret items and pathways that might only become obvious to someone with significant experience of Raiden’s movement options. For example, there’s a well-hidden health powerup above an entryway in the second enclosed room that looks like a ceiling, but which is in fact a ledge that can be ninja-ran-up to. Again, hopefully, this shall lead to more replayability. No screen is currently present that I could find that lists secrets or items found, which would help.
Combat is quite fluid when you get the hang of it. Like Michael, I found the parry difficult to get the hang of, at least at first. Some of the input prompts were difficult to see, too, meaning I only once succeeded in triggering a quicktime event when fighting a Gekko. The QTE basically played a sleek little ninja animation and allowed for some free extra blade time to finish the enemy, but without a prompt to instruct me, I ended up missing out on the fun slashy part and just ended up doing nothing and looking stupid.
A quick mention of blade time. They’ve balanced it somewhat since the demo I played at EB Expo, allowing for a more varied combat experience. It is no longer a simple I-win-button, instead having to be used tactically in each situation. During blade time, you use the right stick to determine slicing angles. Again, it’s a little hard to get the hang of at first, since, instead of simply flicking the stick in the direction you want your blade to go, you instead move the stick outwards first, then rotate the stick to determine your angle, and then release the stick back to centre to initiate the cut. It works, and a player can quickly learn to slice and dice like the best of them, but the hardest step is overcoming the muscle-memory of a hundred other games that do movement differently. Or you could just mash X or Triangle to use your default attacks which do full dismemberment against enemies as if using the precision strikes.
I should mention that dismemberment does not always kick in. Your regular light (X) and heavy (Triangle) attacks only cut through objects and scenery, not enemies. Blade time will always cut through regular enemies. To slice up stronger enemies, like Gekkos, you must first weaken them with regular attacks or secondary weapons until their damaged parts glow blue, and then you are able to dismember them with blade time attacks. This is to keep combat fair, and prevent Raiden from becoming too overpowered.
Overall, the game is shaping up very well. I will freely admit that I am a PC snob, but the tech behind MGR:R has me interested in, and, quite frankly, astounded at, its capabilities. The biggest challenge for the Platinum team going forward will be to deliver varied and interesting levels, an interesting story, and the replayability of something like Devil May Cry with its score attack focus, while still retaining the Metal Gear aesthetic which they have done so well to capture so far and evolving this gorgeous tech-demo into a fully-fledged single player experience.
Note – I was unable to take screenshots myself. All images used are curtosy of Michael Urban. The ponce.