The blend of metal and muscle is what sets Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance apart. As Raiden --a familiar but until now secondary character-- takes over in this game the comparisons between MGRR and popular hack-and-slash single player games like God of War and Ninja Gaiden are going to be immediate and often. I'm convinced that it's the metallic elements in Metal Gear Rising that will separate it from those two popular franchises and the Metal Gear games that have come before it. Raiden is a cyborg and his inhuman elements should prove to be the most endearing parts.
In our extended hands-on time with Revengeance we found an action game with a deep control system that fits in perfectly with the themes of machine-like precision and purpose. Raiden can cheaply jump and throw light and heavy attacks at enemies and you'll miss a ton of what this game has to offer. You won't get very far either. The innovative Blade Mode slows the action down and allows gamers to slice Raiden's sword accurately along specific planes by flicking the right analog stick on your Xbox or Playstation from any angle to it's opposite angle 180 degrees away. That is --in Blade Mode-- if you lean your right analog stick to the 2 o'clock position, Raiden will wind up and hold there until you flick that right analog down to the 8 0'clock position, at what which point he'll slice downward from top to bottom. That slice is very different than slicing upward from, say, 4 o'clock to 10 o'clock and you'll need to pay attention to which direction you're cutting. In practice, you'll be doing all of this very quickly in the blink of an eye, flinging dozens of slashes in just a few seconds. It's not like he's loading up like baseball player in MLB 2K.
Blade Mode runs on a finite amount of energy. In general you'll have plenty of energy to go into Blade Mode when you need it but in a brilliant bit of strategy, using Blade Mode is how you'll get more energy. Zandatsu is the MGRR description of the act where you'll slice an enemy to the point of exposing his inner blue "spine" that just happens to be made of the same energy that gives Raiden fully charged health and Blade Mode energy meters. When you carve up the guy accurately enough --there's an indicator on the enemy's body showing where you should slice-- you'll be prompted to hit a button that will trigger a mini-scene of Raiden snatching that spine out, crushing it, absorbing that energy and the bad guy collapsing. This whole system is extremely satisfying. It works on the regular rank-and-file bad guys as well as the increasingly larger and more dangerous enemy types and minibosses. They can all get Zandatsu'd, it's just not very easy with those big guys. On some of the larger enemies, you're actually prompted on when to go into Blade Mode with a giant Japanese phrase splattered on your screen. Going into Blade Mode here, against a big enemy, will usually yield a dramatic kill scene on top of the regular Zandatsu stuff and the whole thing will look like a classic anime moment of Raiden landing, pausing and looking back at his vanquished, disintegrating foe. Very cool looking spots like this are spread throughout this game.
And really that's the essence of Revengeance. How Blade Mode is integrated into the standard jumping, sprinting and slicing of this particular hack-and-slash game is what makes this game more machine than organic. And that's a good thing. The stealthy elements are there if you want them, but Raiden is too good at slicing robots, cyborg, tanks and helicopters to make me want to sneak around anything. The enemies are dangerous and relentless yet you never get the feeling that you can't get past them, just that it will take an incremental mastery of skills to pull it off. That's how games are supposed to be.
First class ninja action with plenty of nano technology pieces thrown in looks like it's going to work like a robotic charm in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.