While the world believed it was still in development, the real story behind closed doors was that it had been scrapped, due to the long development cycle reaching an impass regarding the game's direction and style.
Cue Platinum Games, best known for brain-bleed action titles Bayonetta and Vanquish, who were handed the still-in-development parts. Their task? To rebuild it. To rebuild the cyborg warrior Raiden into something new. Something gelled, and Rising was re-announced soon after, a game of two worlds and two different disciplines. The question then became: could the new look Rising respect both the seminal stealth series it takes after and the fast-paced adventures expected of its new developer?
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, to give it its full title, is definitely an unconventional take on the series, the gameplay of which normally sticks to the player remaining hidden and passing through locations unseen. Not so with Raiden. The growling cyborg warrior plays it up close and personal, whose expertise is in charging head-first into a fight, and chaining combination attacks together to down anything from soldiers to Metal Gears. Fans of the franchise thus far might think the series is suddenly suffering from a personality disorder. Watch the opening boss fight as Raiden runs up to a Metal Gear Ray and tosses it across a city block and into a building, and it may have you checking the Kool-Aid. This is definitely Platinum all over.
The story recalls a classic Metal Gear Solid plot, but in a somewhat simplified version. Gone are the great political and moral gestures, which are instead replaced with a singular direction towards action. The game circles the idea about fighting equating to fufilling life's full potential, but never commits fully. Such superficiality rests easier on its central protagonist. While there's less depth to Raiden's character than what we've seen with Snake in the past, he's still an interesting lead, and story of his progress and clashes with other near-future fighters in strong in its telling.
But it's action Platinum is known for, and Rising's action sequences are as magnificently wild as anything the studio has done before; prepare for your jaw to drop and adrenaline to start pumping through your body. The game's big on flashy combat sequences, but there's a lot of depth here, and learning the swordplay strategies is key to survival and your enjoyment. As with Bayonetta, or more recently DMC, it's all about learning your combos and the mechanic glue that holds them together. For Rising, the gameplay is designed around "Zan-Datsu" - meaning "cut and remove". While most of your focus is on hack'n'slash mechanics, combo chains, a Blade Mode mechanic slows the action down and, in a most brutal and cynical manner, you get to choose which angle you want to chop your enemies to pieces from. It looks so good you'll swear you're watching a tech demo. Aim true and cut the right part and you'll rip out their energy cores and restore your health bar.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of this complex combat system. There are your traditional combos, weapon unlocks and upgrades, a parry system that'll require you to time blocks against enemy strikes precisely to avoid damage and open them up to counter-attacks. Between combat, Raiden navigates the environment with all the button-holding ease of an Assassin's Creed title, but these moments are short, as the game swings very quickly back to precision swordplay.
Yet for all the pleasure derived from such a well-designed fighting game, there is one issue that compounds the fun, and that's the camera. You'll be constantly beset from all angles, and the camera's fixation with your back means you have to take camera pans into account during combat, and as a result, you're not able to react as quickly as needed. It also means that those moments when you could sneak past enemies is next to impossible, as you'll be struggling to see the whole battlefield.
The result then is a game that falls short of expectations from both camps, but is solid enough to stand on its own two cyborg feet. As long as you put those expectations to one side, then you're left with a competent action title that's still worth your time and money - though more so if you're a fan of Platinum.