If all this sounds distinctly unlike a Metal Gear game so far, don’t be fooled; while this is clearly the work of Platinum Games, Kojima Productions’ presence is felt in more than just the splash screen. There’s that font, of course, the telltale beep when you run low on health, the codec ringtone and the agonised wail from a comrade when you die. There’s the story, a stock-in-trade tale of geopolitical posturing, nanomachines and whacking great tanks condensed to fit a much shorter runtime.
We open with Raiden guarding the prime minister of a war-torn African state, your employer a private military company (PMC) called Maverick Security that seeks to keep the peace. Desperado Enterprises – a rival PMC whose backer, Marshal World, laments the absence of the war economy from its balance sheet and would rather like it back – takes the opposite tack. Fronted by Sundowner, a hulking, bald Texan flanked by three cyborg lieutenants who are all skilled in melee combat, Desperado sets about destabilising Africa by murdering Raiden’s charge, raising a cyborg army with a novel child trafficking/organ harvesting combo and then orchestrating a terrorist attack whose ramifications would outdo even those of 9/11. It’s all firmly in Kojima’s comfort zone.
Yet Platinum frequently finds ways to remind you whose game you’re playing, poking fun at Metal Gear history in a way Kojima wouldn’t. In one scene-setting early fight, you have no choice but to lose, but then Raiden’s arm is sliced off and he mutters, “Shit, not again.” Later, he’ll wonder aloud why he finds himself “surrounded by death, arguing philosophy with terrorists”, a reasonable elevator pitch for the entire Metal Gear series. Some enemies are tucked away in dark corners, hiding in cardboard boxes. Sometimes Platinum’s fun-poking spreads its wings even further: one cutscene’s opening on a stormy sea is too similar to Team Ninja’s splash video to possibly be a coincidence.
In your first run through Rising, you’ll start to get to grips with the system. You’ll learn that the red glint in an enemy cyborg’s eye lets you know an attack is coming, a yellow one means a grab’s on the way, while an orange flash precedes an unblockable attack. You’ll study attack patterns and work on your parry timings. You’ll venture from Africa to the US, taking down Desperado’s leaders and pinching their weaponry: a bo staff for crowd control, an electrically charged sai that stuns enemies and pulls you towards them, and Sundowner’s hulking dual blades. You fight the latter on the roof of the Marshal World HQ, the ascent of which is perhaps the best and most varied section in the game. OK, you’ve taken down the chief antagonist, and it’s only chapter four. But this is a Metal Gear game, and surely Sundowner is merely the frontman for a more nefarious puppeteer behind the scenes?