The amalgamation of Platinum Games action and Hideo Kojima absurdity is realised with Metal Gear Rising: Revengence. The title's high octane, adrenaline-fuelled combat is complemented by a melodramatic narrative involving a band of unique and powerful warriors, fighting for ideals, honour, and the love of war. However, this is not the flawless journey that many were dreaming of, with a handful of caveats detracting from its appeal.
The terrific tutorial gives no hint of the troubles to come, slowly introducing you to the mechanics and allowing you to feel like the badass iteration of Raiden that Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots reintroduced. Felling lesser cyborgs and even a Metal Gear Ray is child's play in the opening 15 minutes, which is a testament to the power at your fingertips. It's also immediately obvious that this is not a merely a side-project tangentially attached to the Metal Gear universe; this is a grand story, a noteworthy addition to the mythos, and a controversial character's chance to shine.
Then you hit your first barrier: the parry. The two button combat allows for simple gestures to erupt into complex and beautifully devastating combos with minimum effort. Meanwhile, the aforementioned parry requires you to stab the light attack in addition to the direction that you need to block. Theoretically this keeps the controls simple and immediately accessible, allowing the fast paced action to maintain its momentum. However, despite on-screen prompts indicating the direction of an impending attack, it's still a challenge to activate your parry in time.
The combat is horrendously fast, and savvy AI won't make things easy for you. Multiple antagonists will surround you and deal out punishing blows from their varied selection of attacks, damaging you directly, dazing you, or knocking you down – and then even punishing you when you're on the ground, too. Merely getting to your feet is often a struggle, especially against air units with their barrage of missile attacks. Add to that a bothersome camera, and the frustrations really begin to mount.
To make matters worse, the game is extremely challenging on its standard difficulty tier, and there's no way to change the setting mid-game. The enemies keep you on your toes at all times, and are fun to fight, but you'll find yourself outmatched and outgunned far too often, leading to plenty of frustrating deaths. You can upgrade your health, energy, combat moves, and weapon stats at the end of each level, which allows you to become more proficient in combat. Furthermore, a generous checkpoint system with extremely fast loading times at least ensure that each new try is a quick transition. But a single battle can be draining, although you do have some options to avoid them in the first place.
Stealth makes a welcome return in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, allowing you to save your strength – and, most importantly, your ration health packs – for the battles that you can't avoid. The classic Metal Gear cardboard box and oil drum allows you to attempt sneaking past your enemies, providing a safer route through guarded areas. When fighting is your only choice – or if you're feeling particularly bloodthirsty – you can replenish your health and energy by performing accurate slices to reveal an enemy's life source for you to grab and absorb. Planning your approach to battles with replenishment in mind gives you the opportunity to take on greater numbers without fear of dying.
This is all brought into play by the excellent slice mechanic, activated with a press of the L1 button. Slice mode slows time and allows you to perform precision incisions with the right analogue stick. With slice mode you can sever limbs and tear through armour plating, gradually incapacitating your foes, and making them easy targets. It's a brilliant mechanic that works exceptionally well, and adds variety to the standard combat.
The game may be fast-paced for the most part, but enough Metal Gear staples are present to slow it down, and give you a much-needed opportunity to catch your breath. Codec dialogue and boss monologues break up the action and hit the same tone of previous entries in the series, while traversal can be a slow walk, gentle jog, or wild dash, giving you some control over the velocity of your progress. Whichever way you play, though, the campaign is disappointingly short, clocking in at around six hours. Frequent deaths and restarts will add time to your playthrough, but that's not necessarily a positive endorsement. Outside of the main plot, you can unlock VR missions, which offer a unique roster of challenges for you to complete.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a solid game with sparks of excellence, but difficulty niggles and occasionally obtuse controls let it down. Lowering the challenge to one of the easier tiers helps to alleviate the worst of the combat frustrations, but the slender campaign and camera issues remain. This is a fun side-story for fans of the franchise, and there are some tremendous set-pieces – but it's just not quite the ultra sharp adventure that we were hoping for.