"One sword keeps another in its sheath," says Raiden in the opening moments of Metal Gear Rising. Don't be fooled by the sharp George Herbert quote, or the stoic demeanour, Raiden is as naive and impressionable as ever. Also, wrong - very, very wrong.
Our hands-on demo of the Platinum Games spin-off kicks off in Africa, four years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4. Since the fall of The Patriots, the polarising protagonist of MGS2 has signed up with a peace-keeping Private Military Company called Maverick Securities. We join him on a routine mission guarding the prime minister of Montenegro.
War Never Changes
Things go pear-shaped when the motorcade is assaulted by goons from Desperado Enforcements, a rival PMC stocked on cyborg soldiers and Metal Gear Rays. It's not the strongest of starts for Raiden, who watches the PM get ganked, with his team get reduced to paste, his left eye poked out, and his arm lobbed off. What was that about swords in sheaths?
As it turns out, Desperado is quite fond of war, specifically the technology advancements it provides, along with the jobs and cash. The nefarious company is in the midst of destabilising an entire region to keep the gears of war turning, and is also neck-deep organ harvesting for experimentation.
Driven by his sense of justice - which his katana serves as an avatar for - Raiden embarks on a crusade to bring down Desperado and put a stop to its schemes. How you ask? By cutting of course!
At the core of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is the idea that players can freely cut anything from any angle at any time - except that one cat in Abkhazia; swing at it all you want, it just backflips out of the way.
Ninja cats aside, Raiden's blade effortlessly glides through objects like they're blocks of warm butter. In addition to the typical arrangement of blisteringly quick light attacks and slow-but-powerful heavies, players can engage Blade mode, letting them pick the exact angle they want to slice through an object.
Sure, it's a gimmick, but a deeply satisfying one. We spent an inordinate amount of time ignoring the main objective and instead running around cleaving inanimate objects into small pieces. The physics model is fairly capable, even when we're swinging like a frenzied orchestra conductor. A cool touch is the on-screen indicator that keeps track of how many pieces you've cut an object into (we reduced a car to 300 small bits).
Blade Mode is the kind of grin-inducing mechanic that you show off to friends, like the launch and juggle from Devil May Cry, the Gravity Gun from Half-Life 2, or Portal's speedy-thing-goes-in-speedy-thing-comes-out mechanic.
Before long we'd chopped our way through everything in our immediate surroundings, and headed to the objective via radar guidance. Raiden's mission in Abkhazia is to seize control of the country from Desperado and return power to what remains of its elected government.