Metal Gear Rising Playtest – A Different Kind Of Stylish Action Game

By Kris . February 19, 2013 . 12:01am

I was admittedly a little uncomfortable with Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance at first. Being an action game enthusiast, I chose to start the game on Hard (the highest initially-unlocked difficulty), hoping to be torn apart by aggressive enemies in a matter of seconds.


Instead, all of my enemies felt like damage sponges. Mostly inactive, but taking a lot of hits to kill. My sword felt like a wet noodle, with incredibly long combos (mostly made up of the easily mashable light attack) doing little damage.


The enemies put up little resistance, so I’d just wail away on them until they broke down, then use that time to activate Blade Mode with the left trigger (which will cut through some enemies in a single hit), line my slice up as required, cut through, and rip out their cyborg spinal cord/energy thing that completely healed Raiden and refueled his energy gauge, allowing for more Blade Mode usage. Thinking that perhaps the lack of reward for combos came from a lack of abilities, I spent all of by BP (Battle Points, used to buy upgrades) on new skills. Even so, nothing I purchased quite satisfied me, and neither did the use of blade mode on a sparking, collapsing enemy.


I was trying to play the game like Devil May Cry (my personal favorite series of action games), but no matter how flamboyantly I played, no matter how lengthy my combos got, I never felt like I was being properly rewarded. Sure, things were flashy, but fights took forever and I never managed to finish my missions with S ranks. After a couple stages, I stopped seeing any benefit to diversified combos. Since your combo rank at the end of a mission was based on the number of hits you put into a combo alone, I felt as though I could mash X and be just as effective. At that point, I thought combat didn’t have much to offer me. This didn’t get me great mission ranks, but it got me through… and I was saddened by that.


At that point, I was having the more fun with the non-combat, more "cinematic" parts of the game than I was with the gameplay. While Raiden has been ludicrously powerful since Metal Gear Solid 4, the Winds of Destruction, four cyborgs with bizarre weapons (extending Sai! Polearms made of arms!) act as worthy rivals. It doesn’t hurt that they mock Raiden’s sociopathic bloodlust in the name of justice every time they get a chance. I loved the way they were introduced, and even when I wasn’t enjoying the game’s combat, I thought that the fights with them were some of the most interesting (and in one case prettiest) things I’d ever seen in an action game.


Between the bosses, the plot centered around VR training and child soldiers, and Codec conversations that ranged from completely silly to oddly specific about certain weapons. To its credit, Metal Gear Rising nailed the Metal Gear vibe for me. It has that weird surrealism where you’re listening to someone talking about their tragic upbringing at one moment and notice a soldier playing with a cat off to the side the next. There were even some interesting character beats for Raiden as he came to grips with his repressed "Jack the Ripper" persona. Sure, the action is a bit more over-the-top than your average Metal Gear Solid, but it felt like they mixed a bit of ‘90s anime into all of the ‘80s action movies that went into MGS, and that’s a combination that I couldn’t help but love.


However, even though I loved the way the story was developing, I couldn’t help but wonder: "Is this all there is? Just some Metal Gear trappings wrapped around a dull action game? If the combat is so weak, why wasn’t this just the Rising I wanted between MGS2 and MGS4?" Needless to say, I was disappointed.


Then I learned how to play the game.


Sometime around chapter 3, not wanting to keep slogging through campaign with my current method of combat, I decided to play the couple of VR Missions that I’d unlocked (out a grand total of 20, which you unlock by finding laptops scattered around each level). The first one I played was a stealth mission, but I already had a basic idea of how to deal with that. However, I didn’t realize at first that your rank at the end of the mission was based on how quickly you finished it, so I played that a few times and managed to swing a silver medal.


Then, I chose the other VR Mission I had unlocked. This was a combat mission.


After the map loaded, six enemies stood ahead of me. Four were grouped together with blades, and two were on either side with rocket launchers. My upgrades were gone. Everyone attacked at once. I was juggled by rockets, then hit with a blade. I died almost immediately.


Whereas some might find such a crushing defeat disheartening, in my case, brutality forced me change my playstyle. Like Raiden, my combat style was forged in violence. Instead, I quickly learned that Ninja Run was a valuable asset when being fired upon. Aside from automatically blocking bullets, it’s a good way to get ahead of rockets. You can also cut through most homing missiles pretty easily if you use light slashes while running.


Parries are absolutely vital. While the early enemies in hard mode didn’t attack often enough for me to even consider parrying, a proper parry can stun multiple enemies, not just the one you parried. A stunned enemy can be set up for a finishing move, which will allow you an easy Zandatsu (spine-ripping-out move). Set things up properly and you can perform the finishing move OVER the other stunned enemies, which will allow you to pull off a chain-Zandatsu. Considering the clock keeps running at normal speed when you’re in Blade Mode or in the middle of a Zandatsu, you start appreciating the time you save when Raiden removes each spine one by one, snapping from glowing core to glowing core, before crushing them all simultaneously. It feels good that a single parry can turn the tide of an entire battle in a few grisly seconds, especially when you and your enemy trade parries until you win.


Now, bear in mind, the first six guys weren’t the only enemies in this mission. They were followed by a couple waves of various cyborgs, Gekkos, and flamethrower-equipped water-strider-esque robots. I had to nail my parries perfectly, or else I’d be stalled just long enough for a rocket to hit me. I had to use Zandatsu at the right time to keep restoring my health in the midst of all the chaos. I had to learn the right moments to use Blade Mode (for instance, removing an enemy’s exposed arm mid-attack after I’d previously broken off the armor to counter his unblockable attack) to dispatch my foes as quickly as possible. I even found a use for heavy attacks beyond flashiness, since certain combos ending in heavy attacks will cause the world to slow down, encouraging you to engage Blade Mode, which can be a godsend on a busy, rocket-launcher-filled battlefield. Sometimes I couldn’t justify fancy combos at risk of death, but other times the right attacks would set up good Zandatsu opportunities.


While I only completed this mission with a bronze medal (after multiple attempts in which I started to get annoyed at the VR Missions’ rather lengthy initiation sequence), Playing this VR mission over and over was a wakeup call. Enemies weren’t supposed to be beaten about the head until they sparked up, they were meant for me to cut through like butter. The reason combo length was valued over combo variety was to incentivize staying on the offensive and avoiding pain more than anything. However, patience would reward me with parry opportunities, allowing me to cut through my foes faster than I would if I just ran around like a maniac. I had to find a balance of aggression and defense to survive and get the ranks I so desired.


As I returned to story mode, I still fought against some less aggressive enemies, but this time I started tearing through them instead of trying overlong combos on them. Each encounter was much quicker with my new mindset. Going through the game at a decent clip gradually rolled out more and more difficult enemies for me to fight, and by the end of the game, the enemy layouts became a decent challenge. Enemies would attack aggressively, forcing me to block or parry attacks one after another and look for a rare opening before I could start going Jack the Ripper on people. This was no Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, but something entirely new instead. Only when I understood that did I start having fun and playing effectively.


When that mindset fell into place, my ranks began going up. I’d get As and Ss on missions instead of Bs. I began having a better balance between my time and my combo score, I started realizing the best uses for certain attacks, and I started playing specifically for rank. I’d run into a group of enemies, trip them up, setting up multiple Zandatsus, launch another enemy for an air-combo, bring them down to the ground then hop between two enemies to build up a decent-length combo, before killing one, and parrying the last enemy to chop him into pieces (each limb would provide a bit of rank-increasing BP… a system I’ve still not completely elucidated yet) before finally taking his delicious spine. My play was less combo-heavy, sure, but much faster and more brutal. There was an elegance to quick and efficient play that supplanted my desire to play it in a combo-heavy way.


Even though I started to see the joy in the combat after being faced with an appropriate challenge, there were still some things about Rising that I had some issues with.


For instance, I appreciate stealth as an option, but certain segments practically demand it. If you choose to fight, you will be punished for it. If you make a mistake while trying to be stealthy, you’ll be punished for it. The likelihood of escape after being seen is low, so expect punishment. I personally found those punishments rather miserable, especially at a certain point that requires you to basically flip three switches in a cramped office. The camera got caught on things, I’d attempt to use a dodge slash and get caught up in doorways, and the game’s lock on didn’t do much to help matters. I restarted this segment multiple times and attempted to use my cardboard box and distracting 3D Picture Frames (the new evolution of MGS’s magazines), but eventually I just got annoyed and slaughtered everyone in my path. At one point, one of the side characters made fun of how Raiden’s stealthy background didn’t exactly fit his new Cyborg Ninja style, and honestly I would have preferred if Platinum had removed the (essentially) mandatory stealth segments altogether.


Speaking of things thrown in for the sake of variety, every so often (frequently in the midst of combat), you’ll have to stop what you’re doing to go through a "move quickly while avoiding the instant-death objects" segment. While these are interesting cinematically, I found that I died more frequently in these segments than I did in combat… I appreciate their use (an attempt to bridge the gap between cutscene and gameplay), and the similar use of the QTEs in the game, but every so often I found them jarring. Particularly in the aforementioned final act.


Still, I’d hate to end this playtest on a sour note, because despite my issues with Metal Gear Rising, the majority of the time I was having a blast. So I’ll leave off talking about the music. Listening to samples online and the music in the demo had me dreading the soundtrack, it’s used in a really clever way. It’s arranged dynamically. As you hit certain parts of a boss fight, the songs’ lyrics will kick in and the music will swell, and all of a sudden everything is incredible. If the game didn’t have the soundtrack, I don’t think the bosses would be nearly as spectacular. If there’s one thing that all stylish action games take from this game, I hope that it’s this.


Food for Thought:

1. As much as I enjoy the game’s unlockable weapons, I’d enjoy them more with real-time weapon switching. I feel like that option may have been left out because it would make Raiden too powerful… But I can only dream of some the combos.


2. If you use the unlockable Mariachi costume with a cardboard box, Raiden’s mariachi hat will stay on the outside of the box. Enemies don’t seem to notice this though.


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  • Bentan

    ZAN DATSU! time to rip em a new one haha.. why so serious, son?

  • Randgriz

    Great writeup, MGR is a truly different style of action game that MG deserves. As a first attempt for this series i really hope we can get a sequel that builds on what theyve learnt.

  • neocatzon

    That’s it! The review’s out and I’m sold

  • TheDarkEmpress

    Already paid for and waiting at GS after work tonight.


  • Guest

    Now I am more worried about this game and it’s sales also the other’s opinion and reviews (Metacritic, IGN, Gamespot, Eurogamer, Gameinformer, etc.)

  • Go2hell66

    woah woah woah, your trying to play this like DMC!?
    damn straight you are playing this game incorrectly!!!

  • Göran Isacson

    Sooo… I’m not sure I’m getting this straight. It SOUNDS like this game was too easy and dull for you, until you started attacking LESS, that is started doing less combos? I can understand some of the text here- it seems that instead of prioritizing the high-speed weapon switching of your Bayonettas and Devil May Crys, this game wants you to stick to one weapon and then mostly kill enemies through Zandatsus. I.E they don’t want you to be flashy and chase high scores- they want you to be fast and efficient.

    But it still sounds like the game was simple on Hard difficulty, which I’m not sure I like the sound of. Even if you weren’t playing it the way it was meant to be played you didn’t seem to get punished for it unless it was some kind of training mission or stealth mission. And did the powerups you buy (because it sounded like you bought many powerups and got many weapons BEFORE you actually understood how to play the game) alter or enhance this “quick-kill” gameplay? Or were they mostly just ways to extend your regular attack combos?

    • Ferrick

      no, not the point, sure in this one there isn’t any on-the-go weapon switch system like bayo and DMC did, but your second weapons are mapped to the Y/ / button when you have it equipped (if you don’t have anything equipped, your Y/ / button is basically a heavy attack), and you’re free to use zandatsu or not to, its just that its easier to use it to move on faster

      not really, hard mode is challenging but yeah the blade mode kinda makes it a tad easier, haven’t played on revengeance mode (the equivalent of legendary/DMD mode) though, heard its very challenging

      • Göran Isacson

        Can I ask you what you mean with “no, not the point”? Was it a reference to something I wrote in my comment? I ask because your message is a bit hard to read, you start of with saying “not the point” and then go on to describe the games weapon system and I’m not really getting the connection between the two.

        • Ferrick

          that was to the “this game wants you to stick to one weapon and then mostly kill enemies through Zandatsus…” part

          • Göran Isacson

            Gotcha. ;)

      • MediaMindControl

        Hard difficulty for an experienced action game person such as Kris or myself is like normal. I can understand not liking the sound of the ease but trust me I’ve been playin this game and you hand it to somebody with little experience and all the sudden the game becomes ninja gaiden. at first I was also going quick, slicing through everything and doing long bayo combos and I stopped receiving S ranks right away with a few exceptions until I became efficient at the cut open and eat spines side of myself. Absolutely love how different this game is and how it retains the MGS feel. I came into this game hating raiden because of MGS2 and I wanted MGS V before this but I now see that this should hold my cravings over and this is almost what I was hoping to see from No more heroes. Maybe Killer is dead will be sorta similar.

        • Ferrick

          well yeah, i know what you mean, i started on very hard mode on my first playthrough using the konami code, and damn was it beast. (finished it and starting revengeance mode now, and wow…)

          and yeah, this is pretty much what happens when you give it to someone with little experience

          same here, i kept using the dash and slash tactic till armored chums appear, and that tactic died really quickly (and i can still get S rank as long as i do it quick and not get hit), and i love this game to the max

          to be honest i feel this game is like a big nod to god hand, especially during the final boss

          also, nanomachines, son

          • MediaMindControl

            Yeah this game is awesome. Wasn’t really expecting the flop so many were asking for. I’m glad it isn’t just Raiden skin on bayonetta fighting mechs instead of demonic angels.

          • Ferrick

            to me, this is outsourcing done right, and amazingly made too, even if it was developed in less than 2 years, at first i was expecting something rather average HnS, but when i started playing the game, i was blown away, its was as if dante and bayonetta had a child or took raiden as their pupil.

          • MediaMindControl

            If anything I still find it closer to Ninja Gaiden because of how efficiency rules over style. You can’t just mash out whatever cool looking moves you want and win. I mean technically you could on normal or easy I bet. That first boss fight though. really had me pleased. It wasn’t just QTE the boss or a simple pattern reinforced by a large HP gauge. Seemingly true to how MGS series bosses run I would say. (Note: I am not talking about the dog mini boss like in the demo but the first REAL boss fight)

          • Ferrick

            i was really surprised when they send you a boss right off the bat, and it was awesome!

  • Suzaku

    After skimming a few reviews, the sticking points causing divided opinions seems to be pretty easy to pinpoint: whether or not a reviewer is using the combat system as intended makes a huge difference in whether or not they actually enjoyed the game.

    The negative reviews all seem to complain that the enemies are too difficult, parries “hardly ever work” and so on. The positive reviews enjoy the parry system and seem to grasp the key mechanics of the game’s combat.

    I know I watched a few different gameplay videos over the weekend, and players seemed to fall into two camps: players who ran around blindly mashing attacks and going into Blade Mode at inopportune moments, and those who properly parried, used subweapons effectively, stunned enemies and triggered cinematic attacks, and used Blade Mode to break armor and finish off enemies.

    Watching the first group of players play made the game look incredibly dull, repetitive, and unfun — it also made the combat looks absolutely nothing like what I’d seen in every trailer so far.

    Watching the second group of players made it look like it does in the trailers, which is fun and stylish.

  • SolidusSnake

    I’m a codec junkie, so I barely just cleared chapter 2 despite playing the game since about midnight. Not sure how long I’ll keep going before I have to stop and get rested up for work, but from what I’ve seen, the release of this game is definitely a cause for joy and celebration. It seems we’ve got a new metal gear masterpiece and a new Platinum masterpiece both in one go.

    It has the intense and insane cutscene action, rich lore and mythology, and scifi weirdness you’d expect from a Kojima Metal Gear game, and the combat is outstanding as well. The story so far ties in very nicely to the world of the previous game, and it’s just great to see Raiden’s character development, now that he’s a family man and a serious badass as well.

    Personally, the combat clicked for me right away. Parrying a machete strike or Gecko sweep kick and then retaliating by cutting the enemy to pieces just FEELS SO GOOD. Yes it really does feel a lot different from the combo heavy Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, but it’s awesome nonetheless! Wish I was off so I could play more.

  • AaqibRawat

    This game has a learning curve.
    I love it already.

    i like how you actually have to learn the game before you start owning at it.

    i can already see the reviews or people or {family} saying the game is not that great because they haven’t taking the time to actually learn the mechanics.

  • Z3

    This game kind reminded me of GiTS with the augmented bodies. Imagine platinum games doing a GiTS game. I would kill to play that game

  • Tom

    I love Platinum Games, I hope they stay independent and keep making awesome games like this!

  • Sylveria

    I’ve never seen a game with so many reviewers actively digging for reasons to rate it lower than MGR:R.

    People playing it like it’s Dynasty Warriors or DmC and are either dying or not having a good time cause they ignore or don’t bother to learn the mechanics

    Or the total opposite of that, people who say the game is great but score it low because a single play-through in a game built for repeated runs is fairly short.

    Then there’s people who complain there’s no block button, completely ignoring that’s what the parry system is for.

    Of course, the most popular criticism from fans and people who don’t know what a spin-off is, “It sucks cause it isn’t Metal Gear Solid”

    It’s really no wonder that companies never take chances any more and are making their games more and more generic. Here we have something that introduces an entirely new take on the character-action genre, does it well, and encourages the player to actually learn it, and people complain it isn’t a carbon copy of what they’re already played. I’m not saying that’s what’s happening here, but it is a pretty common theme across the internet when it comes to Rising.

  • SunOatBoatMatadorQuattro

    Inaba commented on the game’s length.…-platinum.html

    “For every chapter you play in the game, it ONLY COUNTS YOUR FASTEST TIME It doesn’t track your total play time.”

    “We came up with this clear time counting system as a way to fairly evaluate players. It hasn’t changed since Bayonetta.”

    “However, I will say it is really disappointing that people try to use a single screen in the game to try and create negative buzz.”

    • Kris

      Yeah, as someone who would obsessively replay missions for better grades, I had absolutely no issues with the game’s length. Good action games are built to replay anyway! XD

  • SunOatBoatMatadorQuattro

    It’s ironic that while Raiden was originally designed to appeal to female player here he looks creepy as hell. Must be the black armor and the red glow.

    • Bentan

      modern female gamers love creepy looking goth dudes like johnny depp lol

      • MediaMindControl

        Lol so true.

    • Yvonne Tsang

      Myself and my sister thoroughly enjoy Raiden’s new look moreso than his old one.

      • MediaMindControl

        I named my Shiny Larviatar Guyliner, looks like I can name one Jack short for jack the ripper and Raiden now.

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