Metal Gear Rising Revengeance is the 9th game in the Metal Gear series, but does it offer enough to make you part with your hard-earned cash?
In the olden days, games had rules, and if you broke them, you died. That was the order of things: rinse, repeat, restart, try again. Seems a long time ago sometimes. Be prepared for a refresher course.
We can often forget how cosseted with are, how placated, how spoilt for choice as gaming tries desperately to not scare anyone off with Super-Easy modes and multiple ways of mastering missions.
PC gaming has long maintained a purist, specialist edge, but every so often a console title comes along that reminds you of that order of things: Bayonetta, Dark Souls, and now Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
It's no surprise that the former and the latter are made by the same people, the unashamedly hardcore outfit Platinum Games who won't waste their time with a three-hit combo on a six-foot enemy when a 10-hit attack on a 30-foot boss will do.
They make you feel truly rubbish, yet somehow you love them for it, reducing you to emotional rubble and building you back up again in their own image.
Metal Gear Rising Revengeance: Characters
Here you play Raiden, the blade-toting cyborg from Konami and Hideo Kojima's Metal Gear mythology, yet this is unmistakably a Platinum game, no matter how many hammy political side stories or cardboard box jokes they chuck in.
And it's an odd game, as rarely has something got so many things right and wrong at the same time. Let's get the bad stuff out the way, as it's not our lasting impression, and we doubt it will be yours: the story's tripe of the highest order.
Not so surprising considering the series it's a part of, but if the tired 'avenge the president' premise is ironic in an old-school way, we're pretty sure the uncomfortably ill-judged character George isn't (so racist, they subtitled him twice).
Metal Gear Rising Revengeance: Plot
There's a lot of cut scenes, too, but then, hey, as we said, it's a Metal Gear game, and it never threatens to edge near Metal Gear Solid 4's "cup of tea and a biscuit" levels.
Thankfully, the story isn't all that important, as Revengeance is effectively a Shadow of the Colossus-like series of boss battles (the foot soldiers are mere irritations), although more moderately proportioned and with some stealth window dressing.
Other irks: the game actively works against you, giving you scant training before throwing you into some really shitty situations that will take you many, many attempts to overcome, learning on the job.
And the much-maligned camera is fairly malignable, jerking around like you've been electrocuted every time you shift between battle modes so that you lose your train of thought, and often – more importantly and fatally – place on the battlefield.
Metal Gear Rising Revengeance: Features
Now for the good stuff: said battle modes are absolutely awe-inspiring, real gold dust underneath the initial grime. The standard structure is a combo-based actioner, taking down multiple enemies of multiple sizes as you build your tactics around a growing number of options in your scrapbook.
Enemies vary from pushover cyborgs to remote-controlled AT-AT types to fully mechanised sentient beings with chainsaws for tails, with each requiring a bit of weak-spot reconnaissance and tactical planning.
Yet at a tap of a shoulder button once you've charged the requisite bar up you're into Free Blade mode, where you can choose your angle of sword strike using the right analogue stick.
Metal Gear Rising Revengeance: Gameplay
The results can be spectacular, as a careful slice through highlighted targets and a quick button press results in you chowing on cyborg spine for lunch. Not only does the animation look badass, it recharges your Blade gauge, too, so you can… well, do it again.
These two paired together with the all-important parry, which when timed correctly creates a rare opening, offer a level of control that can create such destruction it's infectious.
You'll spend an hour learning the attack intricacies of a robot dog, feeling like an absolute idiot as you die, die and die again, surrounded by the game's repetitive mocking ("Raiden? You're supposed to be stronger than this. Raideeeeeeeen!"), but then just as you're about to chuck the controller out of the window, you nail it, a warm glow hits you, and you move on to the next one with a barely earned swagger. Punching the air becomes second nature.
Some reviewers are moaning it's short, but it really isn't unless you're some kind of gaming god. People often call 'short' on a game's actual story content, and sure there's about five hours' worth here, give or take, yet it will take most at least double that to clock it with restarts, if not more.
With the extensive VR mission content thrown in on top, there's plenty of play here. To be honest, with so much hardship to overcome, we rather like that it doesn't try you for time as well. There's much to be said for knowing when to bow out.
And then, like that, it's gone. A game that makes fighting so much fun, yet is riddled with little flaws to prevent you from getting to the good bits. The fact that your mastery of the game will inevitably come from doing the VR missions, which are uncovered gradually as you play through the campaign, is perverse, making the tutorial effectively an unlockable extra.
There could have been so many ways to help you on your quest. Yet while it will make you feel ever so humble a lot of the time, when you come across a moment where it all comes together, it's like you've discovered fire.
Metal Gear Rising Revengeance: Verdict
Metal Gear Rising Revengeance is a curious beast, as on one hand it's an exemplar of how to execute a combat game, but on another it's an inaccessible, befuddled mess of ideas.
You will never feel more powerful and get more of a thrill out of the most minuscule steps of progression as you will here, the "learn, lose, learn, lose, learn, succeed" dynamic truly rewarding actual application. You will get no favours, and oh how rewarding it is when you prevail on those terms.
Yet many won't delve that deep, so hidden are its charms and so antisocial its demeanour (no multiplayer either, just to rub it in). Even within the T3 team we are divided on its merits, so it's very hard to score. If this all, frankly, sounds like too much hard work, it's probably a three-star game for you; if you're a certified gaming masochist, it's hard not to give it a four.
Metal Gear Rising Revengeance release date: Out now
Metal Gear Rising Revengeance price: £34.99